Hypnosis and mindfulness
Mindfulness is a real buzzword at the moment. Every day stories surface of Silicon Valley enterprises encouraging their workforces to employ the technique, or recently, a video was posted showing police being taught to meditate to help cope with post-traumatic stress.
While it has its roots in the transcendence and ego-death of the Eastern philisophies/religions, as an applied technique, mindfulness is very useful as a form of cognitive distancing – a process of creating distance between the thinker and the thought. It helps us realise that a thought is not a truth, but more like a hypothesis. The attitudinal difference between, "I’m not good enough" and "In this moment, I am having the thought that I’m not good enough" is enormous. The first is an absolute statement, a negative valuation of the self. The second allows space for the thought, but also gives space to the possibility that the next moment might bring with it a different conclusion.
The experience of hypnosis and meditation, particularly when it is guided, can be quite similar. They both tend to induce very pleasant states of relaxation and allow us to uncouple ourselves from all the noise of everyday life. There are, however, crucial differences.
It can be useful to think of mindfulness as dehypnosis, a way of removing all the negative suggestions that are the detritus of our minds, the weeds that choke our mental soil. In doing so, it can provide fallow ground for spontaneous change to occur. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that it does, and I encourage all my clients to explore mindfulness meditation.
As a process, hypnosis is much more targeted. In an interview in the New Scientist, Laurence Sugarman puts it like this:
"In the West, it is used as a therapy to practise coping or decreasing stress. It can be really helpful when someone is sick and tired of having thoughts overtake them and needs to practise dropping out of them, for instance. But that’s where it stops. It doesn’t direct change."
The key is the idea of directing change. Hypnosis allows us, through positive suggestion, to focus on specific things about the way we think, feel and behave and work on improving them. While mindfulness provides wonderful long term benefits, hypnosis can produce hugely impressive results in just a handful of sessions. Simply by focusing our attention and imagination on the person we’d like to become, we take the first step in making that person a reality.
Police meditating video: https://www.facebook.com/CollectiveEvolutionPage/videos/10154104363063908/?pnref=story
About the author
Philip is a cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist based in Crystal Palace, South London. His evidence-based approach grounded in the latest scientific research. He opposes short term fixes in favour of helping clients create meaningful, lasting change in their lives.
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