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Optimizing Auto-Suggestion in Self-Hypnosis

The famous positive affirmation, “Everyday, in every way, you are getting better and better”, conceived more than a century ago by the French psychologist, Émile Coué is an excellent choice for supporting general health and healing.

As part of my Hypnotherapy service, I also provide my clients with a mantra-like auto-suggestion to use as a Self-Hypnosis tool.

For those interested in using self-hypnotic methods to reinforce specific behavioral changes or adjustments in mental attitude, I have found you will get better results if your auto-suggestion is tailored to address your specific issue a way that is both compelling and empowering.

After more than 20 years of practice, I’d like to share these six guidelines for wording a one line auto-suggestion that will tend to create the least amount of subconscious resistance.

The first guideline is to use the second person in your auto-suggestion instead of the first person when referring to yourself. The word “I” generally signifies unity, yet we seem to have different sub-personalities that often want different agendas.

One part of your ego might say, “I must go jogging tomorrow morning at 6am, and then a different part of your ego wakes up when the alarm suddenly goes off and says, “what, now I have to go jogging? Who made that silly plan?”

“I” can create resistance in the subconscious part of you because your ego has a history of overextending you, sometimes setting goals or making promises you are unable or unlikely to keep.

Referring to yourself in auto-suggestion as “you” instead of “I” feels less threatening and is more inclusive of ALL of you. You’ll want to make sure the subconscious part is onboard since it is the seat of motivation.

The second guideline for your auto-suggestion is to use the present progressive tense.

Instead of “you will do this” or “you will not do that”, which comes across as a demand, use “you are going to do this or that”. “Going to” sounds more inviting as you coax this part of you into the water, so to speak, to accept the suggestion, rather than push it into the pool.

The third is to frame your goal in the positive, focusing on what you want, not on what you don’t want.

Articulating your goal in a positive frame will give the subconscious part of you a clear view of where you are going and what to expect. Using a negative frame is like “trying not to think about a pink elephant”. It doesn’t work.

Fourth, your goal must be realistic, specific, and achievable.

You are not going to hypnotize yourself to win the lottery, of course, that ‘s out of your control.

And you are not going to hypnotize yourself to set a broken arm bone either, that’s a mechanical issue.

But once the bone has been set by a doctor, then you could use Self-Hypnosis and auto-suggestion to speed up the recovery and lower the risk of infection by increasing circulation in your arm.

You must be capable of reaching your goal, and the more specific your goal, the better.

Fifth, use “today”, “now” or “every day” in your auto-suggestion to address the subconscious part of you in its time zone: the present.

Thankfully, that part of you is always in the present, adjusting your eyes to light, your skin to the air temperature, beating your heart, and digesting your food, etc. The ‘call to action’ in advertising is always in the present, too, creating urgency in order to bypass your critical faculties.

You are not going to hear in a TV or radio commercial, “Call next week,” right? It’s “Call now, operators are standing by, first 50 callers win a free gift.” Or Why wait? Sale ends TODAY!” “Buy now, pay later.”

The basic program: seize the day, take action, repeat until successful.

Lastly, choose a positive feeling to motivate the new behavior.

Feelings motivate better than compiling more information, and positive feelings are more desirable to sustain than negatives ones. It’s like putting the horse in front of the cart, so the horse has a nice view and can get excited about the destination, as opposed to the poor horse pushing the cart, which just seems like a lot of work.

The aim here with your auto-suggestion is to link a desired feeling with a new behavior that supports the feeling in about 12-14 words total, which makes it easier to remember.

To make your auto-suggestion personalized, it’s also useful to tweak some pre-existing language, utilizing one of your strengths, talents or abilities to describe the new behavior.

I’ll give you some examples.

A client with a weight issue came to see me who was a high level IT manager for a large corporation. Part of her problem was that she was skipping breakfast. We formulated her auto-suggestion to be, “Starting today, you are going to feel more energized booting up breakfast”. That truth she could not delete.

Another client presented with a stimulant addiction, proudly claiming to be a pretty good martial artist who competed in tournaments too, but he kept fighting his urges and losing. So we formulated his auto-suggestion to be, “Starting today, you are going to feel more in control, checking and deflecting your urges”. Now as a martial artist he had a muscle memory for what that meant, so his was designed to empower him based on his professed strengths.

I had a client once who was an Israeli Psychologist with fear of flying. She was pregnant and facing a long flight home to Israel with her new baby. She couldn’t take Xanax any more because she was going to be breast feeding. Her strength was her sharp intellect, and as a Psychologist she had to agree that how she thought about flying affected how she felt about flying. Her auto-suggestion was, “Everyday, you are going to feel more relaxed, thinking outside the tube”, which was a play on thinking outside the box, but she was in an airline ‘tube’, and that made the auto-suggestion catchy, like a clever advertising slogan, and helped get her mind out the repetitive pattern of thinking that fed her fear.

Once you have formulated your auto-suggestion, here’s one way you can use it for a style of Self-Hypnosis that works like self-advertising.

Write out your auto-suggestion on 3×5 index cards, and for at least one month, place them around your living environment, like at eye level as you go out the door, on the bathroom mirror, beside the alarm clock, on the refrigerator, and discretely at work by your computer… anywhere your eye might wander, why not put up a little billboard for something you might actually need, like nicer looking fingernails and cuticles or better food control at night!

You can also carry one of the worded cards with you in your pocket as a little reminder of your auto-suggestion every time you put your hand in your pocket. You can use just the wording of your auto-suggestion as wallpaper on your smartphone to help you stay on track, motivated, and connected to the bigger picture every time you look at your phone.

It’s also quite useful to create a visual shortcut or “hot button” associated with your auto-suggestion as an extra reinforcement trigger.

Choose a symbol, logo, or image, with a favored color, to place on each card. Use the same logo or image on each card. Your symbol can be anything, your own creation or someone else’s logo, or just use a gold star. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to be consistent with the same symbol. Then when you are out and about seeing just the logo or logo color can trigger reinforcement of your auto-suggestion.

Each viewing of the auto-suggestion or “hot button” is an impression. Over time the impressions accumulate, start to gain momentum, and as long as there is adequate self-interest present and enough rehearsal, then you will find it easier to follow through and act upon the suggestion as eventually the new behavior becomes a healthy habit.

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