Which is better, hypnosis or self-hypnosis? Some people will insist on sharing their share their strong preferences with you, as with the eternal “Kirk vs. Picard” debate. Not me!
I’m going to consider hypnosis only in the context of beneficial change, whether it’s to resolve a problem or to make yourself even better at something you’re already very good at. There are other forms of hypnosis, such as stage hypnosis, but I’ll talk about that some other time.
First I’ll tell you why hypnosis (with a hypnotist) is the best. Then I’ll tell you why self-hypnosis is the best. Finally, I’ll tell you why a mix of both is the best.
Why Hypnosis (With a Hypnotist) Is Best
You’d seek out a hypnotist for the same reasons you’d seek out a teacher or coach for any new skill. Some people are confident book-learners, and successfully teach themselves all sorts of complex things through self-study: mathematics, skiing, you name it. This takes a lot more time and willingness to make false starts than you’d need if you learned from an instructor.
- Seeing a hypnotist is best when you’ve tried everything else. Hypnotists see people who’ve “tried everything” all the time, and these clients do at least as well as (maybe better than) the ones to try us first. One advantage of hypnosis is that it’s different. It’s a do-over. Disappointing results elsewhere don’t count. And if you’re discouraged by past disappointments, the stick-to-it-iveness needed for self-hypnosis may hard to muster, while the confidence of a good hypnotist, who has helped many people like you, can make all the difference.
- Seeing a hypnotist is best when you want results quickly and simply. You’d seek out a hypnotist for the same reason you’d have someone else fix (or customize) your car in a way you have no experience with.
- Seeing a hypnotist is best when the problem involves intense emotions. A good hypnotist won’t become overwhelmed even if you do, and can navigate you through a session in ways that are hard to do for yourself. And it’s unlikely that you will become overwhelmed anyway, because one of the benefits of the deeper states is that it becomes more comfortable to deal with difficult material. Self-hypnosis, alas, tends to take place mostly in lighter states.
- Seeing a hypnotist is best if you want to learn self-hypnosis quickly. One thing about sessions with a hypnotist is that they give you experience with going into hypnosis. Once you’ve been led into a deep level of hypnosis by a hypnotist, it’s easier to do it on your own. This is true even if you’re not explicitly taught anything about self-hypnosis: you learn by doing. That’s why hypnotists spend a significant amount of time taking you deeper in the first session, but hardly any in later sessions. People pick it up quickly. The trick is knowing what to do once you’re there.
- Seeing a hypnotist is best if you want their expertise. Hypnosis by itself is just a meditative state. It can be pleasant, calming, and relaxing, but it doesn’t create long-term beneficial changes on its own, any more than a trip to the sauna does. For this, you need to add direction. Some of the more powerful and effective hypnotic methods are fairly complex, and each session has decision points where the hypnotist can double down on things that are working or reach into his bag of tricks for alternatives when things aren’t working as expected. This sort of thing is hard to do when you’re in hypnosis yourself, even if you have the expertise. Self-hypnosis, even when practiced by hypnotists on themselves, is greatly simplified.
Why Self-Hypnosis is Best
Now that you know that seeing a hypnotist is best, I’ll show you that self-hypnosis is best.
- Self-hypnosis is best because it’s free. You can afford to use it every day—and it works best if you do. Sure, you might pay an instructor to teach you self-hypnosis, but after that, it costs you nothing.
- Self-hypnosis is best because it whittles away your issues over time. Used frequently, at least a few times a week, it not only tends to dissolve the issues you focused on directly, but the others as well. Even ones you weren’t quite aware you had.
- Self-hypnosis is best because can use it whenever you have a few minutes. Don’t think you can find a specific time to do self-hypnosis? You don’t need to! The usual advice is to try to find a twenty-minute block of free time, but after some practice you’ll find even 5-10 minutes useful. You don’t need to have special equipment or be anywhere special, though it helps to be somewhere you won’t be interrupted or distracted. You can do hypnosis standing, sitting, or lying down. While a recliner is ideal, a kitchen chair or a camp stool are good enough (though for long sessions you might want to stretch once or twice).
- Self-hypnosis is best because it combines centered relaxation with forward progress. It has all the advantages of other relaxation techniques, and more. People are often taught progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and even meditation solely as a means of calming and relaxing yourself. With self-hypnosis, this is barely the beginning. You get all those benefits almost as a side effect, while focusing your unconscious mind on creating its share of the forward progress and quality of life improvement you want. That’s why hypnotists all routinely use self-hypnosis.
Why Both Are Best
You’ve probably already figured out that seeing a hypnotist is ideal for dealing with issues that have been hard to get your arms around and are causing significant distress, expense, or failure: phobias, smoking cessation, procrastination. And once you commit to seeing a hypnotist for a few sessions, you’re on your way.
Self-hypnosis is generally a lot slower. It’s easy to wander away before the job is even half-done. So I’d say the consensus is, “See a hypnotist for the troublesome issues, and use self-hypnosis to deal with the little things and to achieve ever-increasing serenity.”
I can say a lot more about self-hypnosis, and I will in future posts: guided imagery vs. direct suggestion, recordings vs. self-guided sessions, and much more. But these are topics for another day.
- Interested in seeing a good hypnotist? I recommend myself! You can sign up for sessions in my Corvallis office or over Skype Video on my Come See Me page.
- Interested in self-hypnosis? I’m developing a method called mindful self-hypnosis, and I teach classes in it here in Corvallis. I’m working on a book as well, but until I’m done writing it, I recommend Instant Self-Hypnosis.