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Practical Guide to Self-Hypnosis, A

Chapter 6

How to Attain Self-Hypnosis

Let us begin with the hypothesis that anyone can learn and practice, to some degree, the science of self-hypnosis. We shall assume that you have carefully thought out what you want to accomplish. You have, through self-analysis, come up with reasonable goals of therapy and self-improvement. The next step is the acquisition of the hypnotic state, per se.

Before giving you the specific instructions, I would like to clarify a question which invariably arises in teaching a student self-hypnosis. It is: "Are the suggestions that I give myself as effective as the ones you would give me in hetero-hypnosis?"

It is natural to assume that the suggestions of the hypnotist would be more effective than those given by the subject himself, but both have the same intrinsic value. It is well to remember that all hypnosis is really self-hypnosis, and all hetero-suggestions are transposed into self-suggestions. If the hypnotist firmly suggests, "From this moment, you [50] will feel very confident in all life situations," the subject automatically and unconsciously rephrases the statement, "From this moment, I will feel very confident in all life situations." The subject, ordinarily, mentally or aloud, repeats all suggestions using the pronoun "I" instead of "you".

The easiest and quickest way to learn self-hypnosis is to be hypnotized and given a posthypnotic suggestion to the effect that you will be able to put yourself into the hypnotic state at a given stimulus whenever you desire to do so. The hypnotist need not be a professional. Anyone understanding the rudiments of hypnosis can do this. However, let us assume you want to learn self-hypnosis and cannot find help. If you understand and consciously practice the instructions that I shall outline, you will attain your goal.

Sit in an easy chair or recline on a sofa or bed. Next, choose a point of eye fixation on the ceiling, preferably a spot behind you which would normally cause eye fatigue or strain. Now, breathe very slowly and deeply. As you do this, repeat, aloud or mentally, the word "sleep" as you inhale and "deep sleep" as you exhale. Do this for several minutes in a very monotonous manner until such time as you find yourself getting drowsy. Next, suggest to yourself that your eyelids are becoming heavy and tired. The goal is to acquire eye closure using this method. You want to reach a state where it is uncomfortable to keep the eyes open. Once you get your eyes closing, seemingly of their own volition, you have reached the first step in achieving self-hypnosis.

You can repeat to yourself such suggestions as, "My eyelids are becoming very heavy and tired ... My eyes are becoming very watery ... My eyelids are blinking ... I just [51] want to close my eyes ... The moment I close my eyelids, I shall fall into a deep, sound, hypnotic sleep ... Even though in a deep state of hypnosis, I shall be aware of my surroundings and be able to direct posthypnotic suggestions to my subconscious mind."

When your eyelids actually become heavy or when your eyes actually begin to water, you intensify these feelings by repeating affirmative suggestions along these very lines. This is known as "the feed-back technique" and helps to reinforce the actual condition that exists. Proceeding in this way hastens the actual closing of the eyes and attainment of the hypnotic state, per se.

Let us assume that you practice this procedure and seemingly nothing happens. Continue to practice it again and again until such time as you are able to achieve an eye closure. You will eventually be able to do this within a relatively short period of time.

One of the best times to practice the technique just given is when you are falling asleep at night. The lights are out and you are lying in bed. Choose an imaginary spot above and behind your eye level so there is some strain on the eye muscles. Now begin giving yourself suggestions that your eyelids are becoming heavy, etc.

The reason this period is such an excellent time to practice self-hypnosis is that the suggestions you give yourself spill over into your subconscious as you drift from consciousness to unconsciousness. It's like telling yourself to wake up at a certain time in the morning. The suggestion reaches your subconscious and activates you consciously to waken. Using this approach, you can give yourself dynamic, constructive suggestions at this time as well as giving yourself the posthypnotic suggestion that the next time you practice self-hypnosis, you will fall into a deeper, [52] sound, hypnotic state at the count of three. You also emphasize that your eyelids will close involuntarily whenever you relax for five minutes and afterwards count to three. This conditioning process will be augmented by the use of the sleep period. The suggestions will tend to work unconsciously during this period and hasten your attainment of the constructive goals as well as the self-hypnotic goal itself.

Once you have achieved eye closure, deepen the hypnotic state by the following suggestions: "As I count to three, I shall go deeper and deeper into a profound, hypnotic state. As I count to three, I shall find myself becoming more and more relaxed. As I count to three, I shall fall into a deep, hypnotic sleep." You repeat these suggestions many times, actually trying on a conscious level to feel sleepier, more relaxed, more at ease. In doing this, you take on the characteristics of a deeply hypnotized subject.

Part of the difficulty in learning self-hypnosis is that the subject is aiming at a state of mind in which he has no experience. If I say, "Act happy" or "Act sad," there is an immediate reaction from your experiential background, and you can react accordingly. If you have never seen anyone hypnotized and I say, "Act as though you were hypnotized," you must, of necessity, act in a manner that you would assume approximated that of hypnosis. If you had actually seen someone hypnotized, you would naturally take on the characteristics you had observed. This would either be done consciously or unconsciously.

Some individuals describe the hypnotic state as a state of "complete relaxation." Many get a feeling of "detachment;" others a feeling of "disassociation," as though their entire being was only thought. Some get a "floating" [53] or "drifting" feeling, likening the experience to lying on deep clouds. Others experience a heavy, pleasant, "sinking" feeling. Still others get a feeling of "peace and serenity." Many describe the hypnotic state as being akin to the state just prior to falling asleep or like daydreaming, and they experience the same reactions. Yet, there are some who do not feel a definite change. They describe it by saying, "I just felt that I had my eyes closed. I heard everything and was completely aware at all times." Since it is possible to direct your feelings (reactions), I would suggest that you aim for a completely relaxed, comfortable state.

You have now reached the point where your eyes are closed, and you have given yourself further suggestions to deepen the state of hypnosis. This has taken from about six to ten minutes. You are not sure, though, that you are under hypnosis. There are many ways to test this, and I shall outline one of these tests later in this chapter; however, for your initial attempts, it isn't too important whether or not you are under hypnosis. You are still to give yourself the posthypnotic suggestion that the next time you attempt to hypnotize yourself you will fall into a deeper and sounder state after you have relaxed for about five minutes and counted to three.

In your initial attempts, you will be trying to establish a conditioned response to the count of three which will subsequently cause your eyes to close and put you under hypnosis. Eventually, you should react instantly to the count of three or any other cue you may use to trigger the response. The key words or stimulus become associated with the action that you seek. Through repetition, just thinking about the stimulus can bring on the response. This is known as ideomotor action and is present in the [54] waking as well as the hypnotic state. Pavlov's famous experiments which induced dogs to salivate when a bell was rung after previously having had food fed to them at the same time are examples of this type of conditioning. Don't we generally become hungry if someone tells us it's noon and time for lunch when, in fact, it's only 11 o'clock?

I had a common experience recently that I am sure many readers have shared. One of my neighbors, seeing my car was parked in front of my house and knowing I was home, called to say he was dropping in to see me. While working on the manuscript of this book, I thought I heard the doorbell as I was typing. I went to the front door and no one was there. I even walked around the house looking for him because I was so certain I heard the bell. This is another example of an ideomotor action. I told my friend about it when he arrived approximately 30 minutes later. He looked at me rather whimsically, and we both shared a laugh. Haven't you thought you heard the phone ring when you were waiting for a call?

In the chapter, "How Does Self-Hypnosis Work," stress was laid on the importance of the visual-imagery technique. During every attempt to achieve self-hypnosis, you attempt to visualize yourself going into the hypnotic state. Once you have deepened the state, you begin the process of visualizing yourself exactly the way you want to be. You may experience difficulty at first, but as you keep at it, you will be able to picture yourself the way you want. You use the visual-imagery technique whether you think you are under hypnosis or not. These images become clear as you constantly hammer home these suggestions. This is the exact procedure necessary, and you needn't complicate it.[55]

Let us suppose that you are getting your eyelids to close at the count of three and have achieved a good state of relaxation. With these prerequisites, you can anticipate going deeper into the hypnotic state. Actually, being able to get the eyes to close at a specific count is the first test in determining if the subject has gone under hypnosis. If you have conditioned yourself this far, then you can go to the next step. The next test is called the "swallowing" test. You mentally give yourself suggestions that as you slowly, to yourself, count to 10, you will get an irresistible urge to swallow one time. You further suggest that this will happen even before you reach the count of 10. You then begin the count. "One ... My throat is parched, and I feel an irresistible urge to swallow one time. Two ... My lips are becoming very dry, and I feel an irresistible urge to swallow. Three ... My throat feels very dry, and I feel an irresistible urge to swallow one time. Four ... Before I reach the count of 10, the urge to swallow one time will become irresistible because my lips and throat are so dry. Five ... Once I swallow, I shall no longer have the urge to swallow again, and as I swallow one time, I shall fall into a deeper and sounder state of hypnosis." Continue with similar suggestions, repeating and affirming the suggestions about swallowing. Once you actually swallow, you discontinue the suggestions and, instead, give yourself suggestions that you are falling deeper and deeper into a sound hypnotic state and that the constructive suggestions you now give yourself will work for you. Once again you practice visual-imagery, seeing yourself the way you want to be, while fortifying this image with forceful, positive suggestions. You close by giving yourself suggestions that you will enter the hypnotic state whenever you relax for five minutes and count to three. [56]

The suggestions are just as effective whether given aloud or mentally. Many subjects report that they are reluctant when it comes to giving suggestions to themselves. I can only say that as you continue to work with yourself, you will develop confidence in giving yourself suggestions. In order for the suggestions to be effective, they cannot be given in a reticent or hesitant manner. They must be given with enthusiasm and anticipation. If you assiduously follow these instructions, you will derive the benefits you seek in the shortest possible time and witness the positive, tangible results of your suggestions and efforts. In the next chapter, you'll learn how to deepen the self-hypnotic state.


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