Whether you are going through eating disorder recovery, trying to change your food/fitness habits or simply struggle with your reflection, it’s safe to say most of us get hung up on body image issues sometimes. The common denominator is accepting our body. Unless we can learn to accept our bodies, it is almost impossible to change the way we feed or move it.
Kelsey Miller from Refinery29 tried a different approach to body acceptance – hypnotherapy. The hypnotherapist she worked with, Theresa Walker, explains how the process works:
“Essentially, hypnosis works by shifting negative beliefs about ourselves at the subconscious level.”
She goes on to say that when addressing body image, she’s learned that it usually involves a call to strengthen our self-worth.
“The change starts first within the mind, and ultimately manifests in conscious, awake life.”
Kelsey’s first session involved a series of suggestibility tests to help her hypnotherapist understand how she takes in information. Next it was time to assess goals. Kelsey quickly learnt that she couldn’t just say “I want a better body image”, she would have to put some work in.
She explains that the process forces you to get very specific about what you’re looking to address. Talking about her general history with her hypnotherapist, Kelsey found with every query she was prompted to give more details. This attention to detail helps the hypnotherapist give more refined suggestions during hypnosis.
Discussing how it felt to be hypnotised, Kelsey says it felt “both strange and totally comfortable, like being in a deep dream state, yet simultaneously aware that you’re sitting in a chair, in an office, on a Tuesday afternoon.”
Her hypnotherapist began with a visualisation technique to relax Kelsey into a state of hypnosis. The words and intentions discussed beforehand were woven into the language used by the hypnotherapist alongside anchoring symbolic visuals.
“There were bonfires into which I threw old, unnecessary behaviours, and a glass full of liquid self-assurance or something. As with a dream, it was difficult to recall the details after I ‘woke up’. But the feeling of calm and clarity resonated in me for days.”
Speaking about the after-effects, Kelsey said she would look in the mirror and think to herself ‘oh right, I accept and appreciate myself, just as I am in this moment.’ She said she didn’t have instant positive body image, it was more like the thought patterns she had previously strived to ingrain into her mind were now more accessible.
The following sessions were done via Skype.
“I was surprised to find that falling into hypnosis was even easier via this medium, perhaps because I could do it while in the comfort of my own home (and sweat pants).”
What didn’t surprise her was how many other subjects came up during the sessions.
“When one of those emotional minefields got tweaked, I could immediately see the aftershocks rippling through my perception of my body.”
She said that whatever she worked on during a session, she left feeling more clear and grounded. She explained it as if her mental path had been cleared of those needles – the nagging thoughts she was getting stuck on.
“Hypnotherapy isn’t a spell that makes everything better with a few magic words. It’s a process that teaches you to find your own magic words – and remember them.”