Hypnotherapy and mindfulness
The practise of mindfulness is often thought of as a process of focusing our minds intently upon the details of our surroundings or external world, such as the cup in our hand, a picture on the wall, or a flower in the garden, enabling us to become more completely immersed in the present moment. While mindfulness includes this shift in awareness, it is much more than this.
As Jon Kabat-Zinn once said, “The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness”.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness might be considered a practical response, a way of slowing down the moment so that we can become more objective, and more proactive in our responses and approach, allowing us to move away from the more reactive responses that might have become our default.
At first, this might seem in contrast with hypnotherapy, which uses a hypnotic trance state to allow us to focus internally on a particular challenge or change we want to address in our lives, however in mindfulness, as in hypnosis, we become more attentive to our internal world, our thoughts, physical sensations, and subtle changes in our emotional state, and we do this in relation to the stimulus of the external world.
In other words, the process of becoming more mindful enables us to consciously consider our internal world and our responses to it, as well as how we respond to and interact with, our external world, and how we have developed those responses. In this way we become more aware of our habitual patterns of behaviour, the things we might tend to do or say, without due thought or consideration for their meaning, impact or consequences, not only on ourselves but also on the world around us.
Hypnotherapy and mindfulness
Hypnotherapy is often used to address a range of physical or psychological issues, and many of those issues are induced or exacerbated by stress or anxiety. With hypnotherapy, we are able to manage our response to our circumstances, feelings and emotions, thereby reducing our experience of stress or anxiety. A mindful approach, as used in analytical hypnotherapy, helps us to also work upon the level of the root cause of that response, so that we might understand this more fully and re-frame our belief systems around it, a very powerful approach to an often significant and sustained improvement in our experience of our symptoms in the future.
With anxiety, such as that induced by social situations, a more mindful approach might be misconceived as focusing more on every detail of yourself, others or the situation around you, which it might be considered could actually lead to an increase in your symptoms. However, a mindful approach can actually help you to be more considerate of the root cause of the anxiety experienced, and therefore more empathetic and compassionate towards yourself and your responses, rather than more focused on the response or situation itself. Combined with hypnosis, the suggestion might be rather to become more detached from the situation, less focused on yourself and more focused on what is happening around you.
Many techniques used in hypnotherapy enable us to view our current circumstances and our past experiences from different perspectives, moving outside our subjective first-person view to see ourselves in a situation from the perspective of another person watching ourselves, from above, looking down upon ourselves from higher and higher perspectives, seeing ourselves on a screen, or seeing ourselves sitting watching ourselves on a screen. These different perspectives enable us to "get out of our own heads", and in so doing become more mindful of these different perspectives, when we are experiencing the world from "within our own head".
As we become more mindful, more aware of the things we do that really don’t serve us - those ‘mindless’ responses and behaviours we might sometimes tend towards - we are enabled to become more in control of those more unhelpful, reactive ways of responding, releasing what no longer serves us and creating more positive alternatives we might use instead. We can then begin to develop a more proactive and compassionate approach in our relationship with ourselves, and with others, as well as with the influences of the past and our current circumstances.
By bringing our more habitual, automatic subconscious processes into conscious awareness, we are enabled to become more in control. When mindfulness approaches are combined with hypnotherapy, we can further enhance our state of self-awareness, utilising this ability to help us replace the unhelpful or outdated automatic, habitual responses we no longer want or require, with an alternative, more effective and beneficial behaviour, thought or emotional state.