As I am learning about Hypnosis and the benefit of combining both Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Hypnosis in helping patients overcome a variety conditions such as Avoidance, Resistance etc., that delay patients’ recovery from Phobias, Anxiety disorder, Depression, and other conditions, I am becoming more and more aware of the risk and the benefit of hypnosis. Unfortunately, it is not that hypnosis in itself is bad because that would be like saying electricity is bad because it can shock us if we are not careful. The problem is with how and when hypnosis is used. I am planning to explain more about hypnosis and how it occur in a future post but I want to make my reader aware of one horrible truth right away, that many talk about hypnosis and many give different definitions, many theories exist, and yet no one knows for sure how it works. Thus, even the simplest methods of applying hypnosis on yourself or others by means of repetition of certain affirmative phrases, can cause a great damage on one’s personality.
Based on a study done by Goldfried in 2003, knowledge has a duality and contradictory nature. It can be “explicit,” knowledge that is obvious to our consciousness and is formed as a result of logical reasoning and “implicit,” knowledge that is not obvious to us and it is formed through emotions. As a result, psychologists have concluded that in order to change the unnecessary behavior in patients we need to change the “implicit” knowledge, which some of us may know it as subconscious. In order to change the “implicit” and hidden knowledge we can use hypnosis as a means to override the previous unhelpful patterns of thinking, feeling and doings. This all sounds great, plausible, and doable, but the problem is the therapist. With all due respect, medical stuff and psychotherapists have enough credentials and expertise to know about the physiological functioning of human body but they are just flinging their swords in the air when it comes to understanding and tackling unconsciousness’ error or what Goldfried calls it the “implicit” knowledge.
To make it easier for you to understand as why I am so sure about the fact that our therapists are doing more damage than correcting the “implicit” knowledge, I would like to mention one of many medical articles and studies approved by academic sources that inspire the self-worth talk on clients that suffer from low self-esteem or other conditions that derives from it. Such article is published online on Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010, and without reveling too much I would say that this article focus on Unconditional Self-Acceptance on patient’s side of his/her self-worth. The author, just like many other psychologists, God save us from those who think they know everything, believe that the problem with depression and other mental disorders like Avoidance, Eating Disorders, Anxiety or Antisocial disorders is rooted in the wrong beliefs of the patients about their self-worth. And so, the author of this article gives us an illustration of how the hypnosis works by sharing a so called script of a hypnotic session which uses repetitive affirmations to make the patient/client believe that he or she is worthy. This is indeed very alarming. And what’s worse is the fact that this method of suggestibility by using repetitive affirmations is not even a hidden method that is used by professional staff only, because if that was the case I would say that one bad apple would not ruin the whole basket of good apples. Unfortunately, repetitive affirmation has been used for ages and continues to be used by so called life coaches and spiritual healers. I can see now why people self-talk themselves into being worthy of everything and feeling entitled to everything under the sun. I find this logic very disturbing and I have an issue with this type of suggestions and let me explain why.
I feel that by instilling the idea into people that they are worthwhile may be necessary in some cases of depression and low self-esteem, however the choice of words and suggestions conveying this message must be thought more carefully. When I was reading the suggestions shared in the article I was talking above, I counted the affirmation phrase of “I am a worthwhile person” 21 times and its variations 100 times in two page script. And as I was reading the repetitive statement or its variation like, “You say to yourself that ‘Whatever I have said or done, I am still a worthwhile person’; Whatever happens, I am still a worthwhile person; you form your intentions, goals and plans in a way that says I am a worthwhile person,” all I could see in this entire process, which seems so praiseworthy, was the installation of “Hitler” Personality type on an innocent patient that all he wanted was to get out of his misery not to be thrown into another misery with unrealistic expectations. No wonder most of the population nowadays is stuck into a Narcissistic mode of self-worth and entitlements.
I would say that instead of convincing people of their fake worth-self through the use of hypnosis or any type of therapy for that matter, the therapist must focus on helping client to accept both good and bad aspects of their behavior and personality. The good parts of personality that manifest through skills, talents or good manners are the ones that push forward to better states of being, thinking, doing and feeling, while the problematic features of personality are there to indicate a problem that has been suppressed deep into patient’s unconsciousness and that needs to be dealt with rather than cover it up through the worth-self talk.
I must admit that I am new to hypnosis, or I thought so, and indeed, I never used hypnosis in my life coaching practice but I do have a strategy for helping my clients with overcoming stress, frustration, low self-esteem and other dysfunctions that result from it. This procedure includes three steps: Love Yourself, Accept Yourself and Forgive Yourself. As I coach my clients to love themselves first, I do not let them ponder into delusion that they are worthy and whatever is done to them is due to injustice of others and they are therefore mere victims. Instead, I move them into a mindful state of being where they can see that in reality all their problems and sufferings derived as the result of their own thinking and doing. During the second stage of Acceptance of oneself, the clients come to terms that mistakes are done and need to be fixed rather than feeling victimized. They start realizing that something needs to be changed in their thinking patterns or behavior for the suffering to end. On the last stage I move the client into the learning of a life lesson, so that mistakes will never repeat again. As the client learns to love themselves first, and then accept their own wrong doing and thinking, it is easier for the client at that point to forgive himself/herself and come up with a strategic plan on how he/she is going to remind oneself in the future about this life lesson, in case he or she finds themselves in the same situation again.
I can illustrate of what I just said using an example of a person who feels jealousy toward others’ achievements and as a result she feels frustrated, upset, stressed, angry or even depressed. The first step “Love Yourself” is to agree with client’s underlying thoughts that she is worthy a lot more of what she has achieved in this life. Even though a depressed person can give us the impression that she (or he) thinks that she is not worthy and that’s why she feels depressed, in fact it is quite the opposite. The conflict between her thoughts and her feelings formed due to the fact that she thinks she is worthy but results of her job, efforts, or her financial and social statusquo do not agree with her thoughts. Hence she feels useless and feels that no action on her side can change the situation for better. As we agree with the client at that point that she is worthy, we move her to the second stage where she analysis her behavior in different situations that generated the undesired results due to her own thinking and the narrowed viewing of that particular problematic situation which disabled her to see the different perspectives and solutions to that problem. She has to accept that it was herself who prevented her from finding the right solution to her problems, not because she was not worthy, as she already knows that she is, and not because others hate her and wanted her to fail either, but because of miscommunication and misunderstanding of all the factors involved, which often occurs when different perspectives of looking at a problem are totally ignored. As this client accepts that her failure, jealousy or feeling of being useless is due to misunderstandings and miscommunications or even lack of experience, then it is time to forgive herself and plan on creating a strategy for not falling into this habit of blaming herself or outside forces again, without first checking the situation from different perspectives.