What Is Self Hypnosis?
Hypnosis and Self Hypnosis
Before asking the question, “What is self hypnosis?” we should give some
thought to hypnosis itself. Merriam-Webster Online defines hypnosis as:
. . . a
trancelike state that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the
Someone else is always in control, in this case. The hypnotist begins by requesting the person
being hypnotized – “the subject” – to focus attention on the hypnotist as the sleeplike state is being created.
While in the trance, the subject becomes extremely receptive to, and may be influenced by, the hypnotist’s
Since the early 1800s, hypnosis has been used for medical and dental purposes, primarily to
relieve pain and to replace or supplement anesthesia during surgery. At that time, it was called “mesmerism,” after
the German physician Franz Anton Mesmer, who was the first to advocate the use of the
process in pain control in the late 1700s.
The medical literature offers a myriad of examples where hypnosis by another person has been
successful in reducing or eliminating
pain felt by the patient: in children undergoing chemotherapy; in women during labor and
childbirth; in habitual smokers who wish to stop smoking; in the treatment of chronic tension headache, bedwetting,
and tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears); and even in cases where breasts or limbs have
had to be surgically removed, and hypnosis was the only anesthesia used!
So What Is Self Hypnosis?
Self-hypnosis is a highly suggestible state wherein the individual can direct suggestions to
himself. It’s easy to figure out that the process involves providing yourself with suggestions, rather than
receiving them from another person.
These autosuggestions are more readily accepted by your ego because
you’ve already put yourself into a state of light trance. And what about that trancelike state?
Erika Fromm and several colleagues, in their 1981 article The
phenomena and characteristics of self-hypnosis, compared self hypnosis and hypnosis by another, or
“hetero-hypnosis”. They found that both exhibited absorption, or the complete occupation and focus of the mind,
as well as a fading of the usual orientation to general reality. Where hetero-hypnosis clearly required
concentration on an outside source (the hypnotist) and receptiveness to stimuli coming from that source, self
hypnosis required “expansive, free-floating attention and ego receptivity to stimuli coming from within.” The
trance state, then, would be a feeling of detachment from general reality, and an expansive attention to what
comes from within.
Why Learn to Hypnotize Yourself?
You may be wondering what would be the advantage of learning to hypnotize yourself. Are you
trying to quit
smoking, or perhaps having difficulty in dropping those last several unwanted pounds? Do you find
yourself unable to visit your children in faraway cities because you’re terrified of flying? Is stress overload making it difficult for you to sleep, and keeping you
anxious and uneasy when you’re awake? Believe it or not, self hypnosis can help you deal with all of these
You can begin to use the incredible power of the inner mind to achieve your goals and change
your life (toss those cigarettes out or get into those tight jeans again); fly across the country or even farther
calmly and serenely; and reduce your stress so that you operate efficiently and comfortably during the day, sleep
deeply and soundly at night, and feel refresh when you wake up the next morning.
And here’s a surprise: you already, naturally and instinctively, know how to hypnotize yourself!
In fact, you do it every day, over and over, many times. You pass into and out of trance states all the time,
without even noticing the transitions. You live in many different levels of awareness each day. Here’s an
Levels of Awareness
You’re sitting comfortably in your favorite chair, reading a really good book. You’re intensely
involved in the story, almost feeling yourself in the scene, and part of the action. Call that level of
awareness Level One.
Level One is actually the hypnotic state, the trance state: remember Fromm’s insistence on
complete focus, accompanied by a fading of the usual orientation to reality?
Suddenly your cat jumps up in your lap, turns around a couple of times, and settles down,
purring. You keep reading, but now you’re absently smoothing her fur, scratching behind her ears, and sensing the
warm rumbling of her purr on your thighs, even while you stay focused on your book. Call this level of
awareness Level Two (slight abstraction).
You remain at Level Two for awhile, until all of a sudden the phone rings. You put the cat and
your book down, get up and go across the room, and pick up the phone. Now you’re at Level Three,
back in ordinary reality and fully oriented to it. You remain there while you carry on an animated conversation
with your friend on the telephone. When you’re done, you go back to your comfy chair, absently pick up the cat and
settle her in your lap again, and return to your book. Within seconds, you’re back at Level
Now, notice how you feel when you’re operating at Level One.
You are focused, concentrating, paying attention to what you’re doing. Some other situations
when you are at Level One might be when you are driving, praying, or focusing on listening to music. Your mind
allows you to multitask at Level One, too; but when you do that, you may slide back and forth between Level One and
Remember how it felt when you were reading and petting your cat at the same time? Do you ever
talk to a passenger when you’re driving, or listen to the car radio? Do you ever wash dishes while you’re listening
to music? You are performing several actions at the same time, but you’re still concentrating (hopefully) on your
driving, or enjoying the music. It’s as if most of your mind is focused on your Level One task, and the rest of
your mind is on Cruise Control or Autopilot, just carrying you along with whatever else you’re doing.
Exactly that feeling is how it feels to hypnotize yourself. The first time you do it, it won’t
feel strange; it will feel comfortable and familiar, because you’ve been there a million times before throughout
your life. Self hypnosis isn’t weird or bizarre, and it certainly isn’t painful or difficult. It is a powerful
relaxation technique, and learning to do it at will can help you improve your life in many ways.
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