VISUALISATION IN SELF-HYPNOSIS
The state of hypnosis is used by many professionals including psychotherapists, psychiatrists, doctors, dentists and lay hypnotherapists to help clients effect changes in their lives. Its use however is not confined to the professional sphere. Any person can learn the simple technique of self-hypnosis to bring about positive change in themselves. Using the imagination to impress the desired changes on the unconscious mind is an important element of self-hypnosis.
Why is Hypnosis a Tool For Change?
Hypnosis itself is a state. When therapeutic change is facilitated whilst a person is in a hypnotic state, this is known as hypnotherapy.
The mind is often described as having two parts to it; the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. On a day to day basis, behaviour patterns, likes and dislikes, habits and attitudes will tend to remain constant. This is because these things have largely been 'programmed' through life events, other people's influence, decisions we have made about the nature of the world and, in the case of skills we have developed, through repetition.
Most of the time, the reliability of this programming is desirable. However, when change is wanted, the old habits and behaviours can remain stubbornly in place despite conscious wish for change. This is because of the critical factor. The function of the critical factor which starts to form around the age of seven, is to prevent information going into the unconscious mind which is out of alignment with the beliefs, behaviours and attitudes that are already programmed there, even if the new information is positive. The critical factor often makes itself known through scepticism and self-censoring. However, the hypnotic state bypasses the critical factor and facilitates access to the unconscious mind and therefore the programming.
The hypnotic state has certain characteristics. These include a narrowed down focus of attention, a state of mental absorption and a lethargy in the body. Most people do not realise that they access the hypnotic state several times a day. Reading a good book, watching an excellent film or television programme, playing a musical instrument, even being occupied with a piece of work will tend to result in a narrowing of the focus of attention and mental absorption. The hypnogogic state we go into before drifting into sleep is also a hypnotic state and is characterised by a strong desire not to be disturbed and a quietening of the mind.
When learning self-hypnosis as a technique for self-help, most people will learn to simply allow themselves to relax with their eyes closed and perform a countdown on the out-breath from 10 to 1. This will usually result in a light hypnotic state which can be enhanced further by imagining being in a peaceful place such as a beach, a garden, a wood and so on. This imagining however is most effective when the five senses are engaged. Creating the notion in the imagination of being in a peaceful place in this way will, if well done, impact the physiological, mental and emotional state just as effectively as if the person were actually there. This is because the mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined.
Visualization For Change
Some of the most compelling evidence for the power of visualization to create change has come from the world of sport. According to Lynne McTaggart in her book “The Intention Experiment”, the great boxer Muhammed Ali would rehearse his fights in his head as if he were really engaged in them. McTaggart states that before a fight with Joe Frazier this included imagining “the fatigue in his legs, the sweat pouring off his body, the pain in his kidneys and bruises on his face, the flash of photographers, the exultant screams of the crowd, even the moment when the referee lifts his arm in victory against Frazier.”
EEG evidence shows that the mental rehearsal of an activity creates the neural pathways for the performance of an activity just as surely as engagement in the real thing. This underlines the importance of engaging the five senses in visualization for as human beings, it is the five senses which create the sense of reality and emotional engagement.
When first practising visualization, many people find they can create pictures as if watching themselves as one might watch television. This is known as dissociated visualization and is excellent for imagining how one wants to be engaging in an activity. Once that is achieved, visualizing oneself engaged in that activity as if it is a real event in the manner in which Muhammed Ali did employing the senses to the utmost, will start to build the neurological connections to make the desired activity more of an inevitability.
Self-Hypnosis and Visualization
The state of self-hypnosis facilitates visualization. Being in self-hypnosis means that the critical factor is in abeyance. Because of this, many people find that accessing their imagination and engaging the five senses is so much easier, so much more profound and ultimately, effective in creating desired change.