“I don’t believe in hypnosis”: how to reduce anxiety through flexible thinking
The idea that someone does not believe in hypnosis is as alien to me as someone saying that they don’t believe that the sun will come up tomorrow. The Hypnotic state is not like Father Christmas or the Tooth fairy: it is a scientifically researched and effective modality to positively enable individuals to improve many conditions such as stress, anxiety, insomnia, relieve symptoms of physical illness, change the perception of pain, improve self-confidence and performance and affect long lasting change.
Fortunately, you do not have to believe in hypnosis for it to work - just be willing to engage in it and want to change.
Hypnosis is not about mind control by the hypnotist; thankfully, no one can control your mind but you. The hypnotist simply acts as a guide to help you feel empowered and have choice to make the changes that you want.
The degree to which people can fall into trance varies, just as the degree to which someone is a natural athlete - it is a skill. If you practise it you will develop that skill and the benefit to you will be improved. Choose to opt out, resist or not put in the work and the results will be slower. Complete rejection of the concept that you can be hypnotised is like saying you are incapable of fresh learning.
Rigid thinking, mental stubbornness and dismissing fresh ideas are the kinds of mental attitudes and behaviour which create anxiety or other troubled thinking and keeps the therapy business alive! As an individual is encouraged to trust the therapist, the fear driven barriers to learning are dropped and the process of change can begin. The additional benefit of hypnosis over some other therapies is that it allows us access to the unconscious mind - after all, this is where the irrational thoughts, unconscious habits and self-restricting beliefs reside.
Your brain is amazing
Consider for a moment the volume of information coming into our brains every second - visual, auditory, sensory. It is truly mind blowing! So, how is all this information processed - how do we make sense of our world? Described very simply, much of this information is processed automatically in our unconscious founded on our past experiences; our responses to these stimuli are based on previous patterns of behaviour stored within our hippocampus. Our brain searches for a pattern match to make sense of the information and reacts appropriately, or maybe inappropriately if the information is perceived as a threat. No matter what the conscious, rational part of our brain tries to tell us, you may feel overwhelmed to react in an irrational way:
"ARGHHHH - a daddy long legs!" Cue person running screaming from the room.
Two people look up as you enter a pub. Your thought: EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT ME. You turn around and leave the pub as quickly as you can, desperately trying to rationalise your actions as you leave; “too hot, too crowded, full of locals”. It is amazing how creative our imagination can be.
Your conscious analytical mind is a bit like a security guard
This part of your brain may try to stop ideas that do not fit into your belief system from entering the unconscious part of the brain; for example, we have all met the “know it all”, someone who has been there before, done that, got the T shirt...they sometimes pepper the conversation with, “I know, I know” and you get the impression that they are not entirely listening to other's perspectives. Maybe they are feeling a little uncomfortable with the conversation; maybe they feel at some level a little threatened; it could be that, within their unconscious mind, they are fearful of making mistakes and appearing foolish.
Hypnosis allows us to bypass the security guard and make powerful and cathartic suggestions to the client that it is ok to make mistakes, that you do not need to be perfect all the time...that it is ok to just do your best and learn from experience. When we allow our body and mind to relax and give that conscious part of our brain something to focus on, a story perhaps, then those positive suggestions can slip straight past the brain's security guard into the unconscious where they can start to restore a person’s confidence or give new ways of positive thinking a place to grow.
Repetition is the key to long term change; make time in your day to listen to the CD or download that your hypnotherapist will have given you and you will start to experience a different perspective. Of course, you still have the choice to engage in negative or restrictive thinking - it is up to you. That is what empowerment and feeling in control of our lives is all about: choice, being able to choose which is the right way for you.
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