You’ve seen the hypnosis shows. The hypnotist tells the hypnotised guy: -
“When you try to get up out of your chair you’ll find that you’re stuck fast to the chair. You can’t stand up. The harder you try to stand up the more stuck you are”
The man visibly struggles to get his legs to work but indeed he appears to be glued tightly to the chair. What is this amazing feat of control that the all-powerful hypnotist wields? This is what’s known in hypnosis as a direct hypnotic suggestion. The truth is that the hypnotist wields no power at all. What is happening is that the man in the chair has powerfully engaged in an imaginary process and is experiencing one of the truths of hypnosis, and in fact, life itself.
When imagination and will conflict, imagination will win hands down every time.
The man is stuck to his chair because he is imagining that he is stuck to his chair as “suggested” by the hypnotist. For the time that his imagination continues to remain engaged on this idea the effect will continue.
In understanding this we can see that there are two important factors at work here. There is the language that is used in the “suggestion” and then there is the endorsing engagement of the imaginative process.
The subconscious mind doesn’t deal in negatives when a threat is detected. If I say “Don’t think of a pink elephant” then you end up thinking of pink elephants right? “I won’t be anxious” makes the mind think about being anxious. In fact the two words that stand out in hypnotic language terms here are “be anxious”.
In hypnosis we sometimes use what are called embedded commands. We use them deliberately to hide commanding language in permissive monologue. Suppose I’m hypnotising someone who has asked me to help them stop drinking alcohol. I know that it’s a rule of psychology that if you tell someone directly that they must stop doing something, all that will happen is that you’ll trigger their “rebel” button and they will push back unconsciously and do the exact opposite. So we need to hide the command so it doesn’t trigger a pushback response. The language would be something like “So you’re here today because you’ve decided to stop drinking and you know it’s interesting that many people can find it’s easy to stop drinking when they have the right kind of help……and the help that you’re receiving here today can make it easy for you to stop drinking… and I wonder whether you can actually imagine how life will be for you when you stop drinking?
So, if you understand these principles you can now perhaps appreciate how important it is that you use a) positively phrased language b) positively focused imaginative process.
Let’s suppose that it’s close to bed time and you’re starting to worry about whether you will sleep tonight. You might find that you start to think : -
“What if I can’t sleep tonight?” “What if I can’t function at work?” “What if I lose my job?”
These statements can be seen as negative self-hypnotic “suggestions” with embedded commands. If we go back to our man stuck to the chair we are in danger of creating imaginative engagement of a similar nature and find that we have negatively hypnotised ourselves!
With the momentary alarm that can naturally follow from endorsing these suggestions, misuse of the imagination can quickly get underway. So now we not only have a negative suggestion but we also have rumination about what that forecasts. So here, we might imagine ourselves tossing and turning. We might imagine looking and feeling awful at work tomorrow. We might worry about our long term mental health. All of these are perfectly valid concerns and we are not dismissing them as failure on your part. The important thing to understand is that your limbic system responds to what it hears you say (and buy into) and what you then do with your thoughts and imagination in response to those initial perceptions.
So, whilst you could argue the case that these are valid concerns, what’s important to remember is that primary to sleep disturbance is our sense of threat. Those negative self-suggestions increase the perceived threat making it less likely that you will sleep easily. So, it is logical therefore that to reduce the threat level we need to create reassuring messages.
I will suggest a couple of positively phrased mantras here for you but actually you can make up your own providing that they follow the understanding outlined here. Here are mine.
I choose to relax. I trust that my body will take the sleep it needs as I relax. It is okay if this is less sleep than is usual for me. My body will take the sleep it needs when it is ready to do so. I can help by choosing to be as relaxed as possible.
Rest is also recuperative. Sleep will come in its own time as I relax. In the meantime it’s okay to be restful. I can choose to rest deeply and it is likely that with restfulness my body will sleep.
(This next one is less “hypnotic suggestion” and more CBT style reframing and perspective shifting.)
This time will pass. I can cope and when my body really needs to it will take some sleep. Though I’d prefer not to, if I really needed to I could take some time off work or ask for help. Many people have similar troubles from time to time and they find their way through one way or another. It is what it is and not worth upsetting myself about. The World won’t fall apart if I need to slow things down for a while. It WILL be okay. I can help by choosing to stay positive and keep things in perspective. I know that by reducing stress I can get back to balance, and I’m sure that will come soon. Be patient and relax.
Whilst these statements are not to be seen as magic solutions to the problem of sleeping they are far preferable to agitating yourself with hours of worrisome and alarming negative self-talk!
Remember. Your subconscious mind hears everything you say to yourself! Keep it positive! And don't forget that if you want some FREE sleeping aids in the form of TWO 30 minutes professional relaxation recordings to help you drift into sleep the EASY way, then just go to my FREE GIFTS page on the website and they are all yours when you join my free reader's group!
Sleep well friends!