Once you have gotten yourself relaxed and into a hypnotic frame of mind, you are ready to make self-hypnosis work for you. This part of the session you are entering, often called the body of the session, is where most of the important action takes place in strategic self-hypnosis- the actual work of reconstructing your realities.
Although there are rare times when you might want to skip this step, you will always want to begin the body of your session with what I have been calling your suggestion. In Experiment Twelve, for example, you used the statement, "It's good to be alive. I can relax and make things go right for myself—I'm free!"
This is a different way of using verbal suggestion than those discussed in your previous chapter. Sometimes referred to as an affirmation, this kind of suggestion serves as a verbal formula expressing what you want to get out of your self-hypnosis.
In selecting your self-hypnosis suggestion, affirmation, or formula, it is wise to follow one of the unspoken tricks of the hypnotist's trade: Always make what you do serve as many purposes as possible. In this way, you get the most payoff from the least amount of effort. Therefore, you want to phrase this statement in the most general or most easily generalizable terms possible; that is. you want to select a formula that you can feel relates both to your immediate or specific goals and to your overall self-management objectives.
Typically, the formulas you will use in strategic self-hypnosis will be directed primarily at your attitudes or your conduct. The suggestion we have been using as our example is of the attitude kind. It suggests an orientation toward yourself, your life circumstances, or your action—a way of looking at events, circumstances, and feelings that gives you power over them.
Conduct suggestions define and prompt what you will do. In this regard, remember that not doing, blocking action, and particularly re/using to do, feel, need, or want are all actions you can take. These are extremely potent approaches to changing long-standing habit patterns, where your first objective must be to cease doing that which is messing up your life.
As a rule, I urge you to a/ways combine conduct suggestions with attitude statements promoting self-management. It is almost always appropriate to at least add to your statement the words, "I'm free!" These convey both the sense of freedom from having to do or not do anything—freedom from stress, disabilities, blockages, or other negative conditions; and that of freedom to be. do. think, and feel as you yourself choose.
Rather than go into further detail, let's consider some examples my students and clients have found especially useful.
Key Technique Four: Selecting a Self-Hypnosis "Formula"
To define what the new reality is that you are creating for yourself through self-hypnosis.
Done per instructions for your basic routine.
A. For general self-management.
2. "It's okay ... I can do it, I'm free!"
3. "I can relax and enjoy my life now. I'm free!"
4. "I can relax and enjoy my life and make things go right for myself—I'm free!"
5. "I choose to get my life together, making things go right for myself—I'm free!"
6. "It's good to be alive. I can relax and make things go right for myself—I'm free!"
7. "I choose to remain calm and comfortable under any or all circumstances. I'm free."
8. "I will cope with each thing as it comes up. to the best of my ability, and then continue, still cairn and relaxed. I'm free."
9. "I will be relaxed and enjoy my life—I'm free!"
C. Changing habits.
10. "I will feel relaxed and I will be strong. I refuse to overeat and make myself fat—I'm free!"
11. "I choose to be a nonsmoker and I choose to enjoy being a nonsmoker. My hands and fingers and lips and tongue have absolutely no desire to place cigarettes or anything in place of cigarettes into my mouth because not smoking makes me feel good."
12. "I can enjoy my life. 1 can relax and refuse to need tobacco or anything in place of tobacco. I'm free!"
13. "I will be relaxed and I will be strong. I refuse to need alcohol or get myself drunk. I'm free!"
D. Improving performances.
14. "I will feel relaxed and I will be strong. I will feel good about myself and assert myself when and how I feel I should. I'm free!"
15. "Because I am relaxed and because I am strong, I will focus my full attention on everything I
need to concentrate on, and when I am put to the test, my mind will remain calm and clear and I will remember everything 1 need to know. I can do it—I'm free!"
16. "I choose to relax and enjoy my life, and do what 1 feel I should do, when I feel I should do it. I'm free!"
17. "I can relax and feel confident and allow myself lo do my very best in all situations and in everything I do. I'm free!"
18. "1 will feel calm and relaxed under all circumstances, 1 will be strong, and I will feel a tremendous and intense concentration power with everything I do."
19. "1 will feel relaxed and I will be strong. I will be fast, accurate, and successful in court reporting. I'm free."
20. "I can relax and enjoy feeling myself typing each new word as 1 hear [or seej it. quickly, accurately, and correctly. Nothing can stop me—I'm free!"
1. When you are seeking to overcome and resist temptations, it is wise to include a phrase like "and I will be strong."
2. If what you are seeking to do has been impossible or extraordinarily difficult for you in the past, or you have never experienced anything other than having the problem (such as an obese person who has never been slender), add a "more and more" formula. For example. "I can feel more and more relaxed under pressure each and every new day, because 1 am not a robot—I'm free!"
3. Particularly if you have a prior history of straining and failing at stress-related goals such as losing weight, quitting tobacco, or cutting down drinking, you should use a feeling cue in your suggestion. For example, when you say your formula out loud, do it like this: "1 will feel relaxed [exhale] and I will be strong. ..
4. Another way of phrasing suggestions is to use I he phrase "I choose" rather than "I will" or "I can" (as in numbers 5, 7, 11, and 16 in the list of examples). Some authorities recommend this phrasing to reinforce the sense of creating your own future. If it feels right, use it.
Go over the list of examples carefully, examining them and observing how they are put together.
Now turn back in your journal to your most recent self-assessment. Is there a common theme to the goals you are working toward or the things you are trying to change about yourself or your life? If not, what is your first priority—what goals or attitudes do you wish to work on first? (Almost always you'll find the first case to be your own. with your goals and problems focused around a similar theme such as getting nervous under pressure, feeling uptight, needing to relax and concentrate, etc.)
Is there a suggestion in the list of examples that fits this need as is? Can you slightly modify one to fit your case more exactly? Otherwise, follow the principles we've been discussing and make up one of your very own. Note: Never use directly or indirectly negative suggestions. For example, if you want to lose weight, don't tell yourself. "I will stick to my prescribed diet and when I have eaten all that 1 am supposed to eat. I will no longer be hungry." Not only are you inviting yourself to resist what you are "supposed to do," but why are you implying that you might feel hungry? Rather, look at number 10 in the list of examples. I've used this with more than a hundred cases with great success—can you see how it is. indeed, an affirmation, a positive suggestion? (To refuse is. as I've explained, positive—something you can do.) Beware also of making your suggestion feel like a matter of work or of taking orders. Keep it positive, feeling like something you would want to do.
The formula should be no more than a few phrases long. The one exception I normally make to this rule is with suggestions for memory, study, or concentration (see number 15 in the list of examples). Flay with your formula and its wording until it feels right to you. Then write it down in your journal with a big box around it. or do it in colored ink, so you can easily find it later. (Feel free to change or modify your formula at any time, understanding, of course, that you need to give yourself a chance to see how it works for you before you drop it for something else entirely.)
When to Choose a Neiv Formula. So long as you feel comfortable with the formula you have selected, give it a chance to work. How long? A reasonable period of time— at least a couple of weeks. If you feel some progress toward your goals, stick with it until (a) you feel you are well on your way to spontaneously doing as you wanted to be doing and it is no longer a problem for you, or (b) if a very long while has gone by with no appreciable change or progress. In the first case, either select a new suggestion working toward other areas in your self-assessment, or switch to a more general self-management formula. In the second case, either change suggestions and give the new one a few weeks to work, select a different area to work on, or consult a professional for assistance.
As discussed in Chapter Two. you are telling yourself what to believe and what to do twenty-four hours a day. In strategic hypnosis, you work to gain voluntary control over this process of giving yourself suggestions in your subconscious thinking. To create new personal realities, you need to change what you are telling yourself all the time—in effect, you want to change the internal "tape recordings."
You can do so by taking advantage of the principle of repetition. By repeating your new ideas for yourself over and over, they become familiar to you. The more familiar they are, the easier it will be to just take them for granted as your reality. Before long you will find yourself spontaneously reminding yourself of these things as part of your background thinking.
Never underestimate the vast potential inherent in changing your automatic thinking. You generally find yourself doing what seems "only natural" for you to do next. This includes how you feel—you tend to feel the way your thinking suggests.
The reverse of this is also true. You tend to avoid doing or not allow yourself to do what seems unrealistic or unimaginable for you. By changing the realities you define for yourself in your spontaneous background thinking, you enable yourself to overcome self-imposed blocks and disabilities, to unblock hidden or repressed potentialities, and make it possible to explore new ways of being yourself. In this fashion, you can use your thinking strategically to expand the range of your skills, roles, and performances in life.
What's possible by this device? Just ask yourself this question: What could you conceivably do, experience, have, accomplish, or be if only you could let yourself function to your fullest potential? Any of these things can be yours if you're willing to put in the necessary work to accomplish that objective.
In order to drive your new ideas expressed by the formula you have selected into your background thinking, you use repetition. After you say your suggestion that first time to yourself, you want to repeat it over and over in your mind for a while. This, along with that final repetition as you end your session, helps you internalize these new realities. By regular practice of these techniques, it can happen for you exactly as you've been hoping.
Two tips can facilitate your success in this task. The first is to imagine along with your thinking, as was suggested in your exercise. The other is applicable if your suggestion is a very long one, or if you are primarily working on your attitudes. In either of these two cases, you might like to use this shortcut: Just repeat to yourself the words "I'm free!"
This will work for any suggestion so long as you moke it dear to yourself as you begin what you mean by "I'm free!" That is. let Ihese words mean what you are telling yourself by your formula, as well as anything else you'd like them to mean for you.
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