Stress Management with Self-Hypnosis
by C. Roy Hunter, Hypnosis Trainer
REPRINT of Chapter 10 of:
The Art of Hypnosis by C. Roy Hunter
(Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1995, 2000; 3rd Ed. Crown House Publishing, 2010)
One of the more enjoyable evenings I experienced at The Charles Tebbetts Hypnotism Training Institute was the class on self-hypnosis training.
Mr. Tebbetts spent part of the evening reviewing some of the same material from his first book, Self-Hypnosis and Other Mind-Expanding Techniques. Originally self-published, Westwood Publishing took over the first edition and sold several hundred thousand copies. After disputes over the copyright, it has been published both in its original form and in a revised version, both by Mr. Tebbetts and by others several times since its original printing. As of the writing of this book, I believe it is still available through Westwood Publishing. I highly recommend it to my own students, as well as to all professional hypnotherapists.
At Edmonds, my mentor first discussed the five methods of subconscious programming--which I have incorporated into my "Benefits Approach" to motivation, and teach in Part II ofDiversified Client-Centered Hypnosis. (I also discuss these briefly in the next chapter, which preserves certain concepts of the mind that Mr. Tebbetts felt that all hypnosis students need to understand.)
Charlie also discussed fractional relaxation, which I prefer to call progressive relaxation. He took some time for questions and answers, and then came the fun!
After the evening coffee break, he told all of us to fold up the chairs and put them against the wall. Next, he had us lie down on the carpet, and then he proceeded to demonstrate how to do self-hypnosis by guiding all of us into group self-hypnosis via progressive relaxation.
The journey began, followed by pleasant relaxing and deepening suggestions, guided imagery, and post-hypnotic suggestion to be able to repeat the process. This was the only time I ever heard Charles Tebbetts use progressive relaxation as an induction; but he believed that it was the easiest way for a beginner to learn how to do self-hypnosis. Nonetheless, his self-hypnosis book contains several self-induction and deepening techniques. It also gives guidelines for suggestions used in self-hypnosis, and is written in easy-to-understand language. It contains numerous scripts and techniques, as well as some theories about hypnosis and meditation.
My own self-hypnosis book was originally self-published as HypnoCise in 1986. (Westwood Publishing published it a year later under a different title, Success Through Mind Power.) This book also presented self-hypnosis in simple language, but was slanted more for sales people. My newest book, Master the Power of Self-Hypnosis (Sterling Publishing, 1998), is a comprehensive self-hypnosis book. It's twice the size of my first one, and well-suited for anyone who is interested in self-improvement! This book provides several self-inductions as well as numerous other techniques for various goals. My emphasis on the value of learning the art of self-hypnosis is evidenced by the amount I've written on that important skill.
Where do I start when teaching self-hypnosis to clients? I also teach progressive relaxation first, along with the peaceful place meditation. I usually incorporate stress management as well, either at the same session or at the next session; because regardless of what one does to minimize stressful situations in life, someone can always manage to push our buttons in spite of our best efforts to prevent it. Before discussing stress-coping, however, let's take a look at the peaceful place meditation and the peaceful place triggers...
The Peaceful Place Meditation
Until 1996, I taught my clients self-hyposis and included the stress-coping techniques without normally providing detailed explanations about establishing a "safe place" or peaceful place. I gave suggestions during hypnosis regarding the peaceful place, anchoring it into the mind with a trigger that the client can use to become more calm...and giving ample post-hypnotic suggestions to empower the client to use his/her peaceful place trigger as desired. My experience now indicates that most people appreciate explanations about any technique that they attempt to learn for themselves. Thus, what I describe here in this chapter section is what I now do for the client AND what I tell the client will be done.
First, I remind the client of how the subconscious responded to the imaginary bucket (or magnets, etc., from the suggestibility test), emphasizing that imagination is the language of the subconscious. Then I explain what will happen after entering hypnosis. My wording is similar to what follows:
Just as the subconscious responded to what you fantasized a few minutes ago, the same can happen during the hypnotic meditation exercise...only more so.
After a few instructions to allow you to enjoy a deeper or more comfortable state of relaxation, I'll ask you to simply IMAGINE an ideal, safe or peaceful place. Your imagination is totally yours. You can do anything you wish in your imagination, and you can also be anywhere you wish as well!
So when I ask you to fantasize a peaceful or pleasant place of tranquility, it is up to you to follow my simple instructions. If you try to analyze instead, or try to think of the freeway during rush-hour, you won't get your money's worth.
I am only an artist who can say the right words, but YOU must daydream what I ask in order to maximize your benefit from this exercise.
It makes no difference whether you choose the mountains, a favorite beach, a stream, or any other place you wish. I want you to imagine sights, sounds, and feelings that are comfortable, safe, peaceful and beautiful. Remember that your subconscious does not know the difference between rehearsal and performance, as was evidenced by your response to the demonstration of the power of imagination a few minutes ago. Also remember that the conscious mind can think MANY times faster than the spoken voice, so it makes no difference whether your conscious mind listens in or drifts and wanders, or BOTH... because you can simply DAYDREAM what I ask you to. That will help you enjoy greater benefits from this exercise.
When you really get into fantasizing your peaceful place, I'll ask you to imagine you are becoming a part of the peace that you imagine. Then I will ask you to touch your thumb to a finger that you choose to become your PEACEFUL PLACE TRIGGER. At the same time, I'll ask you to take a deep breath and think the word RELAX while exhaling. This will anchor these actions into the subconscious so that you may use either or both as peaceful place triggers during times when your buttons get pushed.
I'll step you through this entire meditation, and then I'll give you suggestions to empower you to use the triggers and reinforce your ability by practicing this self-hypnosis exercise in the privacy of your own home or office.
Some therapists ask the client to choose and describe a peaceful place before ever starting the hypnosis, in order to use programmed imagery to describe that safe place in detail. This is optional. I normally use open-screen imagery to allow the client to create his/her place during trance, as some clients will change their minds about the place of choice after entering hypnosis. However, there are always exceptions. Be ready to be flexible to your client's needs and wishes. Also be aware that if you choose programmed imagery, you MUST know whether your client is primarily visual, auditory and/or kinesthetic...so that you give proper imagery suggestions.
Note that a few therapists unwisely determine the safe place for the client. A competent hypnotherapist and psychotherapist whom I know personally used to employ programmed imagery of a beach with every client...until he had a client scream during the induction because she had a fear of the ocean! My friend's personal example adequately demonstrates the risk of trying to project your own ideal safe place into your client...in other words, fit the technique to the client rather than vice versa! Allow your client to choose his or her ideal safe place, then you can help anchor the triggers.
There are numerous benefits to the client for creating the peaceful place triggers...and the peaceful place can be very helpful during hypnotherapy itself. (This can be especially true during regression therapy, as is explained in Chapter 7 of The Art of Hypnotherapy.) For now, I'll limit the discussion to how a peaceful place trigger can help a client with both self-hypnosis and stress management.
Using the Peaceful Place Triggers
When should we use one of the peaceful place triggers?
Most of us live in a sea of stress in this modern society, and our buttons get pushed often whether we like it or not. It's normally not a question of if, but when.
When our buttons DO get pushed, ignoring it can hurt us. The negative emotion gets stuffed into the subconscious and comes back to haunt us later. This keeps psychotherapists, family counselors, pastoral counselors, hypnotherapists, and other professionals, etc., quite busy.
The coping skill I teach my clients is simply to take one deep breath of air at the times their buttons are pushed (whether or not the other peaceful place trigger is used), and then make a choice: respond now, later, or let it go.
One deep breath also becomes a trigger for staying in control and making a wise choice--and the client can use self-hypnosis to reinforce the power of that trigger. This will not solve all of life's problems, but since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, a wiser handling of emotion at the time our buttons get pushed can prevent or lessen the need for post-stress therapy.
Whenever someone does or says something that results in our having negative emotions, however, we must first accept ownership in order to deal effectively with the emotions. For example, if I say to someone, "SHE really made me mad," I just gave my power away. By changing the perception to the realization that she sold me the anger, and I bought it, I am now in control of that which I own. This perception is necessary to help me make one of the three healthy choices.
The next subsection discusses the three healthy choices as I explain to clients, and have taught repeatedly since 1984. I'll present them as though you, the reader, are my client...
Stress Release Options -- the Healthy Choices
You have three healthy options for coping with stress:
1. Express yourself immediately but appropriately. Some situations, such as your child doing something dangerous, or a sales objection during a closing interview, will require an immediate response. You may find emotion reflected in your voice and your breath in the first example. In the second example, you may wish to take a deep breath first, then simply express yourself calmly and confidently. In some situations, such as a customer providing a bizarre excuse to avoid paying for an item--or with your own children-- you may wish to find the humorous side of the situation. Laughter can be a good release. Sometimes tears release stress; sometimes, one word spoken firmly; sometimes sarcasm; etc., etc. You decide.
2. Express yourself later at a more appropriate time and place. This option might be in your best interest if an associate at work pushes the wrong button while others are present. Some people will accept your opinion much more readily in private over coffee or tea rather than in front of peers. Furthermore, parents frequently find it more enjoyable at mealtime to insist that their children wait until after dinner to solve their arguments. One value from my childhood that still remains with me is my father's advice: good manners begin at home, and the table is a place of peace. We were NOT permitted to argue at the dinner table! Neither were we punished at mealtime unless the infraction took place at the table...in which case we were asked to leave the table. To this day, even at age 56, I am still grateful to my father for preserving peace at mealtime.
3. Release and let go--or, forgive. If you don't choose either of the first two options, choose this one. Forgiving does not mean condoning. If you think someone else owes you an apology, you are the one in bondage to that belief. By freeing others from their emotional debts, you actually free yourself. Therefore, the key forgiving is to release the other person from the apology they used to owe, and also to forgive yourself for buying the stress in the first place. You can still disapprove of the action, even though emotionally detached. (Remember this option next time someone engages in road rage and cuts into your lane! This option might literally save your life.)
Most people use other options for stress control, such as stuffing it or internalizing. The results vary from person to person: you might take it out on friends or loved ones, take it out on strangers, take it out on the same person at a later date through blowing something up all out of proportion, or take it out on yourself through sickness, or escapism, or addiction, or by becoming accident-prone. Another common option is an uncontrolled, immediate emotional expression. These options are all hazardous to our health and wealth!
In going through the healthy scenarios during self-hypnosis, remember to rehearse each of the three healthy choices. Your response to the actual stress situation in real life is like the performance--which is made much easier by proper rehearsal during self-hypnosis. You are giving yourself post-hypnotic suggestions to allow your subconscious to respond to a given signal, and you are the one who decides when to give the signal.
This simple technique alone can increase commissions for many salespeople. The reason is that emotion can be transferred from subconscious to subconscious. If you are in a sales interview and you fear losing a sale after an unexpected objection, your prospective customer may subconsciously pick up on that fear even if you use every physical sales technique in the book to cover it up. Your fear is that you might lose the sale, but your prospect's fear will be fear of making a decision--so he/she will want to "think it over" and avoid giving you the real objection. By maintaining confidence, such confidence also comes across at a subconscious level. The prospect will be more prone to buy confidently, or have the confidence to tell you the real objection so you know where you stand. Remember that a firm "no" is better than indecision, which can drain your physical, mental, emotional and financial resources if you let it.
Practice the coping skill several times in the rehearsal room of your imagination while in a state of self-hypnosis. This helps your subconscious mind accept the desired technique at a quiet time when your emotions are not getting in the way. This is like the rehearsal, which any musician can tell you is essential before a good performance.
Often I sell a client a copy of my newest self-hypnosis book, Master the Power of Self-Hypnosis (Sterling Publishing, 1998). In some instances, I may offer a copy of this book, referring to this chapter, and instruct my client on how to do self-hypnosis via progressive relaxation. Clients can find their own comfortable places, either seated, reclined or lying down--according to individual preference. (Contact lenses should be removed if necessary, and chewing gum should be discarded.)
I inform clients that the first phase of the self-hypnosis for stress management is to fantasize being in a safe, peaceful place. While imagining sights, sounds, and feelings that are pleasant and peaceful, each should then take a deep breath and think the word "RELAX" while exhaling. (You may also touch your thumb to a finger as an additional or alternate trigger.) The second phase is to rehearse the successful use of each of the three healthy choices in the rehearsal room of the mind. After the above, those hypnotized may awaken themselves by counting forward from one to five.
After giving the instructions, I then guide my clients into hypnosis via progressive relaxation, and guide them through the entire rehearsal. I finish with suggestions for the deep breath being a reminder that they have the power of choice, and like a muscle used becomes stronger with use, the power of choice becomes stronger with use. Just as the singer rehearses before a performance, making the performance easier, my client can rehearse his or her desired behavior in the safety of the imagination. Then, in real life, when stress buttons are pushed, that's performance time!
I conclude with a post-hypnotic suggestion for successful use of self-hypnosis, and then awaken my clients.
If you wish to make a self-hypnosis script for your client, take the progressive relaxation script from Chapter 5 of this book and change the "you" format to the first-person format; or sell him/her a copy of my self-hypnosis book, Master the Power of Self-Hypnosis, which has detailed instructions for how to do it.
It Only Works When It Is Used
The deep breath becomes a trigger for choice--now, later, or let it go. I want it to be a reminder to all of us (myself included) that WE are owners of our own emotions, and we have the power of choice!
Understand, too, that anyone's degree of success in coping with a stressful occurance may vary according to the situation at hand--as well as the frequency of use of the coping technique. As a muscle is used, it becomes stronger. If it's not used, it weakens with time.
After you complete this self-hypnosis on yourself, take note of your opportunities to practice this new skill. Next time you are driving and someone turns left in front of you, take a deep breath and think the word RELAX. If you feel like calling him a "jerk" first, go ahead--as long as you still take the deep breath before or afterwards. Another great place to practice this skill is on the job. Suppose you are ready to go home after a hectic day at work, and you suddenly find out you have to stay late because someone else didn't finish a job. Take one deep breath, think RELAX, and then say and do what is appropriate.
Many of my clients have reported to me an improvement in personal self-confidence simply from mastering the art of this technique.
When I speak in public on this topic, I end my presentation with a group meditation--so that it becomes experiential for my audience. If you wish to sponsor me as a presenter for your business and/or association, contact me via e-mail at Alliance Self-Empowerment, Inc.
If you would like hypnotic help yourself with this skill, seek a competent hypnotherapist in your area; or, if you wish, you may order my audio recording on Stress Management by logging onto my website. I will give a volume discount in case you wish to give or sell my CD’s to your clients.
I have other recordings and training programs available, including a home study hypnosis course.
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Last updated: July 12, 2015
Originally posted: September 21, 2001