Hypnosis can be described as a state of deep relaxation where the hypnotised subject experiences a heightened level of awareness coupled with a narrowing of their focus of attention. This hypnotic state is called trance and is a perfectly safe state which can occur naturally during everyday life. In self-hypnosis we aim to deliberately put ourselves into a hypnotic trance.
To be in a trance does not mean to be asleep, although it can sometimes look that way, but in fact the opposite is true. Studies of the brain activity of people in trance have revealed an increased level of alertness. Hypnosis is a very personal experience and it should be remembered that each individual will experience trance in his or her own way.
First find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed, and begin by getting comfortable and relaxed. Use deep breathing and progressive relaxation techniques to get as deeply relaxed as you can.
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There is no fixed method for trance induction, in fact there are many hundreds of different techniques which have been used effectively. The following are some common and proven examples of techniques and any combination can be used to enter trance, whichever you find works best for you.
With your eyes open, focus your attention on any small spot or object in front of you and above your line of sight. Keep focussing on the spot and direct all your attention towards it, clearing your mind of all other thoughts and distractions. Continue breathing deeply and slowly, and begin suggesting to yourself how relaxed you feel, and how tired your eyes are becoming. Allow yourself to keep relaxing more and more and eventually, when your eyes become tired and heavy, you can close them.
It is possible to enter a trance state even when you find it impossible to relax. If you are finding it impossible to let go of tension or anxiety, psychologist Michael Yapko in his book 'Trancework' (1990) describes how you can utilize your current stressed, anxious or tense state as a focus for entering trance. You simply allow and accept your present state of mind, whilst beginning to think back to a time when you were involved in an experience of calmness, comfort, or relaxation and absorption, such that you didn't pay any attention to things going on around you. In doing this you can allow your feelings and responses to move towards those remembered from this past experience.
Visualisation is one of the most powerful tools in self-hypnosis. Use visualisation and imagery to create images in your mind that suggest relaxation, for example, lying on a beach or walking in a forest. Allow your imagination to flow naturally and let yourself become absorbed by your mental images as you enter trance.
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This is another example of imagery, and one that is often used to deepen the level of relaxation. Imagine yourself at the top of a beautiful staircase, there may be 10 steps to the bottom. The stairs lead to the most beautiful, wonderful and relaxing place you can imagine, which may be real or fantasised. Imagine descending the staircase, counting down the steps as you descend, and with each step suggesting to yourself an increased feeling of relaxation and a deepening of the hypnotic trance. As you reach the bottom you will be as deeply relaxed as you can be.
Creating a perceived physical response to hypnosis is a way to focus your attention inwards even further. Use suggestions and imagination to create a physical feeling or sensation in your body. For example, imagine warmth, or numbness, or heaviness, or lightness in your hand. Feeling the physical response occurring will indicate achieving a level of self-hypnosis.
Sometimes people find them selves so immersed and preoccupied with an emotional feeling that they find it difficult to use imagery. Strong emotions such as grief, anger or fear can be overwhelming, but may be utilised to help enter hypnosis. In this case, try to develop an image in the mind like a scene from a movie in which you are the main character. Focus on your current emotions and observe the movie of your current situation, allowing your character to experience all the feelings you are presently having. By becoming absorbed in the movie as an observer, and maintaining a detached awareness, you will soon discover that you have entered trance. When you are ready, you can extend your movie towards working on your goals.
Where possible, incorporate distracting sounds in your suggestions, rather than trying to fight them. Notice any external sounds that you can hear and then allow them to be included in your suggestions for relaxation. Similarly, internal distractions such as worries, pains or self-doubt can be focussed on and used to help deepen your self-hypnosis. Of course, some distractions will require your attention immediately, such as the doorbell ringing or a child requiring attention. In these cases deal with the distraction satisfactorily and then return to your self-hypnosis.
Self-hypnosis is a very personal and individual experience and different methods will feel more comfortable for different people. Techniques such as those above can be changed and adapted to suit the individual. Self-hypnosis is a natural skill which can be developed and made easier with practice.
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