1. First, I look for and emphasize all of the manifest and latent positive characteristics that I can observe about the client. I am always able to find many such attributes, and I sincerely tell the client about them at intervals in our discussion, using statements such as the following:
• You have done so much [or worked so hard or struggled so much] in your life.
• You have been able to overcome so many difficulties [misfortunes, illnesses, rejections, deaths of loved ones].
• You have helped many people in your life.
• You did well in a very difficult situation.
• You really care about people.
• You have much empathy and love for others that you have not been able to express.
• You have so much that you haven't begun to use—so much more love, so much more competence, so much more ability to be at ease, to enjoy life, to live fully.
In addition to interspersing these kinds of statements in our discussions, I also include them as suggestions in the hypnosugges-tive procedures; for example, after the client has been given repeated suggestions of deep relaxation, he or she may be given a series of suggestions on various topics, interspersed with suggestions that "Starting now, you can begin to focus more on your strengths and positive aspects . . . you can become more aware of your ability to overcome obstacles . . . your caring and love for people . . . your growing ability to be at ease and to enjoy life," and so on.
2. A second hypnosuggestive approach that aims to enhance self-esteem derives from the fact that clients with low self-regard have typically been criticized by parents or other significant individuals in their early lives, and they have incorporated the criticisms into their self-images. In the therapy sessions, we trace back the destructive criticisms the clients have received from parents, siblings, or other important people "You're dumb, stupid, ugly, clumsy, rotten, no good," etc.). After we have uncovered some or many of the origins of the low self-esteem, I proceed as follows in a hypnosuggestive session. I first give to the client (and indirectly to myself) suggestions for deep relaxation and then, when the client and I are both relaxed with eyes closed, I speak to the client from my "inner self"— for instance, somewhat as follows:
We understand now why you have felt you were unattractive, unintelligent, and not likable. It is clear now that your mother had a tremendous amount of resentment and anger and was unable to love you or anyone else because of her own father, who degraded her and made her feel totally unlikable and worthless. It's clear that you were too young to understand why your mother constantly put you down and screamed at you and made you feel there was something wrong with you. You can now see how your negative feelings about yourself were due to negative suggestions you received constantly from your mother, who was negative about everything and everyone because of her own misery. Now you can begin breaking through the negative suggestions you have received, you can begin coming out of the negative hypnosis you have been in for so many years, and you can begin to be your true self that has been held down for so long. You can see more and more clearly that as long as you were negatively hypnotized and believed you were stupid, ugly, and no good, you reacted to events and people around you in a nonconfident, afraid way, which tended to confirm your own beliefs. You can now begin to let go of these negative suggestions and begin to be your own true self, realizing more and more each day that you are a good, kind, loving, and lovable person. Each day you can become less and less afraid, more and more at ease, more and more able to enjoy life and to be your true self, [emphasis added]
3. As part of the hypnosuggestive approach to raising self-esteem, I make additional cassette tapes for the clients. These tapes, which are made when the client and I are in my office, begin with suggestions for deep relaxation, followed by specific suggestions that aim directly or indirectly to enhance self-esteem by guiding the clients to focus on their underlying strengths, virtues, and positive qualities. The clients are asked to listen to the cassette tape at home once a day during the forthcoming week, to let themselves relax deeply, and to let the ideas "go deep into your mind." Although these tapes are individualized for each client, they typically emphasize positive aspects of the client that have been neglected or suppressed and that can be released and expanded. Examples of the kinds of suggestions that are included in the hypnosuggestive tapes are as follows:
You have much caring and concern and love for others that you hold down and keep within you . . . You can begin now to let out these good feelings . . . allowing the kind, caring, good feelings to flow out to others . . . You can begin more and more to be your true self as you release your warmth and empathy toward others.
Starting now, you can be more and more aware of your true self that is being released, and you can stop criticizing yourself . . . You can stop blaming yourself for what you did that you should not have done or what you did not do that you should have done, and you can forgive yourself as you forgive others . . . You can be as kind to yourself as you are to others ... as loving to yourself as you are to others . . . You can stop criticizing and blaming yourself, and you can be free —free, more and more, to be your true self.
Starting now, you can more and more allow yourself to be the person you can be . . . appreciating again and grateful again to be able to see, to hear, to smell, to touch, to be alive . . . Appreciating again as if it's your first day on earth, as if you've never felt the sun before, never heard a bird sing, never smelled a flower before . . . Grateful to be able to touch the rain and a stone, to hear the laughter of children and the sound of the sea, to smell the grass and appreciate tasty food, to see the colors of the earth and the stars . . . Appreciating again the strength and power in your body . . . Feeling the energy and health vibrating and flowing through your being . . . Feeling again the excitement and enthusiasm and the feeling of aliveness that has been suppressed for so long . . . more and more ready to enjoy, to have fun, to play and laugh and sing . . . More and more feeling good to be you and to be alive, [emphasis added]
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