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Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Three Views of Self-Hypnosis
Self-Hypnosis: More than a Suggestion
Compiled by Will Joel Friedman,
2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
The roots of hypnosis go back to antiquity in all likelihood. From the middle of the 1700's hypnosis was a standard medical treatment used with a variety of medical conditions. However, many doctors stopped using hypnosis in the 1920's given new developments in medicine as well as the increasing popularization of psychoanalysis. Some speculate that hypnosis fell into disfavor when Sigmund Freud stopped regularly using hypnosis in his practice of psychoanalysis given his not being very effective at it.
Many credit the seminal figure of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. for resuscitating hypnosis as a treatment modality as well as innovatively expanding the narrative ways it can be used.
Hypnosis can be considered a state of alert relaxation during which the critical mind is more at bay and our deep mind is more available to suggestion. Hypnosis is a state in which there is a narrowing of one's level of attention, focus and concentration and, at the same time, a relaxing or suppressing of conscious criticism. In other words, hypnosis can be understood as an alternative state of consciousness in which imagination is primary and critical judgment is temporarily suspended, although there is always an "observing ego" that ensures our well-being, protection and survival. Hypnosis is a means of using suggestions in a relaxed state to alter perception and sensory information. Importantly, given that you have a part of you that is ever observing in watching out for you, you can rest assured that you keep full control during a hypnosis session. Hypnosis can actually help you feel safer given that you are more cognitively aware and present.
Hypnosis is not the same as sleep, sleep states or sleep cycles as clearly demonstrated with the brain-wave patterns of people in hypnosis matching alert wakefulness. Also hypnosis cannot make you do anything that you do not want to do or that violate core beliefs and values. Similarly, hypnosis will not make you reveal any secret that you would not ordinarily reveal. People who are selected to engage in stage hypnosis are typically chosen given they are willing to act in carefree and uninhibited ways characteristic of exhibitionists.
Clinical hypnosis for therapeutic benefit is far different than stage hypnosis used for entertainment that people are familiar with. Using hypnosis for entertainment, such as with "stage hypnosis," is a practice to avoid given so many unknowns that set-up an inappropriate situation. Without knowing the subject, their background, their developmental age, worldly experience and so on, stage hypnosis can inadvertently put the subject at risk for untoward outcomes as well as be embarrassed, ridiculed and demeaned in front of others. Once again, entertainment or state hypnosis is not something any competent, well-trained professional would ever support, recommend or engage in.
All hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis, even when a hypnotist helps someone through an induction to be in the state of hypnosis. The really intriguing fact of hypnosis is that every one of us is very familiar with being in a hypnotic state since we are already in this state a great deal of the time, yet almost all of us are unaware of this fact. When you first wake up in the morning and just before you go to sleep at night qualify. When you are engaged in doing anything mindlessly, like watching television, a video and the way most people drive their automobiles, are all alternative states of consciousness or hypnogogic states. When you experience any shock, even a minor shock like cutting a finger or being surprised by some life situation that arises or someone's words, all can trigger brief hypnotic-like trances. When you do some activity you have over-learned, do repeatedly or could seemingly "do in my sleep," such as sewing, sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, copying, driving, eating, walking, exercising and staring, this too can qualify as hypnotic trances. These are but a few illustrations showing that we all are in hypnotic-like trances a fair amount of the time, even though we may be quite unaware of this. Hypnosis, as practiced by competently trained professionals as well as when carefully used by lay people through self-hypnosis, induces an alert relaxed state in which the critical mind is largely off-line while one is more open to the power of suggestion. One common method used to slow down your mind by both lay people and professionals is to raise your eyes as much as you can inside your head and hold it for a little while.
An individual's receptivity to hypnosis, or how hypnotizable one is, varies across a broad range. Some people out of a strong need for control may be highly resistant to hypnosis, while others openly enjoy and look forward to being in a hypnotic state and find this quite easy to do. The level of being open and receptive as well as closed and resistant is a key dimension to observe while engaging in self-hypnosis. Every one is hypnotizable given that every one already has been hypnotized. Further being hypnotized is a learned skill and ability, so that you can develop this inner muscle to become better and better with continued practice. It is not really possible to gauge your own depth of hypnosis, and that is okay. It is enough to know that hypnosis is a naturally occurring, alternate state of consciousness and fairly easy to be in for most everyone. Hypnosis is not a cure-all or a panacea for all that ails you, and may not be sufficient to address many issues.
A few cautions and safeguards are in order when using self-hypnosis or engaging in hypnosis. Self-hypnosis is not to be used "instead of" or as "an alternative" to your medical doctor's advice or the recommendations of practitioners of alternative medicine, health and healing approaches. If you have any condition that requires medical attention, it is wise to first speak to your medical and/or alternative health practitioner before starting anything new. Only engage in hypnosis with a licensed professional you have trust in that brings solid professional training in hypnosis. Using self-hypnosis to recover old memories is to be avoided, unless warranted in working with a trained and licensed professional hypnotherapist. Using self-hypnosis to make commands that remove pain or other bodily feedback is to be strictly avoided given that pain and bodily feedback is present for some reason(s) and this needs to be respected and appropriately addressed.
When you come out of self-hypnosis, give yourself several minutes to come to full waking consciousness with all of you wide-awake, aware and present. Take several deep breaths and attune yourself once again to your body and immediate environment. Make sure you are fully conscious before doing anything, especially anything that requires good judgment and clear-minded attention such as driving. Some people find value in broadly stretching, drinking some water, lightly pinching themselves, and rubbing their hands together to help bring their body back to a full awakened and alert state.
Elizabeth Erickson's Self-Hypnosis Technique
Note: The technique described in this article is attributed to Elizabeth (Mrs. Milton) Erickson.
Some Basic Premises
This self-hypnosis method is based on the following premises. While there are a number of counter-examples to these notions, they will be of value in understanding and utilizing this process.
Let's consider these ideas one at a time. Representational Systems and Altered States
We process information (that is, we think) in pictures, sounds and feelings. In Neuro-linguistic Programming, these sensory modalities are referred to as representational systems.
of us have developed greater proficiency with one or the other of our representational
systems though we each use all three of them. Since this is the case, an individual
who "thinks" in images wouldn't experience an altered state of consciousness simply
by visualizing. However, if that same individual were to experience a preponderance
of feelings or sensations, this would be unusualan alteration of their state
of consciousness. When we talk about altered states, what we're really referring
to is processing information in a different manner than usual.
Stereotypical images of hypnotists holding watches or other fixation devices for clients to stare at are the result of this understanding about hypnosis. If you've ever had the experience of becoming so involved in television or a piece of music or a book, you've experienced this "naturally occurring hypnotic state".
The experience of hypnosis is typically an inwardly focused one in which we move away from the environment around us and turn our attention inward.
You can Trust your Unconscious Mind
You unconscious mind is "chock full" of resources. In your lifetime of experience, it has learned a great deal and can apply that learning for you in hypnosis. Your conscious mind can only process so much information at one time. Your unconscious mind is not so limited. It can think holographically and is capable of finding better solutions for you than your conscious mind. This process is designed to take full advantage of the power and resourcefulness of your unconscious mind.
Understanding by the Conscious Mind is not necessary for Change
In many self-hypnosis procedures, the participants enter a trance and then give themselves suggestions. It seems to me that if my conscious mind knew what to do about the issues that I'm using self-hypnosis for, then there wouldn't be a need for hypnosis in the first place. In fact, it's often the case that our conscious mind gets in the way. It is the conscious mind that says "I can't. . . " or "I don't know how to. . . " or "I'm not smart enough. . . ". Some people are surprised to hear this, but consider that if you hear your "self talk" then it isn't unconscious. The process described below is designed to keep the conscious mind occupied so that it won't interfere while your unconscious mind is doing the work.
The Self Hypnosis Technique
Now turn your attention to your auditory channel and notice, one by one, three things that you hear. (You will notice that this allows you to incorporate sounds that occur in the environment rather than being distracted by them.
Next, attend to your feeling and notice three things sensations that you can feel. Again, go slowly from one to the next. It's useful to use sensations that normally are outside of your awareness, such as the weight of your eyeglasses, the feeling of your wristwatch, the texture of your shirt, etc.
Continue the process using two Visuals, then two auditory and then two kinesthetic.
In the same manner, continue (slowly) with one of each.
You have now completed the "external" portion of the process.
Now it's time to begin the "internal" part.
Close your eyes.
Bring an image into your mind. Don't work too hard
at this. You can construct an
Pause and let a sound come into your awareness or generate one and name it. Although this is technically the internal part, if you should hear a sound outside or in the room with you, it's OK to use that. Remember that the idea is to incorporate things that you experience rather than being distracted by them. Typically, in the absence of environmental sounds, this is where I hear the sound of a Mariachi band. (Again, don't ask.)
Next, become aware of a feeling and name it. It's preferable to do this internallyuse your imagination. (I feel the warmth of the summer sun on my arms) However, as with the auditory, if you actually have a physical sensation that gets your attention, use that.
Repeat the process with two images, then two sounds, then two feelings.
Repeat the cycle once again using three images, three sounds, and three feelings.
6. Completing the ProcessIt is not unusual to "space out" or lose consciousness during the process. At first some people think that they've fallen asleep. But generally you will find yourself coming back automatically at the end of the allotted time. This is an indication that you weren't sleeping and that your unconscious mind was doing what you asked of it.
Note: Most people don't
get all the way through the process. That's perfectly all right. If you should
complete the process before the time has ended, just continue with 4 images, sounds,
feelings, then 5 and so on. As for your goals, trust that your unconscious mind
is working for you "in the background" while you're doing the process. Regular
practice yields ever better results.
Summary of Self-Hypnosis Guidelines:
© 1987 by Eleanor S. Field, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved.
© 1987 by Eleanor S. Field, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
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