How to Do Self-Hypnosis
By E.E. Kane
Can self-hypnosis help you through depression? Can you trick your mind to jump-start yourself into recovery? Experts say yes.
“Hypnosis is a form of meditation and daydreaming,” says Virginia Clark, a hypnotherapist in private practice, as well as a licensed psychotherapist and trainer based in Ocala, Fla. She equates hypnosis to that trance-like state we experience while driving: We are often thinking so intently we suddenly realize we’ve passed our exit, with no recollection of the last 5 miles.
Clark uses hypnosis with her clients for problems such as trauma, abuse, stage fright or test anxiety. She says it can be used to overcome any problem, even depression.
Before you try self-hypnosis, consult your doctor or counselor about your depression to rule out a medical condition. The Mayo Clinic recommends hypnosis as a beneficial alternative therapy when under the direction of a trained, licensed hypnotherapist or a psychologist who has been trained to use hypnosis.
Here are Clark’s seven basic steps:
Step 1: Explore the Process
Before you try self-hypnosis on your own, you need to understand what you are doing. Clark recommends reading up on the subject or taking a course.
“All hypnosis is self-hypnosis,” she says. “It is simply intense focus. There is nothing mystical about it.”
Some people fear hypnosis and the idea of being powerless under someone else’s direction. This might be due to a misunderstanding about the hypnotic state.
“One is not asleep while in trance,” Clark says. “One will not do anything they would not normally do while in trance. One cannot get ‘stuck’ in trance.”
Step 2: Find a Quiet, Comforting Place
Your focus will be stronger if you choose to be alone in a place where you feel safe, such as your bedroom or den. Clark uses a comfortable chair in her home, and she dims her lights.
Step 3: Prepare a Script
Before you begin, you should prepare phrases, a written script or a tape of positive messages or truths you would like to believe. If you are feeling depressed, you might try positive messages such as “I am peaceful,” or “I am happy” or “I am grateful for my health/family/friends.” You will use this written script or tape when you achieve the “alpha,” or trance-like, state.
Step 4: Use Mental Imagery
To begin your self-hypnosis, you will need a mental picture; it might be a calming, natural scene, such as a forest glade or a gazebo by a pond. Use all of your senses in your imagination: the smell of the soft moss underfoot, the coolness of the water in the brook etc. Clark uses the mental imagery of a light, picturing the warmth and energy it gives.
Step 5: Relax
As you progress into your mental picture, focus on relaxing your muscles slowly. Begin at one extreme of your body, like your toes, and concentrate on one small group of muscles at a time: relax your toes, then your arches, then your heel, then your calf and so on.
Clark imagines her light moving over each muscle group, warming as it moves, lingering a little longer over her spine, because she suffers back pain. If your depression causes physical aches, try to pay more attention to relaxing that area of your body while you’re doing your relaxation step.
Step 6: Repeat Your Planned Messages
Once you are totally relaxed, it’s time to use your scripts or tape. You can repeat these messages for as long as you like.
Step 7: Reverse the Steps
To “wake up” from a trance, reverse the steps by using your mental imagery again. You can maintain a relaxed feeling, but mentally prepare yourself to return to normal while telling yourself how you will feel when you get there. (“I will feel energized, healthy and refreshed.”)
Does it work for everyone?
“Hypnosis only works if you want it to work,” Clark says. “If you don’t trust the process, you will not succeed in self-hypnosis.”