Hypnosis for beginners #2.1

You can proceed like this. Sit or lie comfortably. Let your mind rest on your right hand. Think "sleep" or
"rest" or "relax" or some other word that you find particularly appropriate. Then repeat it with pauses,
just as we have done for other things in Chapter 1. If you are working on yourself you will of course be
continuously aware of progress. If you are working on another it is helpful to ask every so often, "How is
it going?" so that you know what progress is being made.
Continue for a few minutes. At the end of that time you should find that your hand does indeed feel very
relaxed, and far more relaxed than when you started. Again it is essential for students and useful for
others to try the same thing with friends, both with them saying their chosen word and with you doing it
for them.
And you should find the pattern of responses that should have arisen so often that I will call it the
Standard Finding: there IS a response; it takes time and it varies from person to person. There is no
magic in this. It is simple and natural.
Note that although we have focused attention on the hand, what has primarily stopped happening is the
activity in the nerves leading towards the muscles of the hand. And this has resulted in a drop in the
activity of the muscles themselves because they have stopped receiving "contract" messages.
Once you have demonstrated for yourself the ability to switch off all right-hand related activity you can
proceed to some other group of muscles such as the left hand and repeat the process, with yourself and
with others. And you will not be surprised by the Standard Finding: that these muscles too will slowly
get less and less tense, less and less active. You may also notice the now familiar variations between
people. In some, for example, the process is accompanied by a series of small twitches. In others there
may be feelings of heaviness or lightness or warmth or cold or tingling and so on which accompany the
Beyond that you can continue to pay attention successively to all other major muscle groups, relaxing
each in turn in the same way. As far as I know there is no magic about what order you do this in. Some
people like to start with the feet, then calves, then thighs, then lower body, then back, then chest, then
shoulders, then upper arms, then lower arms, then hands, then neck, then face and then scalp. Others will
reverse it. But I have often jumped about with just the same effect. When working with others I will ask
how things are progressing and if any particular group of muscles feels tense. That group will then get
more attention, coming back to it repeatedly in between relaxing other, easier groups.
Neither does there seem to be some magical pattern of words which are automatically better than any
other for a given person. But if you have experienced hypnotherapy or progressive relaxation you will
generally have found that far more complex patterns of words are used than I have presented above. We
might find something like, "And as you relax, every nerve, every muscle, every organ is entering a state
of bliss, of total peace." Or they might be like: "You are sinking deeper and deeper, deeper and deeper
into a state of total relaxation, total peace. And as you relax you will feel SO secure, SO safe, SO
contented, that you will feel able to relax deeper and deeper." What is the function of such sentences?
I would like you to observe that what is really happening here is that words are being used to arouse
certain feelings: feelings of peace, safely, contentment and so on. This is a perfectly good procedure. We
have seen in Chapter 1 that words can activate feelings. IF the feelings activated have the effect of
reducing activity in the nerves leading to the muscles then this will naturally speed the relaxation up.
But for students particularly it is very useful to be aware of what you are trying to do with a particular person. By all means use emotional, poetic language, but do so knowing that you are using it for a
specific purpose.
Another kind of approach that you will find mixed in with some relaxation procedures is something like
this. "Picture yourself lying on golden sands." Pause. "The sun is shining warmly and you feel totally
relaxed." Pause. "You are on holiday and all tension is going from your body." and so on.
It should be fairly clear that what is happening here is an attempt to activate certain pictures in the mind:
pictures of being on holiday, in this case. IF it is the case that those pictures are associated with being
relaxed then this can be worth doing. We are then using pictures to inactivate the muscles, in a way
similar (but opposite) to what has been done in Chapter 1.
However students, in particular, should note exactly what they are trying to do. In particular you should
be asking yourself, "Do I KNOW that these pictures lead to relaxation?" This can actually be very
important! There are some people who HATE lying on the beach in the sun. All the suggested picture
will then do is to activate a great desire to move away and muscular tension will result because one part
of the mind will be saying in effect "get up and out of here" and starts to contract the muscles that will
get you up, while another is saying, "no, you are supposed to stay here" and will be starting to tense
opposing muscles to keep you in place. Such opposing muscular tensions is a classic symptom of stress.
Explore these three avenues for yourself.
I will suppose that you have first tried the direct path from words to muscular system as described above.
Ideally you should try the two other approaches on other days. If you run them one after another then you
will start the second on a person who is already uncommonly relaxed from the first, and so you will not
be comparing like with like.
You can then try to use words purely to arouse certain pictures which are associated with relaxation. The
broad pattern is the same whether you are trying things on yourself or on others. First of all we need to
know a situation that you or they find relaxing. This might be anything. Common scenes include the
beach, a cozy fireside, a woodland dell, a garden, a childhood bedroom, sitting with a pet, lolling in a
bath and lying in bed, but it could be anything.
Then you arouse these pictures in your mind or the other's mind, perhaps by gently repeating certain key
words. But since we are interested in how much effect the pictures alone are having on the relaxation try
to avoid words such as "relaxed", "calm", "sleep" and so on that might have a direct effect. Continue for
about the same length of time that you used for the direct relaxation by means of simple words and
directed attention. And again feel free if you are working with another to ask for progress reports so that
you know what is going on. Finally at the end ask for some measure of how relaxed the person feels.
Then see if any clear pattern emerges FOR A GIVEN INDIVIDUAL. You may discover that one of the
two approaches tends to give the better result for one person and the other for another. For, as always,
people vary, and we have no way of knowing without trying.
Here is an example or two of such an approach.
"You have told me that you find the idea of a fireside relaxing. So just close your eyes and start to picture
it. See the flames. Is the fire wood or coal?"
"Wood" (This is only one possible answer, of course. If another is given then the details of what follows will also change.)
"See the wood crackling. See the glowing of the wood. And perhaps you can now also see the fireplace."
(Pause.) "And any ornaments on it." (Pause.) "Tell me about what you see."
"It is an old-fashioned fireplace. There is a clock. And candlesticks. And some brass things. The mantle
is wood."
"That sounds very nice. I wonder if there are candles in the candlesticks, and what is the lighting like in
the room? Look around and see."
"There are some candles above the fire. Nothing else."
"And how are you sitting?"
"I am curled up in a chair in front of the fire."
"Look at the chair. Is it old or new?"
"It is old and very soft. There is a cat on it with me."
"That is fine. so just go on for as long as you like, just sitting curled up with the cat. Watching the the
flames." (Pause.) "The fire." (Pause) "The clock" (Pause.) "The candles' flames." (Pause) "For as long as
you like."
The client may continue to enjoy the scene for a long time - I have known one to remain for up to an
The purpose of the above is very clear. It is designed to arouse in the mind a very clear picture of being
in a certain place. In the context of this chapter the place is chosen because it is supposed to be associated
with relaxation for the given person. But in this case we have avoided any words which directly suggest
emotions, or sensations, or muscular tone in an attempt to explore the effect of images alone, as far as
that is possible. Only at the end you can ask, "And how relaxed are your muscles now?" to see the extent
to which the images reduced muscular activity.
In the context of hypnosis the word SCRIPT (cf Glossary) is used for something like the above. However
it is worth emphasising that in what I have presented the scene is PRECISELY TAILORED to the tastes
of the client by means of the question and answer format. This tends to make it far more effective than if
the client is merely placed in a setting that the hypnotist finds relaxing, for obvious reasons. As a simple
example the hypnotist might like cats and introduce one into the script but the subject have a phobia
about them. One might like small cosy rooms and another find them claustrophobic and so on.
On another day you might try an approach in which you attempt purely to activate appropriate emotions
and see how effective they are in altering muscle tone.
The approach, at it simplest, is to sit or lie with eyes closed, and with an intention NOT to dwell on any
pictures that come to mind. Instead you will be repeating to yourself "I feel wonderful." Pause. "I feel
calm." Pause. "I feel happy." and repeat ad lib. The idea being to see if you can work solely on arousing
the feelings and then see how effective they are for you in switching off muscle tone. And of course
students should attempt the same on a number of other people. As a model to start with you might try
something on these lines.

continues on #2.2

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