Frequently Asked Questions about Self Hypnosis

Here are some of the more interesting and frequently asked questions about hypnosis and self hypnosis.

“What is self hypnosis used for?”
“How many things can I work on at one time with self hypnosis?”
“How can self hypnosis help me quit smoking?”
“Can I lose weight with self hypnosis?”
“Can self hypnosis help with interpersonal relationships?”
“Can self hypnosis help with public speaking?”
“Can I improve sports performance with self hypnosis?”
“What about self hypnosis and pain control?”
“Can self hypnosis help me get along on less sleep?”
“Can self hypnosis cure insomnia?”
“Will self hypnosis help me make better grades in school?”
“Isn’t it better to be hypnotized by someone else?”
“Is self hypnosis a New Age thing?”
“Is self hypnosis safe?”
“What if self hypnosis uncovers something I don’t want to know?”
“Will self hypnosis make me weak willed?”
“What if I can’t wake up?”
“Can everyone do self hypnosis?”
“How hard is it?”
“Are meditation and hypnosis the same?”
“What if I don’t believe in hypnosis?”
“How long does it take?”
“Should I record my own induction talk?”

Self Hypnosis Applications

What is self hypnosis used for?”

Self hypnosis can be used for just about anything that depends on your own efforts. “Your own efforts,” incidentally, is a much broader category than most people think. For instance, it includes many of the autonomically mediated functions – those things your body does without your conscious involvement. So your use of self hypnosis is not limited to just those things you consciously do and control.

A complete list of all of the ways in which self hypnosis has been used would be too long and probably impossible to compile. However, here is a partial list of applications:

Academic Applications

  • Class Participation Fears
  • Communication Apprehension
  • Concentration
  • Focus, Attention Span
  • Learning
  • Memory (see Memory, below)
  • Presentation Skills
  • Sleep Assisted Learning
  • Stage Fright
  • Study Skills
  • Subject Mental Block Removal

Addictions (chemical or substance)

Attitude

  • Career
  • Family
  • Interpersonal
  • School
  • Work

Cancer (definite but limited or sporadic success)

Career Enhancement

  • Behavioral Control
  • Concentration
  • Decision Making
  • Focus
  • Motivation
  • Tenacity

Concentration (see Academic Applications, above)

Fears, Phobias

Fitness

  • Motivation
  • Performance

Habit Control

  • Food and Eating
  • Nail Chewing
  • Procrastination
  • Smoking
  • Substance Abuse

Health

Image Projection (how others perceive you)

Learning (removing blocks, concentration, comprehension) (see also Academic Applications, above)

Medical

  • Analgesia
  • Anesthesia
  • Bodily Functions (under autonomic control)
  • Dermatology (warts, rashes, skin conditions, etc.)
  • Healing Facilitation
  • Obstetrics (birth, related procedures)
  • Pain
  • Skin Conditions (Dermatology)
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Treatment Motivation

Memory

  • Academic Studies
  • Buried or Repressed Memories (this particular category has been seriously abused in recent years)
  • Dream Memories
  • Names and Faces

Motivation

  • Academic
  • Career, Job Performance
  • Fitness, Health
  • Personal Achievement, Development
  • Sports

Pain Control (see Medical, above)

Performance (music, sports, business, personal, speaking, academic, etc.)

Personal Relationships

Problem Solving

Reading (blocks, speed, comprehension, motivation)

Sales

  • Attitude
  • Memory for Names, Faces, Facts
  • Motivation
  • People Smarts
  • Personality, Likeability
  • Persuasive Qualities
  • Subliminal Communication
  • Tenacity, Drive

Self Confidence

Sex (dysfunctions, inhibitions and mental blocks, pleasure)

Shyness

Sleep (more, less, better)

Smoking, Quitting (of course!)

Speech, Speaking in Public

  • Audience Rapport
  • Concentration
  • Memory
  • Presence of Mind on Stage
  • Stage Fright, Communication Apprehension

Sports Performance

  • Competitiveness, Sportsmanship
  • Concentration
  • Drive
  • Image Rehearsal
  • Peak Performance
  • Practice Effects

Stress, Tension

  • Anxiety Attacks
  • Hypertension
  • Panic Attacks
  • Relaxation
  • Stress Management

Subliminal Communication

Timing (time awareness, internal clock, etc.)

Weight Loss, Control (dieting, eating disorders, metabolic influence)

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How many things can I work on at one time with self hypnosis?”

There is no answer to this question that is correct for everyone in every circumstance. It depends upon the “things” involved, how strongly the subconscious mind is attached to them, what is going on in your life at the time, and how you respond to hypnotic suggestion in general. The safest strategy for self hypnosis beginners is to start with just one project – perhaps one that is relatively easier – then, after you have some success and experience under your belt, progress to other, more difficult objectives.

Just what is more or less difficult is of course highly variable across individuals. What proves easy for one person may be very difficult for another. (See the answer to the smoking question below, for example.) Unfortunately common sense is not much help here. We’re talking about subconscious values, and the best way to determine in advance how important something is to your subconscious mind is to use ideomotor questioning (see the article on subconscious mind questioning).

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“How can self hypnosis help me quit smoking?”

The cessation of any habit, while complicated in its dynamics, is essentially a matter of getting rid of the desire, or drive, to engage in whatever the habit is.

The drive to smoke stems from subconscious drives, but the behavior itself is under your conscious control and you can change it with the help of self hypnosis. It is the subconscious motivation to smoke that must be changed in order to quit smoking. Fortunately, self hypnosis is an effective and relatively easy way to change subconscious motivations.

Quitting smoking with self hypnosis works differently for different people. For some, quitting smoking with self hypnosis is easy and painless. For others it can be difficult no matter what method is used.

Regardless of how difficult it is, self hypnosis always makes it easier than it would otherwise be. Self hypnosis often means the difference between success and failure. Some have tried and failed to quit lots of times and were not successful until they enlisted the aid of self hypnosis.

Whether or not it is less easy than we would like . . .

…anyone can quit smoking with the help of self hypnosis. (Tweet This)

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“Can I lose weight with self hypnosis?”

In almost all cases the answer is yes. For most people, overweight is the result of over-eating combined with too little activity. Both, in normal cases, are under your control, technically speaking. So self hypnosis is perfectly valid and uniquely appropriate for getting your eating under control and for increasing your motivation to get more exercise.

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“Can self hypnosis help with interpersonal relationships?”

Your own behavior, through both supraliminal (overtly observable) and subliminal behaviors, is important to the status of any relationship. This includes romantic as well as career and professional relationships.

There is no universally accepted evidence that our minds can directly control the thoughts and behavior of others. But self hypnosis can help you control your own thinking and behaving, as well as the subliminal cues you transmit to others. In other words, yes, you can use self hypnosis to influence the behavior of others just as if you had direct access to their thoughts (always be suspicious of the word, “control” which you’ll notice I have not used in this context).

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Can self hypnosis help with public speaking?”

Self hypnosis is one of the most effective ways to control stage fright. I have taught hundreds of people – ranging from beginning college students to older, experienced professionals – how to use self hypnosis to control their stage fright and vastly improve their presentation effectiveness.

You should be at least little nervous before giving a speech. That is natural and actually desirable. But the kind of fear that makes giving a good speech difficult or impossible is not something you should have to put up with. It can be controlled with self hypnosis.

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“Can I improve sports performance with self hypnosis?”

It goes without saying that there is a strong link between thinking and sports performance. Even Little Leaguers are acquainted with concepts like their “mental game.” self hypnosis has been shown to be influential in all forms of sports-related thinking.

Many athletes use image rehearsal, a specific form of suggestion application during self hypnosis. This is a form of mental practice. This just like real practice, except it is imagined, so to speak. Image rehearsal has been proven to improve practically any kind of performance. Sometimes it is more effective than actual practice.

For almost anything that requires physical and mental performance, image rehearsal is an essential method of suggestion application in self hypnosis.

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“What about self hypnosis and pain control?”

Hypnotic pain control can involve hypnoanalgesia (which is controlled feeling) or hypnoanesthesia (which is the absence of feeling). Pain control in self hypnosis is well represented in scientific literature. Commonly reported are uses in dental procedures, surgical operations, and giving birth without any anesthesia other than hypnosis.

Many people are able to control chronic pain with self hypnosis, pain they are unable to control with any other method.

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“Can self hypnosis help me get along on less sleep?”

Some have claimed that sleep requirements were diminished through the use of hypnotic suggestion in self hypnosis. Those claims have never been satisfactorily verified. Some early experiments I conducted in promoting more REM sleep in shorter periods did show promise in reducing the amount of sleep required by the research participants, but this needs further research.

Most regular sleep research has shown that people’s health and mental functioning suffer from sleep deprivation. Each one of us seems to have a specific amount of sleep we naturally need. If we don’t get that amount of sleep we don’t think or perform as well as we could. The longer we go without adequate sleep, the worse it gets.

Large scale studies have amply shown that a large percentage of people do not get enough sleep.

So there is a two part answer to the question. One is, I don’t think so. The second is, a much better use of self hypnosis is to improve the quality and performance of waking time so additional sleep time is not needed. self hypnotic suggestion can also be used to improve the quality of sleep.

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“Can self hypnosis cure insomnia?”

Many people have found self hypnosis to be the perfect cure for insomnia, better even than, say, watching a PBS special on Swiss railroads. But it should be noted that sleep disturbances come in many forms. Not all respond to self hypnosis suggestion. This is most notably true for the kind of sleep disturbance caused by physical anomalies in one’s air passage.

But most cases of insomnia do respond well to self hypnosis. Sometimes it is surprisingly easy to eliminate insomnia with self hypnosis. This can be true even for sleep problems that have gone on for years.

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“Will self hypnosis help me make better grades in school?”

Yes. self hypnosis is great for improving concentration and memory, calming test jitters, and reducing the fear of participating in classroom discussions. self hypnosis is especially helpful in enhancing the motivation to study and learn.

In the same vein, self hypnosis is also helpful in uncovering and dealing with hidden blocks to learning and academic success. This usually involves some form of subconscious mind questioning.

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General


“Isn’t it better to be hypnotized by someone else?”

Self hypnosis can be more, the same, or less effective than hetero-hypnosis. It should go without saying that, in general, hetero-hypnosis with a professional therapist – that is, for therapeutic purposes, not a stage show – is superior to self hypnosis.

But not by a lot. At least not always. With self hypnosis you get independence, control, and breadth of application that would take a long time and cost a lot of money with a therapist. So what you achieve with self hypnosis more than makes up for the differences between self hypnosis and hetero-hypnosis.

Sometimes it takes a little longer to get there with self hypnosis. But you will have done it under your own power.

Unfortunately there are a lot of incompetent and poorly trained people who call themselves therapists. If you do need professional help, be sure to closely check the credentials and qualifications of any professional.

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“Is hypnosis a New Age thing?”

No, not really. Something does not have to be new to fall under the rubric of “New Age.” And it is true that many New Age practitioners advocate the use of self hypnosis. However, the earliest known descriptions of hypnosis date back 6,000 years to rites performed in Egyptian sleep temples. European physicians such as Charcot and Bachofen were using it in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Benjamin Franklin, who was the United States ambassador to France at the time, investigated the so-called animal magnetism of Anton Mesmer and substantiated the successes animal magnetism was producing (Franklin attributed it to suggestion).

We still use Mesmer’s name today when we say someone was “mesmerized,” meaning raptly attentive, or that they were somehow temporarily deprived of their normal conscious qualities.

The term “hypnosis” was coined by one of the most respected scientists of his day, James Braid, in 1843. Today there are many legitimate university-based studies of the various phenomena of hypnosis and it is not uncommon for dentists and physicians to use it in their practices.

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Safety and Other Concerns


“Is self hypnosis safe?”

Self hypnosis is completely safe if you are relatively normal and you stick to self hypnosis.

With self hypnosis you have the same protective mechanisms working for you that you have any other time.

You will not do anything in self hypnosis that you would not otherwise do. Of course what some people will “otherwise do” can be surprising and sometimes dismaying. If you have seen a stage hypnotist’s show you may have seen people doing things you would not want to do. And you probably would not; the only reason people do strange things in a stage presentation is because of what we call the “demand characteristics” of the situation. That is, being on stage in front of a lot of people exerts a tremendous pressure to do as one is told. It is generally wiser not to volunteer for any stage demonstrations of hypnosis, or to use it in any way just for entertainment.

Various religions have at different times had something to say about hypnosis. The ancient Egyptians thought it was a Good Thing. On the other side of the coin, the Church of Latter Day Saints thinks otherwise. Some of the Church Elders believe, I’m told, that hypnosis is dangerous because it opens up the mind for the devil to enter. Based on my own years of experience and research, I don’t think self hypnosis would be any more likely to open up one’s mind to the devil than, say, listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Maybe even less so if you happen to dislike church choir music.

Another frequently heard bugaboo about hypnosis is the presumed danger of the “release of repressed material.” This and other common concerns of Freudians and others have never been a problem in self hypnosis. A person practicing self hypnosis has the same safeguards available to her that she has in a normal, waking state. (Hypnosis would probably play a prominent role in modern Psychoanalysis if Freud himself had not been such an inept hypnotist.)

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“What if self hypnosis uncovers something I don’t want to know?”

It is true that you can sometimes make yourself uncomfortable. But you will not hurt or create any serious problems for yourself. In many years of experience I have seen thousands of people – this is not hyperbole, I mean literally thousands – in hypnotic and self hypnotic states. And I have never seen anything worse than temporary discomfort. And even that is rare.

Actually, I have seen more problems created by inept therapists than by anything associated with hypnosis. This is a good reason to steer clear of amateur and stage hypnotists. Never volunteer as a subject when hypnosis is being conducted for entertainment.

Self hypnosis does sometimes help a person become more aware of his problems. But this enlightenment should not be confused with causation (which, in such a case, is a matter of blaming the messenger for the message).

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“Will self hypnosis make me weak willed?”

Yes. But let me tell you why that is a good thing. With practice, you get better at responding to your own suggestions. This is a Good Thing because it gives you more control over yourself.

Now here’s another good thing. As you become more suggestible under your own direction, you become more resistant to the manipulative attempts of others.

There is an inverse relationship between responsiveness to hetero-suggestion (suggestion applied by others) and autosuggestion (self applied suggestion). The better you get at autosuggestion, and the more you understand it and how it works, the more resistant you become to hetero-suggestions made by other people.

So there is a side benefit to the regular practice of self hypnosis: It develops discipline in those who find it difficult to “just say no.”

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“Will I be unconscious in self hypnosis?”

Only if you fall asleep.

Sometimes there are certain areas of memory lapse about a particular self hypnosis practice session. That makes it seem like you were unconscious, but you were not. It is a little like the experience we have all had of doing something – like driving a familiar route – only to realize later that we don’t remember doing it.

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“What if I can’t wake up?”

This never happens. Getting out of self hypnosis is never a problem. All of your efforts will be directed toward getting into it, not getting out of it. The worst that can happen is that you drift off into normal sleep, in which case you will wake up – or oversleep – just as you would any other time.

If this happens to you, set your alarm clock.

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Procedure


“Can everyone do self hypnosis? How hard is it?”

Yes, seemingly everyone can use self hypnosis. At least, everyone with anything approaching normal intelligence and who is conscious at least some of the time.

Some people are better or faster at it than others, as is true with any skill. Regardless of where you fall on the skill continuum, you will see progress if you practice self hypnosis correctly and regularly.

As to the question about self hypnosis being easy, the answer is both yes and no. (Don’t you just hate these wishy-washy answers?)

Self hypnosis is relatively easy. That’s because, as with any skill, it requires know-how and practice to develop. There is no free lunch, and you should be highly suspicious of any claims that something worthwhile is going to be easy and effortless. self hypnosis does require some effort because it is a skill. Period. The more you put into it the more you get out.

In case you missed it, there is no free lunch! But self hypnosis at its most difficult is still a heck of a lot easier and faster than trying to anything the hard way. (For “hard way” read, “with willpower” which, as you can learn here, does not exist.)

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“Are meditation and hypnosis the same?”

Yes. While meditation and self hypnosis are similar, the major difference is that self hypnosis is driven by suggestion. With self hypnosis there is specific work to be done.

The brain states produced by both are in some respects different. We know this from studies of both meditation and self hypnosis adepts using EEGs, scans, and other forms of feedback. It is not uncommon for people who do both to keep them separate, so there is obviously a subjective sense that there is a difference.

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“What if I don’t believe in hypnosis?”

Nope. The degree of hypnotizability seems to be completely unrelated to the degree of belief in self hypnosis. Some amazing results from hypnotic suggestion have been demonstrated by people who adamantly claimed they were not hypnotized and who were convinced that nothing had happened.

Willingness, though, is another matter. If you don’t want to be hypnotized (and you are aware that that is what is going on), then you won’t be.

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“How long does it take?”

Self hypnosis is a skill. Any skill takes practice to develop. As with any skill, some people take longer than others to get good at it. We don’t know why. It is not related to intelligence (within normal bounds) or any other variable that has been reliably and consistently identified.

Some people see results immediately, while others may take several days or even weeks to notice a difference. With proper application and daily practice, though, you should begin to see definite results within 21 days at the outside.

The daily practice takes longer at first, then gradually requires less and less time. A half-hour a day is a good starting schedule. Self hypnosis adepts who have been at it for years can do it very quickly if they must, taking only a matter of seconds or, at the most, a couple of minutes.

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“Should I record my own induction talk?”

It is true that one of the most effective ways to develop self hypnosis is to have a skilled, professional operator “talk you down,” that is, do the induction talk for you. This is especially true when you first start out because you need to be as quiet and passive as possible to get into a self hypnotic state, but you have to be active to conduct the induction. That is a built-in conflict. It won’t stop you, but it does add some time to the learning process. It is better if you can at least start out without this conflict.

Part of the problem with self made induction talks is that most people do not respond well to the sound of their own voice.

More importantly, it takes a lot of practice and control to do an induction talk that is

  • paced right,
  • has the right tone and resonance,
  • and is free of annoying little distractions (telephones, traffic noises, airplanes, lawn mowers, kids, etc.).

I have been making induction scripts available for several years now, it is hard enough for me to make a good recording. Even though I’ve had tons of practice, have a trained voice (hey, I’m not just a pretty psychologist; I’ve done broadcasting work, too), and make all my recordings in a professional studio, it still can take a total of five or six hours to get a clean recording. That is followed by many hours of professional editing to product a smooth and polished recording.

The consensus among most who try their own self made inductions is that a good, professionally made recording is much better.

You’ll find my recorded inductions, on CD and available for mp3 download, here

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Charles E. Henderson, Ph.D.

By the way . . .

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