A foundational element of successful hypnosis
The basic concept of hypnotic suggestions is easy to understand. In fact, in a way, I just made one, suggesting that this concept is easy to understand.
Oops! I did it again!!
The only difference between a suggestion given casually, and a hypnotic suggestion, is the element of hypnosis.
When a friend wonders where to eat, we might suggest we go to that great cafe down the street.
That's a suggestion. Whether or not the result is what we want depends on a lot of factors, just like suggestion when used in conjunction with hypnosis.
How much does the other person respect us? Does the other person like that cafe? Do they want to go there? What is their emotional state? Can they afford it?
Lots of elements contribute to how effective a suggestion can be, and hypnosis greatly increases the chances that a suggestion will be effective. That's it. Suggestions, hopefully well formed and intentional and given by a skilled hypnotist, are simply tools used within hypnosis to get a desired result.
To help understand, let's examine how hypnotic suggestions are used for habit control.
Hypnotic Suggestions For Habit Control
There's an easy and effective way to help people stop habits such as nail biting, smoking and overeating. It involves tailoring your suggestions directly for that client.
To explore how this idea works, let's look at how stage hypnosis works and one of the reasons suggestions given during a stage show can work so well. We'll also look at how different kinds of suggestions work for different things -- and what types of suggestion work for habit control.
When "X" Happens, Do "Y"
The old stage hypnosis cliche' is that the hypnotist snaps his or her fingers and the subject clucks like a chicken. While I doubt there are many stage hypnotists still doing that old chestnut, the principle holds. It's a very specific suggestion tied to a very specific response. You never hear a stage hypnotist saying, "Do whatever you want to do, whenever you feel like it." Both the trigger/cue and behavior suggested are specific. The formula is this...
When X happens (a specific cue, such as the hypnotist snapping their fingers), you do Y (cluck like a chicken). For certain types of situations (including habit control), these clear-cut, simple suggestions work best.
Ericksonian vs Direct Suggestion
In Ericksonian hypnosis, we might work differently. We might say something like, "You have many skills and abilities. And you know how it feels when you do something well. And you can allow those skills and abilities and good feelings to spread into other contexts, go wherever needed. That's right." Those general types of suggestion are used to allow a client's mind to determine what areas to shore up.
But in cases where a client asks for a specific outcome (to stop smoking, for instance), you're most likely better of following the formula of a specific suggestion tied to a specific response.
What Do You Use For Your Habit Control Cue?
It's good to use whatever the trigger is for the old behavior as your cue for the hypnotic suggestion. Alternately, use something that happens just before the trigger.
Let's use the example of a smoker who automatically smokes when they answer the phone or drive their car. The "X" part of the suggestion could be "Whenever you answer the phone" or "Whenever you drive a car."
Sometimes, it's a good idea to back up in time a little bit before the trigger. The reason is that habits are often tied to a feeling of being compelled.
If driving triggers the desire to smoke, it's better if your hypnotic suggestions hit them before they have the desire.
Depending on the situation, your suggestions might be, "When you put the keys in the ignition" or "When you touch the car door handle."
It's a good idea to make sure they don't have a keyless car in that case!
The idea is that the trigger for the old behavior can be the trigger for the new behavior. This really homes in to where and when the suggestion will be the most effective.
Hypnotic Suggestions For New Behaviors
The new behavior can be anything. Some people like to have several options (taking a deep breath, drinking a cool glass of water, exercising, having a specific thought, etc.).
Make sure some of the behaviors are as easy and immediate as the old behavior. A person can't get to the gym as easily as they can grab a cigarette.
The new behaviors to suggest to your client should fulfill whatever need the old habit did. If they smoked to relax, make sure their new behavior gives them a wonderful feeling of relaxation. You can have them engage in a new behavior and then link those positive feelings to it.
"As soon as you touch the car door handle, a wonderful feeling of relaxation flows through every cell of your body..."
That's a big key for hypnotic suggestions for habit control. Replace the old habit with a new one; one that contains the positive feelings from the old habit.
Make sure all of your hypnotic suggestions are completely safe
Be especially careful with hypnotic suggestions which might activate when someone is driving (or juggling knives, or disarming bombs, or any potentially dangerous behavior).
Make sure the suggestions are realized in a safe way and that the client maintains the attention they need in order to maintain safety.