Hypnotherapy can sometimes be very difficult work, in part because the nature of the business is helping people with problems. Also, patients who are resistant, non-compliant or in the midst of transference present additional challenges. The odds are the more patients you see, the greater the chance of having challenging clients. Anything that makes it easier for hypnotherapists is good for hypnotherapists and good for their clients.
Well, how hard should hypnotherapists work? I dare say as little as possible. As little as possible means hypnotherapists should call upon mother nature, the collective mind or infinite intelligence to heal their patients. “Work as little as possible” doesn’t mean hypnotherapists should become lazy.
We have often observed that performers put forth as little effort as possible. What do we say when we watch world-class concert pianists, figure skaters and marathon runners perform? “They make it look easy.” The higher we climb the ladder of success, the easier our tasks appear to others. One person who made hypnotherapy appear easy was Milton Erickson. Dr. Erickson worked with such ease and grace that hypnotherapists who observed him, often missed his non-verbal communication and suggestions.
There is historical precedent for working as little as possible. In Zen, they call this principle “effortless effort.” The effort is expended in engaging “Ki,” the subtle energy of the universe. The effortlessness comes from allowing the universe to complete the task once the connection to Ki has been made.
I have adapted a Zen parable to explain effortless effort in terms of hypnotherapy. The hypnotherapy student asks the venerable Dr. Neves, “How long will it take me to master hypnosis?” “Five years,” answers Dr. Neves. “What if I put in extra time,” says the student. “Ten years,” replies Dr. Neves. “What if I really go all out, work day and night,” asks the student. “Twenty years,” answers Dr. Neves. The moral is the greater the effort put forth by the student, the longer it takes to master hypnotherapy. Similarly, the greater the effort expended by the hypnotherapist, the longer hypnotherapy takes to succeed. In Taoism, effortless effort is referred to as “non-action.” In the book Tao Te Ching Lao Tsu writes, “Tao abides in non-action/yet nothing is left undone.
Practice non-action/work without doing.” According to the tenets of Taoism, the best hypnosis occurs when the hypnotherapist reaches the stage of non-action; then works without doing.
So how can a hypnotherapist achieve effortless effort, non-action and work without doing? Easy: let mother nature do the work. Let mother nature induce hypnosis, let mother nature deepen hypnosis and let mother nature give direct and post-hypnotic suggestions.
Nature Sounds To Induce and Deepen Hypnosis
My clients choose the nature sounds they want to hear. I ask them, “Would you like to listen to ocean waves, mountain streams or tropical rain forests?” I find clients most often pick the ocean waves CD. About thirty seconds after the nature sounds begin and my clients have settled into a recliner chair, I begin the wave-sound induction:
Each time you hear a wave move to shore, go deeper and deeper.
Each time you see a wave move to shore, go deeper and deeper.
Each time you feel a wave move to shore, go deeper and deeper.
Now find out whether you go deeper when you hear a wave, see a wave or feel a wave?
Deepening Suggestions for Waves:
Are you going deeper when the waves move to the shore or away from the shore?
Do you go deeper when the waves are louder or softer?
Do you go deeper when the waves are closer together or farther apart?
Imagine the waves are little fingers massaging your neck and shoulders.
Imagine the waves are little fingers massaging your back.
All three representational systems are used during the wave-sound induction. The clients are told to hear a wave (auditory), see a wave (visual) and feel a wave (kinesthetic). Also, the wave-sound induction includes representational shifts from auditory to kinesthetic (A->K), visual to kinesthetic (V->K), and kinesthetic to kinesthetic (K->K). Representational shifts to the kinesthetic are essential for successful hypnotic inductions. Milton Erickson says it is important that hypnotic subjects focus inward during the induction. What holds subjects’ inward attention is not important according to Erickson, just as long as they maintain an inward focus.
When the subjects answer the double binds, they increase their attention. The subjects concentrate on whether they are going deeper when the waves move to or from the shore, whether they are going deeper when the waves are louder or softer and whether they are going deeper when the waves are closer together or farther apart. One definition of hypnosis is a state of concentrated attention. These double binds require subjects to pay attention to the waves and their body. Since the double binds require subjects to concentrate and pay attention, the double binds induce and deepen hypnosis. What’s more, the double binds are a permissive technique, which adds to their effectiveness.
One of my favorite suggestions is, “The waves are little fingers massaging your neck and shoulders.” This produces a very pleasant auditory to kinesthetic representational shift. Most people have had an enjoyable massage, and this suggestion takes clients right back to their pleasant kinesthetic memory. I know from experience that this is an effective technique. One woman wrote me a thank you note to say she felt as if she had had a two-hour massage. She must have also experienced time distortion because she had had only twenty minutes of hypnosis.
Timing and Repetition of Suggestions
Timing is everything in comedy; the same is true for hypnosis. The timing of the suggestions can mean the difference between a rapid or long induction, a light or deep stage of hypnosis, success or failure. For example, I try to give the suggestion, “Each time you hear a wave move to shore, go deeper and deeper,” when the sound of the waves are actually moving to the shore. Keep induction and deepening suggestions in synch with the nature sounds your clients are hearing. Remember, you must hook into the nature sounds as deeply as your clients. Repetition of suggestions helps induce and deepen hypnosis. I usually repeat my nature sound induction suggestions three times. After giving suggestions, I pause and listen for the sounds of several waves to pass. Pauses are suggestive, which is why we use them often in hypnosis. Pauses help our clients reorient their unconscious minds. Instead of us doing the work, pauses are one of the ways we let mother nature take over.
The nature-sound induction and deepening suggestions can stand alone, or they can be combined with other techniques. I have induced deep hypnosis with just the nature sound suggestions listed above, and I have played nature sounds in the background during non-verbal, active and progressive inductions. I have also interspersed nature-sound suggestions during the course of active and passive inductions. The use of nature sounds can add a lot of versatility to your hypnosis practice.
Embedding nature sounds in the elevator-induction technique is one of my favorite methods. I tell clients to imagine a speaker in the elevator’s ceiling. The clients are told to hear nature sounds coming through the elevator speaker. The clients go deeper and deeper with each descending floor, and they go deeper and deeper each time they hear a wave. I often have clients pause their elevators and listen to the sounds of the waves between floors. The sound of the waves, not the sound of my voice, induces deep hypnosis.
Direct nature-sound suggestions can induce dissociation. There are two types of dissociation: One type is between the mind and body, and the other type of dissociation is between the conscious and unconscious minds. During dissociation, subjects perceive the mind as separate from the body and vice versa. As Milton Erickson so eloquently puts it: “Become a bodiless mind, a mindless body.” In the conscious-unconscious mind dissociation, subjects experience a split between their conscious and unconscious minds.
Dissociation is desirable for several reasons. For one, dissociation is a sign of deep hypnosis. Induce dissociation and more than likely you have induced deep hypnosis. Dissociation prepares subjects for future suggestions. If subjects accept the suggestions for dissociation, there is a very good chance they will also accept the suggestions that follow. Dissociation silences the conscious mind, which is ignorant of the reasons for the problems and unaware of any resolutions. Dissociation is also advantageous when working with clients who have physical and emotional pain. A dissociated mind can find comfort, peace and relief from a body that is racked with physical and emotional disease.
Many nature CDs have multiple sounds. For example, the ocean wave CD has music, sea gulls and waves. Anytime you have more than two sounds, you have the makings for dissociation suggestions. Here are some suggestions I use:
Conscious-Unconscious Dissociation Suggestions:
You have two minds. One mind can listen to my voice; the other mind can listen to the music.
One mind can hear my words; the other mind can hear the seagulls.
One mind may heed my advice; the other mind may heed its own advice.
You have two minds. One mind is aware of your problem, the other mind isn’t.
One mind knows how your problem started; the other mind does not.
One mind knows how to resolve your problem; the other mind can not.
Let me now speak directly to the mind that will help you.
Mind-Body Dissociation Suggestions:
Imagine that your mind that can help you listens only to me; your body just hears the music.
Imagine that your mind that is aware of your problem hears only my voice; your body just hears the seagulls.
Imagine that your mind that knows how to get well understands my words; your body just understands the waves.
I usually group three dissociation suggestions together, such as the suggestions that appear above. The suggestion, “One mind can heed my advice and the other mind can heed its own advice,” opens up many possibilities for the clients to help themselves. I know this suggestion is effective because clients often report that they unexpectedly developed insight into problems unrelated to their office visit.
Direct and Post-Hypnotic Suggestions
The delivery of direct suggestions can be tied to the nature sounds the clients listen to in your office. I usually give direct nature sound suggestions after my clients have gone into a medium to deep trance. Here are some sample suggestions given to clients who were listening to waves:
Release of Negative Emotions:
Each time you hear a wave, imagine the wave washes away your anger (fear, worry, sadness, etc.).
As you hear the waves move away from shore, move away from your anger (fear, worry, sadness, etc.).
As you listen to the waves move to the shore, imagine that you move to greater self-confidence (self-esteem, self-worth, self-love, etc.).
Each time you hear a wave, imagine that the wave washes away your desire (craving, urge, taste, etc.) for cigarettes. Each time you hear a wave move to shore, imagine that you move towards being a former smoker, a non-smoker, an ex-smoker.
Each time you hear a wave move away from shore, move away from your dirty, disgusting, unhealthy habit.
Each time you hear a wave, imagine that the wave washes away your excess pounds (undesirable fat, unhealthy weight, unwanted pounds). Each time you hear a wave move to shore, imagine that you move toward a slim, trim and shapely (healthy, fit, desirable) body.
Each time you hear a wave move away from shore, imagine that you move away from your out of shape, undesirable, unhealthy body.
Usually I repeat each stop-smoking and weight-loss suggestion two to four times. I’m careful to pause between suggestions. Pauses give clients a chance to listen to the waves, which reinforces the suggestions. I also include additional weight-loss and stop-smoking suggestions to the ones listed above.
Each day you clean your body. You wash your hair, you wash your face and you wash your limbs and torso. You wouldn’t think of missing a day of physical hygiene, would you? Mental hygiene is also important to your health, is it not? So why not take some time out each day to practice mental hygiene. Now I’m going to tell you how you can remind yourself to eliminate undesirable, unnecessary and unwanted thoughts. Water. Water keeps your body alive and healthy, does it not? Two-thirds of your body is water. Water is essential to cleansing your body, is it not? You couldn’t wash your hair, face, limbs and torso without water, could you? When you hear water running
- water running in your shower
- water running in your bathroom sink
- water running in your kitchen sink
- it will remind you to start your daily mental hygiene. As you listen to water, know that you can cleanse your mind as easily
- as effortlessly
- as naturally
- as you cleanse your body.
Sue was depressed and five months pregnant when she first came to see me. Because of her pregnancy, Sue was not a candidate for anti-depressants, which she had taken before. Sue cried during almost all of her first three-hour session. Sue was given the releasing negative emotion and post-hypnotic suggestions. Her first words during the next session were, “I have been turning on the kitchen faucet and listening to water a lot lately.” Sue laughed and smiled often during her second session. She called several weeks later to say her husband had a job offer out of state, and she would be moving soon. She said, “Lately I haven’t had a need to run or listen to water as much,” an indication that the suggestions were effective.
Like most hypnotherapists, I prefer a quiet office. But sometimes outside noise cannot be avoided. When this happens, I employ the noise in my suggestions. For example, a neighbor was pounding nails with a hammer. “Pound home the idea that you’re an ex-smoker, a non-smoker, a former smoker and you’re darn proud of it.” The roofers were working above as I was giving suggestions to a woman who was developing the courage to leave her physically and emotionally abusive husband. “Sometimes you have to put a new roof over your head. A new roof will protect you from harsh elements.” Once a week I hear a garbage truck and dumpster move: “Why don’t you imagine yourself throwing your emotional garbage in the dumpster that is being hauled away.” Turning a disturbing noise into a helpful noise makes an unnatural sound, natural.
Nature sounds make a hypnotherapist’s job easier. The hypnotherapist can employ nature sounds to inductions, deepening techniques, dissociation, direct and post-hypnotic suggestions. In sum, the hypnotherapist can apply nature sounds to a variety of problems in a variety of ways.
The same nature sounds that help clients can also be employed during self-hypnosis. I recommend that my clients listen to nature sounds while they practice their self-hypnosis. I also give post-hypnotic suggestions to enter hypnosis upon hearing the nature sounds and hypnotic induction. The playing of nature sounds may also deepen your own self-hypnosis. As Deepok Chopra says, “It takes mother nature to free up your own nature.”
I find Delta Music Company’s nature-sound CDs are a cut above the rest. The CD referred to in this article, the one with waves, seagulls and music, is called “Ocean Voyages.” Delta Music CDs are reasonable priced at $5.95 per CD or $24.95 for a five-CD set. To save my clients time and money, I give them Delta Music’s phone number: 310.453.9504.