One of the questions clients ask me most often is: ‘Can you hypnotise yourself?’
The answer to this is a resounding yes. In fact, it’s not just possible to hypnotise yourself – it’s arguably impossible to do it any other way. In other words, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
Hypnosis is the process of using suggestion to create a response. In a therapeutic setting, it’s a way of using positive suggestions to help someone make a change – firstly by making that person more open and suggestible to change, and then by guiding them through how that change will happen. As a hypnotherapist, it’s my job to deliver the most helpful suggestions to my clients, but the suggestions in themselves don’t do the work – my clients’ responses are what matter. They are the ones who create the mental images. They imagine themselves relaxing and letting go, and in turn imagine a better way of being. It is they who harness the power of their own ability to heal and to change.
For Better And Worse
Even if you’ve never been formally hypnotised, you have spent much of your life responding to suggestions both good and bad. In the famous ‘Pygmalion’ experiment, teachers were told that randomly selected pupils had displayed high academic capabilities. Miraculously (or not, given what we know about suggestion), those precise pupils did just as expected. We see the exact same mechanism at work in the placebo effect – convince someone that they will get better, and more often than not they do.
The obverse of this is the Golem effect, another self-fulfilling prophecy in which low expectation lead to low outcomes (or the nocebo, which works like a placebo except in the negative – you are told you will feel worse and so you do). Unfortunately this effect is all too common in our own daily lives, a pernicious form of negative self-hypnosis. All too often, when left to our own devices, we often use negative suggestions on ourselves – ‘I can’t cope’, ‘I’ll never be good enough’ and so on. We repeat these messages so often that they seem to become ineluctable truths about ourselves – they become beliefs that limit us.
Changing the Script
The fundamental power of hypnotherapy lies in its ability to change this internal script, to challenge these unhelpful beliefs and replace them with a more constructive attitude. This new mindset can open up all manner of possibilities. After all, as the Chinese philosopher Confucius famously said: ‘The man who says he can, and the man who says he can’t – both are correct.’
There are many ways to practice self-hypnosis. It can be something as simple as repeating a positive mantra until it becomes woven into your mental fabric. Or you can use mp3s or recordings if you would like to go deeper. Or, once you have the tools, you can simply guide yourself into a relaxed, suggestible state and visualise the changes you would like to make.
I teach many of my clients the process of self-hypnosis, but if you are interested in learning in a non-therapeutic setting, the excellent UK College of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy (UKCHH), where I trained as a hypnotherapist, and where I continue to assist new students, offer a wonderful one-day course in learning self-hypnosis. Their evidence-based approach is very accessible, and you’ll learn all about the mechanics of hypnosis, the science behind it, and how to hypnotise yourself for relaxation and personal improvement – highly recommended!