I was once in a hypnotherapy workshop. The teacher that day, was a stage hypnotist. He had us all do an exercise: one that he’d often use at the beginning of a show.
In the exercise, you hold out both your arms in front of you, so they’re parallel to each other and the floor.
You close your eyes and, with various imagery, you start to imagine one particular arm going down: maybe it feels heavy, you’ve got a heavy bucket hanging from it, etc. With different imagery, he then guides you to imagine the other arm going up: maybe it feels light, you have helium balloons tied around your wrist, etc.
At the end of the exercise, the participants open their eyes and see how far apart their arms have moved. For some, there is little movement; for others, their arms have moved a huge distance apart. The demonstration shows that different people have different levels of suggestibility.
So what makes one person more suggestible than someone else? And by extension, does this mean that some people are more suitable for hypnotherapy?
Well, what if you’re happy to go along with it and use your imagination? You can feel the bucket weighing your arm down.. and you can feel the lightness as the balloons lift the other arm up. And so… they do!
I am naturally suggestible. I’ve done tons of yoga, tons of meditation, tons of hypnosis, tons of relaxation work.
My imagination is a rich and fertile land and I flit in and out of it all day long. I am very comfortable with journeying with the unconscious mind. So, I should have been naturally suggestible that day, right?
Well, as it turned out, no. As I was doing the exercise and my arms started moving, it suddenly occurred to me that the hypnotist was not only using this practice to demonstrate an interesting phenomenon; he was also using it to see who was the most suggestible in the room, so that he could invite them… out front!
I knew that I did NOT want to go out front, because then I would be on display. Emotions of horror and embarrassment came back to me in a flash, with no memory from where they came…. but quick as lightning… my hands stopped moving. My unconscious mind had worked out that the fastest way to protect me from what it perceived to be the threat of total social ruin, was to make sure I couldn’t participate in any further demonstrations, up front. Sure enough, I didn’t get invited on stage. My survival was assured.
Now, is my real, true nature not to be suggestible? No!… I just didn’t want to do it! However, if I was in therapy for a good reason, with someone I trusted, I’m pretty sure my arms would move fully apart: one up and one down.
So which bit of me didn’t want me to go on stage? The bit of me that is constantly assessing what keeps me safe: physically, emotionally, socially, mentally. The protective part of my unconscious mind.
The truth is, we go in and out of self-hypnosis all day. If anything, my experience proved to me that my unconscious mind was working, loud and clear. It just pulled off a great trick! It kept me safe.
The job of a truly good therapist is to get your unconscious mind on side. Some of this is done by building rapport. This creates trust. There’s a lot of talking in the first session and on your initial free consultation. This is when you work out whether you and the hypnotherapist can work together, what your goals are, and whether they’re achievable.
Some of the work to get your unconscious mind onside, however, has to be done in therapy. Let’s have a look at how that might work.
Say I really wanted to quit smoking, but part of my unconscious mind believes it is important that I continue smoking, because I have an unconscious belief that if I quit, I’ll put on weight.
How will I respond in hypnotherapy if that conflicting belief is not uncovered and worked with? I can tell you right now, it won’t be successful. The protective instincts of our unconscious mind are incredibly strong.
Similarly, consider someone sending their husband to hypnotherapy for pain management, when he himself doesn’t want to go. But the sessions are paid for. He will tell everyone later how hypnotherapy didn’t work for him: he knew it wouldn’t.
The irony is, in both these scenarios, the unconscious mind is running a program, to keep the person safe or to avoid stuff they really don’t want to do. But the reality is:
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”
For the balance to tip, there needs to be a need, and it needs to be time for change.
Usually, people come to hypnotherapy when they themselves know they need to change. Maybe there’s a medical diagnosis. Or they recognise they’re struggling with anxiety, sleep issues or confidence. Maybe they are in pain, angry or feel stuck. Either way, it’s time to address the unconscious patterns that are holding them back.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t have reservations, queries or curiosity, or feel unsure or on the fence as to whether it will work. You don’t have to have completely bought in. You might actually believe that nothing can help you! But it has to have become more important to you to try and resolve the challenge you face, than to avoid the vulnerable feelings that come up from trying out something new; something that you don’t fully understand.
In this scientific era, we tend to want a set of data showing us that something will work. Well, therapy isn’t very rational in that sense. A human being is incredibly complex. Made up of all the experiences you’ve ever had, the stories you’ve ever told yourself and others about yourself, all the patterns of feelings and emotions you’ve ever had, the identity you’ve formed… the list goes on.
What is generally agreed though, is that in the right circumstances, virtually anyone can be hypnotised. The General Hypnotherapy Council of the UK says:
‘If the right ingredients are present, if the time is right, and if a suitable practitioner can be found who the client is willing to work with, then all their realistic goals are achievable.’
All my work starts with a 30 minute Free Consultation on Zoom, for you to tell me what your challenge is, ask any questions, listen to my responses and for us to work out if hypnotherapy in general and if you and me, in particular, are a good fit.
If the answer is yes, we can come up with a tailored program of hypnotherapy and begin to work together.
Visit the Work with me page and book on today for your free consultation.