Self-Hypnosis Practice Rules for Whatever You Want to Be or Do
You may have downloaded one of my hypnotic induction talks or bought a CD with an induction talk on it. Or maybe you are practicing self-hypnosis on your own. Whatever it is you’re up to, here are 9 rules of self-hypnosis practice to help you out.
This is not everything you could possibly know about the subject, but these rules for self-hypnosis practice will help you get started and keep you on the right track.
Rule 1. Treat self-hypnosis practice as a skill.
It is important for you to understand that the purpose of self-hypnosis practice is to develop self-hypnosis as a skill. The ability to use self-hypnosis does not involve anything special that you have to be born with. Human beings are not born with skills – traits, yes, but not skills. Skills have to be developed.
This is a skill that anyone can develop and use to achieve personal, social, and professional goals.
As with any skill, some people are better at it than others. This has some effect on the speed of results, but everyone who is fundamentally normal can use hypnosis to do astounding things. It just takes some people a little longer than it does others.
Okay, I know I just used a scare phrase: “fundamentally normal.” You are not sure you are normal. In fact, sometimes you are certain you are not. Relax. Don’t worry about it. There are only 3.7 completely normal people in the entire world and they live in an ashram in New Zealand.
You know of course that I just made that up. But I’m pretty sure it is accurate.
I’m going to change that “fundamentally normal” to “not fundamentally berserk.” Feel better?
Here are some of the more important things that apply to learning a skill, including the skill of self-hypnosis:
- Practice sessions should be regular, not sporadic. Once a day for 15 minutes is better than once a week for an hour and 45 minutes. Same time investment, but once a day is infinitely more effective than lumping the time into a once-a-week session.
- Practice when you are reasonably alert, not at the end of a rough day when you are whacked out. Practicing when you are tired and sleepy may just turn out to be practicing going to sleep.
- Structure you practice sessions in a meaningful, logical way. If you are listening to one of my recorded inductions, I’ve organized it for you.
- Don’t allow yourself to be distracted while you practice. Pay attention. Here’s an old Sufi saying many of us have found quite valuable: When carrying water, just carry water.
- It takes about 10,000 hours to get really good at anything. Wait, what? “Really good” is relative. I once, long ago in a far away land (Europe), in my first career in what now seems like another life, was solo clarinetist in a symphony in Heidelberg. Recently, having read this 10,000-hour thing in a couple of places, I guesstimated that that was about how long it took me to get good enough to hold that symphonic chair. But self-hypnosis is not solo chair in a symphony. It doesn’t take nearly that long. I’d say, 9,000 hours, tops. I’M KIDDING! After just a few practice sessions you will be clicking along nicely.
The real point of that business about 10,000 hours is to not take yourself too seriously. Relax. Enjoy it. The more relaxed you are, short of falling asleep, the better you will do.
Rule 2. Practice self-hypnosis correctly.
Practice right to get it right. There is an old saying circulated among us bipedal types that practice makes perfect. Like many hoary American notions, this one is wrong, too. My old mentor and colleague Dr. Frank Dance likes to say that practice doesn’t make perfect, it just makes permanent. So if you practice wrong you will develop the wrong skills. Fortunately, if you are listening to one of my recorded induction talks, this will not be a problem.
(It doesn’t have to be one of my recorded induction talks, of course. There are a few other good ones around.)
When correctly done (or even just almost correctly done), your self-hypnosis practice will eventually enable you to use it in almost any situation. Quickly, sometimes in a matter of mere seconds once you have internalized the procedure to the point where it is almost automatic. (You probably cannot fully grasp the meaning of this just yet, but it will become apparent to you when you get there.)
Rule 3. Approach all hypnosis as self-hypnosis.
This may not sound like a “rule” to be followed, properly speaking. But it is in the sense of being something by which to govern yourself and your hypnosis practice.
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. This is why you can never truly be hypnotized against your will. At least not without being subjected to drugs or a baseball bat or something nasty and upleasant. Nor can you ever be made to do something in hypnosis that you would not want to do otherwise. (But I do have to say, many people willingly do some pretty strange things. But you knew that. Right?)
It also means that as you listen to my induction (or someone else’s if you really must) and you become hypnotized, you are actually doing it yourself. When you are listening to an induction talk, whether it is me or anyone else, the “hypnotist” is you. The voice leading you through the induction is just the guide.
An orchestra conductor is an example of this kind of thing. The conductor is of most use in working with the band and getting all the kinks and timing worked out. After that the band can play the piece without a conductor. I know because back in the day I was in orchestras and bands where we did it many times. (Musical conductors call in sick, too.)
So once you have the procedure down pat and you feel ready, you can quit listening to the induction talk and just think your way through it.
You don’t ever have to give up listening to a recorded induction, of course. Some people listen to them for years. But to never feel you have reached the point of “ready” to do it on your own is a mistake. Go ahead and try it on your own when you want to. You won’t break anything.
Rule 4. Practice self-hypnosis enough, but not too much.
I touched on this a bit in Rule 1. It is near the top of the list of most frequently asked questions: “How often should I practice?”
It probably won’t surprise you to hear the answer: It depends. Personally I despise that kind of answer. Someone answers a question with, “It’s up to you” and I just want to smack ’em in the kisser. Of course it’s up to me. I’m no one’s slave.
But the answer to how often you should practice really does depend on a few variables unique to you. Here are three that tend to be the most relevant for the most people:
- Learning quotient. Some people learn faster than others and it has very little to do with overall intelligence. Most people make about as much progress as they are going to in a day with two or three practices, and you generally need at least an hour or so between practices. That’s max. Any more than that is wasted.
- Time available. If you are really eager and have a lot of time on your hands, practicing two or three times a day will not be out of the question. But for the rest of us who struggle to have it all and squeeze everything in, one practice a day might not be realistic. In which case you should shoot for a minimum of three times a week. That’s min (as in minimum). Any less that that and you are wasting your time. Well, not exactly wasting your time, but your progress will be much slower than you want.
- Tolerance to boredom. Anything, self-hypnosis included, can become boring if done too much or too often. When you get bored you are more likely to fall asleep. Sleep and hypnosis are not the same thing. This should not be practice in falling asleep.
Generally speaking, the ideal practice schedule is once a day, every day, and in a better part of your day. That is, when you are reasonably alert and no so likely to fall asleep.
Remember, if you can’t practice every day, or if you miss a day, try not to go more than a couple of days without practicing. Eventually you will get good enough to put yourself into a hypnotic state in a matter of seconds, and you may find yourself using it several times a day. But for most people that takes time to develop. For now, try to practice about 15 or 20 minutes every day.
Once you are good enough to practice on your own, you should still listen to the recorded induction once in a while. The purpose of this is as a corrective to keep from drifting too far off course.
Think of the occasional return to the recorded induction as a coaching session. The recorded induction is your coach helping you correct any drift away from good technique. Bring the conductor back to go through the piece with you once in a while, if you take my meaning.
A practice schedule is important, but it should also be realistic, one that you can stick with. Make a commitment to practice regularly. Otherwise you might find yourself putting it off with the slightest excuse. Practicing when you “get a chance” is usually not good enough.
If you are not aware of it, there is a 21-day principle that applies this as well as to many other kinds of things. That is, it takes about 21 days to get used to something new, break in a new pair of shoes, change a habit (an easy one, anyway), and so on. Applied here it means that if you practice once a day for three weeks (21 days) you will probably never want to stop using self-hypnosis.
Rule 5. Practice self-hypnosis, not sleep.
Pick a good time of day to practice. That is, a time when you are good and alert, at your best or close to it. If you wait to practice until after you get home from a hard day at work, you might not do anything but practice going to sleep.
Sometimes this surprises people because they think it would be helpful to already be a little sleepy when they practice. Not so. Sleep and hypnosis are quite different. If you go to sleep, that’s all you’ll be: asleep. Sleep is not hypnosis.
In my recorded inductions, and in most of those made by others (far be it from me to say they are copycats), I give instructions that refer to “sleep.” That’s just because it is a convenient shorthand. It is much easier to say, “sleep” than it is to say, “hypnose.” “You are getting hypnoser and hypnoser” lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.
Rule 6: Don’t try to make self-hypnosis feel like anything.
“What’s it like to be hypnotized?” I’m often asked. There is no good, universal answer to that question. Because (yeah, you guessed it), “It’s up to you.”
That’s because different people experience things, especially hypnosis, differently. Here are a few reports from self-hypnosis adepts about how it feels to them:
I feel like I’m floating, being pushed gently by a pleasant breeze.
Everything becomes dark and comfortable. Sometimes I spin a little, but not enough to get dizzy. I’m weightless.
It’s as if I’m all wrapped up in a fluffy white cloud. I’m aware of everything going on around me, but I don’t care.
I am almost always in a kind of dream state. I see and hear novel things, or things from my past, but I know I am not asleep and I could “alert myself” and get up whenever I want.
It is like being asleep and awake all at the same time.
My thoughts slow down and I am in the now more than usual but with no cares or worries.
The most common report is that self-hypnosis is a pleasant state, often involving some sensation of floating.
For most people it takes practice to reach these experiences, or depths of self-hypnosis. Frequently in the beginning there is little sense that anything is happening. But it is; you are learning even though you may not be aware of it. Eventually pleasant, noticeable things begin to happen.
By the way, if you cannot remember what happened during self-hypnotic practice, you were probably asleep. There are exceptions to this, but they are not common.
Rule 7: Use suggestion to drive self-hypnosis goals.
Suggestion is the engine of change and it works at all levels of awareness. It is much more quickly and deeply effective when applied during your self-hypnosis practice. Without suggestion – that is, if you practice hypnosis by itself and do not give, or make, suggestions – hypnosis is not much different from meditation. Meditation has its uses but it is not goal-directed in the way that self-hypnosis with suggestions is. Are. Whatever.
“Suggestion” in the context of hypnosis is communication intended to bring about a physical or mental change. Hypnosis prepares the subconscious mind to receive instruction, and suggestion is the instruction.
No matter the depth of your hypnotic state, suggestions will still be effective if they are reasonably well formulated and applied.
Rule 8. There is no “best position” for self-hypnosis practice.
The rule here is to not get your nickers all tied in knots trying to figure out the best position for self-hypnosis practice. (And, no, I’m not entirely sure just what nickers are.)
You can practice either seated or lying down. The important thing is to be comfortable and in a position that you can maintain for about 20 minutes without getting uncomfortable. Eliminate as many sources of distraction as you can and make your surroundings as quiet and peaceful as possible.
Start with your eyes open or closed as you like. Don’t try to make your mind a complete blank because that is not possible, but do try to avoid thinking about distracting things like work, politics, love life, bills, etc.
Use your imagination as much and as vividly as possible when you are asked to visualize something during the induction talk.
Rule 8: Let (don’t try to make) self-hypnosis happen.
Don’t try to make anything happen. Be as casual and relaxed about the whole process as you can be, and just let things take their own course. If you try to “will” yourself into a state of hypnosis you will only impede your progress.
Another common pitfall for beginners is their constant alertness to anything that might feel like hypnosis. They are so busy watching for the hypnotic trance experience they prevent themselves from achieving anything. Try not to do that.
As you go through your self-hypnosis practice, try to receive instructions as passively as possible. Remember, you should not try to make anything happen, and you shouldn’t try to keep anything from happening. You will go through the procedure because you want to, not because you have to. Although you will be able to regain control at any time, voluntarily relinquish control until you want or need to take charge again.
If you are listening to my induction talk, at no point will I make silly statements like, “You are under my control.” It doesn’t work and it is not my style. (Well, okay, I did try it unsuccessfully with Eddy Sue when I was 14, but that’s another story.)
Rule 9: You can never not wake up from hypnosis.
A question that often comes up is, “What if I can’t wake up?” That will never be a problem. You will always be able to terminate the state at any time you want or need to. Dedicate your thought and energy to getting into a hypnotic state, not out of it.
If you somehow end up spending significantly more than about 20 minutes practicing, you probably fell asleep. If you are sleep deprived and worried about drifting off to sleep and missing an appointment or something, set an alarm clock.
If you find yourself repeatedly falling asleep when you practice, change the time of day that you practice. If that doesn’t work, progressively make yourself less comfortable when you practice until you can practice without falling asleep. Practice that way for a while, then gradually move back to being more comfortable. Sometimes it is just a matter of breaking the habit of falling asleep when you practice.
There are very few preparatory remarks or instructions in my recorded inductions. Others should be the same. They are meant be listened to many times and it would get tiresome to have to listen to instructions over and over again. So what might seem abrupt at first, you will be thankful for later.
Before you begin your hypnosis practice it is a good idea to take two or three slow, deep breaths. Then begin listening to my induction and I will start by guiding you through a relaxation process with an imaginary blanket. Your job is simply to listen to my voice and imagine the blanket as I describe it.
If you are listening to one of my induction talks.
Following the relaxation will be a deepening count-down, then some general suggestions designed to help you develop hypnotic skill and depth. These will be followed by what we call a “scene visualization.” [There are variations in different inductions, but this is the general rule.]
Begin your scene visualization when I instruct you to go to your “special place.” By that I mean you should imagine yourself someplace very pleasant, serene and peaceful. It could be someplace you’ve actually been, or it might be someplace constructed totally from your imagination. Just imagine yourself alone and peaceful in that special place.
Your special place might, for example, be a beach or mountain scene in which you can feel the pleasant warmth of the sun, smell the fragrance of the place, and envision all the details you can imagine. Make it as real as possible. You can change your place from time to time if you want, and you can experiment with different places.
Once you are in your special place, there will be a period when I quit talking and you can apply your own suggestions. This period will last about 4 minutes, during which there will be either complete silence or the Psychosonic™ Rhythm if you have that version. This will be the time for you to apply your own suggestions. You can speak them, or think them, whichever appeals to you. Most people just think about their suggestions during this interval.
Following this period I will give you a few closing suggestions, then I will count to three and instruct you to wake up. You could wake up without any kind of termination procedure, of course, but it is better to do it this way to end the condition of increased suggestibility that the induction procedure develops.