The Power of Suggestion
by Del Hunter Morrill, M.S., N. B.C.H.
We are affected by the power of suggestions, whether or not we are conscious of it. Mental perceptions become a part of who we are regardless of our awareness of them. Everything in our lives began with suggestions of some kind. Those suggestions affect how we think, how we respond, and how we act. They create our belief systems, our cultural mores, our philosophies and habits. We carry suggestions over from our past existences, from our genetic heritage, from our ancestors and culture, from our parents and other family members, from friends and enemies, and from what we have read and seen and experienced. We carry suggestions from our environment and from all of the various institutions to which we have directly or indirectly related.
The power of our minds continues to amaze me. That power is so great it can bring on illness and it can heal that same illness. The healing of AIDS and difficult cancers seems miraculous only because we believe so little in their healing and accept so much of what others have come to believe. Many medical doctors, who acknowledge the power of the placebo, which is affected by the thinking of one’s mind, will reject the power of that same mind to affect the body in a positive way; this, despite the fact that many doctors will agree that fifty percent of more of healing would happen without their intervention. Where do they believe this healing response comes from?
Suggestions are powerful when these essentials are involved:
(1) The client has a clear and definite idea of what he or she wants.
(2) Positive suggestions that relate to that goal are given.
(3) The suggestions are acceptable to the client’s subconscious mind.
(4) There is repetition of these suggestions.
The Marriage of Autosuggestion and Hypnotic Suggestions
Positive suggestions given at a conscious level (sometimes called affirmations) might also be called autosuggestion. Greater power comes when suggestions are repeated at a subconscious or unconscious level, that is, while one is in an altered state of being where the conscious mind can “give way” for awhile, allowing other aspects of the mind to become attentive and receptive.
There are innumerable stories of people who have surmounted seemingly impossible odds by their decisions not to succumb to “impossibility” thinking. When I think of the help that can come from the hypnotic process, I feel regret for all of those who were not aware of the help they could have received. Instead, their old programming stayed in place, and they succumbed to their victim-hood.
It is more difficult to “think” positive thoughts than to “do” them. “Stop thinking negative thoughts” works only for a few people. However, a competent hypnotherapist can help people by giving suggestions, at a deeper level, that shift how people think about themselves and their situations, provided, of course, those persons wish to change.
For best results, autosuggestions and hypnosis should work hand-in-hand for the most effective change. By giving suggestions at both the conscious and subconscious levels the unconscious mind is receiving consistent signals. If one continues consciously to rehearse old negative self-talk, while having hypnosis to change to new positive self-talk, the deeper self can become confused and be less likely to bring about desired changes. Another value in using hypnosis to “set in” the auto-suggested affirmations is that it eases that transition. It can be very difficult for people to try to be positive about what is going on in their lives, or, for some, to lift themselves out of depression. It takes a lot of energy to try to be positive when you are not feeling well, or are in pain. Hypnosis makes the transition into a more positive approach effortless and long-lasting.
In other words, for the greatest effect upon a person’s life, there can be a wonderful “wedding” of the conscious and subconscious minds in creating a positive environment for change. The conscious mind reminds the subconscious self that it is no longer necessary to rehearse the old problems and unhelpful self-talk. The subconscious or unconscious self is already clear about those; it has heard them long enough. What the deeper mind needs is the frequent reminder that there is actually a “change of mind”, and that positive thoughts now are desired for change. We are what we think! The only hindrance is ourselves.
Releasing the Resources Within
The most difficult problems can be solved when we become aware of the powerful resources we have within ourselves. What hypnotic methods can do is to help us release automatic new responses – as automatic as the old responses had become.
The key to release of such resources is having powerful suggestions that are carefully worded to guide each particular client toward his or her desired goal. These suggestions are given at a hypnotic, trance-like level, or in an altered state of being somewhere between being fully awake and fully asleep. These suggestions are repeated in various ways to make sure the subconscious mind clearly understands them and is willing to replace the old thoughts with the new thoughts.
Once stated, positive suggestions must be acted upon as already happening in one’s life. To dis-believe the results can place a person back where they began. Following up the positive suggestions reinforces the decision. Once one has decided they want success in life, then one must act as if success will be the outcome.
If new and positive suggestions seem not to elicit new and appropriate action, then the hypnotic work may need to be focused upon locating the source of the issue, or the “problem behind the problem,” and releasing it. Once again, suggestions are used, this time to encourage the deeper mind to locate the imprints that are causing the “real” problem. Once that is located, then suggestions are given to change that problem into something more fitting to where the client is now in their life journey. The methods used may vary from simply “commanding” the subconscious self to do that search and make the changes, to using regression to take the client to the initiating event that brought about the symptoms.
Objective research has shown that many things are enhanced by the use of positive suggestions, especially when done at a relaxed or hypnotic level. Releasing creativity, building self-confidence, expanding the ability to remember, getting rid of long-term habits, increasing one’s success rate, improving stage and athletic performance are only a few of the many potential growth arenas for which hypnosis can be of help.
The problem is that so few people understand just what their minds and bodies are capable of. Our educational system, by and large, has little to do with helping students think through what is genuinely possible in their lives. A few private schools have begun to teach techniques of relaxation, quiet reflection and meditation and other means that place children into a state of being that enables expansion of their ability to think creatively.
One of the most important things I can do for clients on their first visits to me is to help them feel that they are participating in shaping their destinies. The fact that they have a destiny in life is often a new thought for many. They are encouraged to understand that they are in the right place, at the right time, and doing the right thing. Some are praised for having the courage to come through a difficult life, or even the courage to be in my office. This approach can bring about a wondrous breakthrough for a client before formal hypnotic methods are used.
Assuring Powerful and Effective Suggestions
In brief, powerful, positive suggestions can be used in many ways in the hypnotic process. They can be used to encourage clients, at a deeper level, to desire their healing and to be an active part in the process. They can be used to seek out the initiating cause of the problem that lies behind the presented symptom or symptoms. They can release a person from negative holds of past experiences. Positive suggestions are used to discover any blocks to making changes. They can help release the body’s healing energies. They are used to shift unhappy memories into happier ones; and to suggest new, more positive and effective approaches to life situations and conditions.
The hypnotherapist needs to make sure that the deeper mind will receive the suggestions the way they are intended. Therefore, for suggestions to be the most effective the following should be considered:
(1) Building rapport with the client from the first meeting will set the stage for receptivity to suggestions given later. Friendly and innocuous questions can help a client get into a more receptive frame of mind, and lead the way into deeper investigation.
(2) The therapist must be precise with words, thinking them through carefully before using them. Not only must suggestions be suited to the age of the client, they need to be inclusive in reinforcing or redirecting ideas, motivations and habits the client carries within.
(3) Suggestions will be more powerful and more likely to be acceptable to the unconscious self if they are in keeping with each particular client’s experiences, philosophy and thought processes. This requires having enough information to determine what the person experiences and knows, consciously, about their presenting symptom. The suggestions will be even more powerful the more the therapist knows about a client’s life experiences and ways they’ve handled them in the past. Thinking through the intake for clients, therefore, becomes important as thinking through the session and suggestions that are to be created in order to assist them in meeting their goals.
Direct vs. Indirect Suggestions
Suggestions are more likely to be received if they are indirect, rather than given as commands. A simple phrase, such as “perhaps you would like to,” will elicit the results desired and will feel, to the client, more like a gentle request. Most people respond to requests better than they do to “feeling” they must be obedient. As a result, indirect suggestions more easily by-pass the critical intelligence of the conscious mind. Also, they allow the unconscious self to make use of previously learned experiences, of which neither the client nor therapist need be aware.
Words such as “continues to” or “becoming” give a natural time for the subconscious or unconscious self to adequately respond. In other words, the client’s response is based upon their own time for change, rather than the therapist’s idea of when that change should take place. Thus, the suggestions will be less likely to be rejected as “unreasonable”. This concept is based upon the belief that the unconscious self has its own type of rationality, which is not necessarily in keeping with the conscious mind’s concept of rationality.
There are other styles of indirection that make it easier for suggestions to be accepted by the subconscious mind. A truism is a phrase or sentence that expresses anyone’s natural experience or normality, i.e., “Everyone finds it normal to need sleep.” Using truisms make suggestions that follow more likely to be accepted as also true.
Each part of a suggestion, and series of suggestions, must be designed to elicit a “yes” from the client by thought and by body response. Alternative selections, or double-binds, give two or more phrases or sentences all designed to help the client elicit the same response, thus making it easier for the client to accept what is suggested. A double-bind assumes the client will succeed. Example of such suggestions are, “You can drop into a deep trance immediately, or you can allow my voice to take you into a wonderful feeling of relaxed detachment;” and, “You can decide to quit smoking before you leave this room, or tonight, or tomorrow or before the week is over. It’s all up to you.”
When indirect suggestions are used, the therapist is more likely to get positive responses, for those responses come out of the client’s own interior knowledge and experience, and in their own time, rather than in the way or time of the therapist’s imagination.
Suggestions for therapy need to be designed to bypass the limitations of one’s conscious belief system. They need to tap into the understanding of the deeper self, which has far greater resources than one has become aware of, at a conscious level. The more the therapist understands human behavior and learns to apply what he or she knows, the more those applications shape powerful and effective suggestions for change. Therefore, the therapist is more likely to experience their own success in regards to helping their clients achieve their successes.
Copyright © 2008 Del Hunter Morrill, M.S., N.B.C.H. (NBCH – National Board Certified Hypnotist) (253) 383-5757, www.hypnocenter.com