Guess what? This is a form of self-hypnosis. Hypnosis is not some mysterious trick really. For most of us we experience some form of self-hypnosis every day. Those of you who are depressed or anxious and can hear that broken record in your head are experiencing a negative form of self-hypnosis. If you are depressed and keep repeating that negative self-talk you are basically reinforcing your depressive symptoms unwittingly! Those ruminating thoughts you may experience as you are trying to fall asleep – self-hypnosis. By the way, if you do have ruminating thoughts when you are trying to fall asleep, write them down somewhere and the anxiety will abate. Take the energy from your mind and put it somewhere else.
The remedy for negative self-talk for some people is just repeating a positive mantra in your head. It can work believe it or not. But for others this may not quite be enough. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just turn on the “positivity record” so it plays over and over? That can work with practice.
Just for kicks I encourage you to identify someone you know who seems genuinely happy. Check in with them just to make sure, and if they admit to being happy most of the time ask them the all-important “How” question. “How did you get that way?” or some variation.
You see, happy people typically don’t have the happy record playing all of the time. Ask them if they ever hear a negative voice in their heads, an honest, self-aware person would admit to hearing that negativity, but they have a strategy or skills they have developed that switches away from that focus.
“I think of a volume knob and picture myself tuning it out.”
“When I have negative thoughts, I think of a dog that is tied to a tree and is barking incessantly, but I just picture myself walking further away until I don’t hear it anymore.”
Those are pretty good real life working interventions.
Understand, I am not suggesting people choose to be depressed. Clients I work with have never asked that I help them be more depressed. The ability and skills to switch your focus from the negativity in your mind to something more healthy and opportunistic is what you want to aim for. I am suggesting that we all have the ability and actually use self-hypnosis already, so why not use it to our advantage. Elite athletes use it, why not be your elite self? How do elite athletes utilize self-hypnosis?
Michael Jordan used hypnosis to improve stamina
Sports Hypnosis is often seen as a way to prep an athlete before the game. Concentration and focus become easy when one enters the right mental state. A hypnotherapist will work with an athlete to calm their mind and rid it of distractions that can get in the way of game-play. One of the biggest names to use sport hypnotherapy is Michael Jordan. This basketball star used hypnotherapy before every game to improve his mental stamina. The whole Chicago Bulls team incorporated hypnotherapy into their pregame sessions to center themselves and gain an edge over their opponents.
So why not use this tool for yourself? If you have a certain way of thinking that leads to dead ends and more negative thoughts and feelings you really are absorbing set patterns. In hypnosis whether it’s self-actuated or from a qualified professional you can learn to absorb different messages. You really can! Hypnosis in therapy is just another way to help you fine tune your focus.
Here are a few steps to self-guided imagery or hypnosis
1. Get in a relaxed state without distractions, this is typically done with deep breathing.
2. Imagine being some place relaxing, anywhere in the world, it’s up to you. Make it as vivid as possible for yourself, use all five senses if you can to absorb the experience.
3. Identify what you want to focus on. If it’s the ability to question negative thoughts go ahead and remind yourself that you have been able to do that in some cases in the past and that you can do it in the future.
4. Picture yourself being successful with that skill.
Not very mysterious right? It’s even easier to do this with the help of a professional. You can record a hypnosis session and listen to it multiple times if needed. It is really helpful to identify the specific skills needed to overcome whatever challenge you face whether it’s depression, anxiety caused by perfectionism or something else. Remember, what you focus on, is what you intensify.