1. SUGGESTIONS ARE POORLY WORDED
The unconscious mind is very powerful. It is also willing to give us what we ask for, if we ask properly.
We can think of the unconscious mind as being childlike in some ways. It is very literal minded and like a child best understands uncomplicated instructions. So, simply worded commands and suggestions tend to much more effective.
To structure an effective suggestion:
Make it short: Long and complicated suggestions are difficult for the unconscious mind to understand.
Word it in the positive. Telling yourself what you do not want will most likely be ineffective.
Make your suggestions unambiguous. For example, “I feel better about myself” is less effective than “I feel good about myself”, because “better” might mean 1% better or 1000% better. And, because of the way the unconscious mind understands language, “I feel good about myself” will be much more effective.
2. SUGGESTED GOALS GENERATE CONFLICT
Suppose, for example, that someone who wants to lose weight suggests to herself, “Chocolate tastes like spoiled milk.” If chocolate has been used as a comfort food, or as a reward and the person has a strong emotional attachment to it because of that, the effectiveness will be short term at best.
“Alfred” went to an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) training and as an exercise made a favorite food, cheesecake, seem awful. He became agitated because he associated the family cheesecake recipe with feeling loved, cared for, and happy. Even after one of the assistants at the training helped him make the cheesecake attractive and enjoyable again, he had to make a cheesecake using the family recipe that evening and taste it to be sure that all the good feelings were back.
One person I met refused to allow hypnosis to reduce the her pain. She was on disability leave from work and was not ready to go back. And, for some reason, she believed that she had to have a certain amount of pain to justify the disability leave. Self hypnosis for pain relief would not work for her under those circumstances.
3. THE SELF HYPNOSIS METHODS ARE TOO COMPLEX
I have a self hypnosis book by a respected hypnotherapist that asks his readers to imagine elaborate conferences between their various “parts”. The reader was to make sure that the adult and inner child parts negotiated how the the desired changes would come about, for example. This approach can certainly be very effective, however it is not particularly suited for self hypnosis. Someone in a profound hypnotic state is likely to lose track of the process and drift into a comfortable daydreamy experience. To do a complex process, one has to both participate and direct the proceedings, which is difficult while in hypnosis.
KISS (keep it simply simple) is the best way to get good results with self hypnosis.
One effective method is to write down a simple suggestion, go into self hypnosis while repeating the suggestion to yourself. It will still work if you lose track at some point, because the suggestion will have already have been absorbed by the unconscious mind because of the repetition.
4. THE GOALS ARE TOO VAGUE
Goals must be specific enough that you will know when you have it. How will you look when you have reached your outcome? What will you see, feel, hear, smell and taste that will let you know you have reached your outcome? How will you be different in your behavior? The better you define your desired outcome the easier it will be for your unconscious mind to understand what you want. For example, “I practice self hypnosis ten minutes every day” is much better than “I do something to achieve my goal on a regular basis”“something to achieve my goal” is just too vague. Doing self hypnosis for a set amount of time daily is easily observable.To learn comprehensive series of steps in creating effective goals, see my articles: Well Formed New Years Resolutions parts one through three. (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)
5. POORLY WRITTEN SCRIPTS
One effective method of using self hypnosis is to use hypnosis scripts recorded in one’s own voice. There are several advantages to using scripts. Listening to a recording relieves the person of needing to both guide a process, or repeat suggestions and respond to them at the same time as well. It allows the person to completely be absorbed in the hypnotic experience. Another advantage, professionally written scripts are available free on the internet. Just do a Google search for “free hypnosis scripts”.
As with all things internet, quality will vary with those scripts. One such free script includes the phrase, “You know you can do anything as well as the next person…” My first thought is that if “the next person” is a commercial airline pilot with six thousand flying hours, and the “anything” is flying a commercial airliner, that the suggestion is either likely to be rejected outright, or worse, install a level of confidence way beyond a non-pilot’s competency.
It may seem like nit picking, but, as mentioned above unconscious minds tend to respond in very literal ways to suggestions. One script in a commercial recording intended to install “prosperity consciousness” had a suggestion that could be interpreted as both supportive of, or as undermining the listener’s desires to be more financially independent. Surely that was unintentional, and unfortunate, yet is does demonstrate the need to choose scripts written by highly skilled and competent hypnotherapists.
Another disadvantage to using scripts is that they may offer suggestions that conflict with the personality needs of the listener. One of my clients was drinking several glasses of wine every night after work in a rather compulsive manner. He would drink more than he thought reasonable when he went out with friends as well. Direct suggestions to reduce his drinking were somewhat effective for short periods, but he kept returning to his habit of over consumption.
My client’s goal was to enjoy the occasional glass of wine or two. The resolution of his difficulty came about when he recognized the purpose of his drinking was to prove to himself that he was different than his father. His father was strictly religious, and would not allow anyone in the family to drink as my client was growing up.
Once we realized the purpose of my client’s drinking, it was a relatively simple matter to change his drinking habits. Now, he may drink a glass of wine in the evening, or not, and is perfectly satisfied.
Self hypnosis can be completely effective for resolving many issues, including stopping smoking, weight loss, eliminating fears, and increasing motivation. The purpose of this article is to help readers recognize and avoid (or correct) some of the common pitfalls that prevent self hypnosis from being effective. And, it may also help readers determine when the help of a trained professional would be the best option for the resolution of a difficulty or in reaching their goal.