I use self-hypnosis every day. It’s pretty easy, and I’ve recently discovered a particularly elegant shortcut to success, based on the idea that every thought in our mind creates some kind of reaction in the body. Actually, two shortcuts:
- Mind-body feedback during direct suggestion.
- Focusing on discomfort until it changes.
These aren’t original with me, but I think I may have found their simplest possible forms.
When Good Suggestions Feel Bad: That’s Useful Mind-Body Feedback
While there are a lot of ways of using self-hypnosis, the simplest is to use direct suggestion, with a list of positive suggestions that you repeat to yourself over and over during the session. The rules are pretty simple:
- Say it the way you want it: “I’m a valuable human being,” not “I’m not worthless.”
- Put it in the present or present progressive tense, since the unconscious mind may choose to procrastinate forever if you use the future tense. “I am a nonsmoker,” not “I will be a nonsmoker.”
- Specify the desired outcome, and leave the method of achieving it completely unspecified: “I am confident,” not “I get confidence from my lucky rabbit’s foot.”
- When in doubt, use general suggestions: “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better” is traditional. I’m also rather fond of the childlike, “I am good. I am great. I love me.”
- Repeat them many, many times, exactly as written. One advantage of hypnosis is that it allows you to tolerate and even enjoy verbatim repetition. Sometimes you’ll feel like each repetition is opening another door.
You can write them on a card and open your eyes if you want: self-hypnosis works fine if you open your eyes for this purpose.
Anyway, if you’re like me, suggestions like “I am good. I am great. I love me” will initially spark some internal resistance, which you will feel in some way, somewhere in your body, or through some kind of internal dialog or imagery. This is good!
What you do is “the mindfulness thing.” Suppose you say a suggestion and you notice a mildly unpleasant feeling in your stomach. Allow yourself to notice this: “I’m getting a feeling in my stomach.” Then focus on the feeling while continuing to repeat the suggestion. Eventually (it may take several minutes), something will happen:
- The feeling fades away. This likely means that the part of you that objected to the suggestion has found a way to accept it.
- The feeling gets worse. Keep going. If it’s deeply unpleasant, the good choices are “go deeper into hypnosis” or “back away and pick another suggestion.”
- You get distracted by something that’s clearly irrelevant. Go deeper and you’ll be less distractable.
- You get distracted by something relevant. Cool! Stay with that.