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A phobia is an unreasonabale fear of just about anything. Common ones are fear of spiders (arachnophobia), snakes, and being closed in (claustrophobia). There is even fear of fear (phobophobia).
The exact cause of phobias is not known, according to WebMD, "but most appear to be associated with a traumatic experience or a learned reaction." So you might be afraid of dogs because one bit you when you were a kid, or if your mother was afraid of dogs. Sounds like fixed ideas to me.
How you want to deal with phobias depends on the severity of the phobia and how likely you are to encounter it.
If you have a mild case of claustrophobia that results in you choosing to walk up two flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator, you may not want it on the top of your self-hypnosis to-do list. If you're afraid of snakes but spend most of your time in the city, it probably is not a great concern. Note that it makes sense to be a little afraid of rattlesnakes and king cobras. The problem occurs when you are terrified of little garter snakes and become frightened when you even see a photo of a snake.
Fear of flying is a rather common phobia. There are several theories as to what causes it. It may be a form of claustrophobia, loss of control, or distrust of airlines. Or it could be a fixed idea, as we have discussed. It will be easier to treat with self-hypnosis if you can identify what you're really afraid of. Then you can create a suggestion that will help you conquer the phobia. Even if you can't pinpoint the cause, you can use self-hypnosis to get over your fear by creating in your mind a feeling of comfort and safety when flying.
There ae different approaches to curing phobias. One is to slowly expose yourself to the subject of your fear. (One of my friends cured himself of fear of spiders by getting a pet tarantula.) Behavioral therapy can work and sometimes drugs are used, though I don't see drugs as really curing the problem, but that is just my opinion.
You have to use an incremental approach in treating phobias. Don't be in a hurry. A case study of someone who used self-hypnosis to cure agoraphobia is included in the practicing section as an example.
Self-hypnosis, in some form, is used by most successful athletes, even if they don't think of it that way. Some say that sports success is 90% mental. If you have a group of athletes, all genetically favored, all well-trained, all experienced in their sport, the mental aspect may indeed be what separates the winner from the also-rans. And self-hypnosis can be part of that.
Here are some mental aspects of sports that can be improved with self-hypnosis: concentration, self-confidence, determination, rehearsal. Rehearsal has to do with getting ready for an event. You anticipate what will be required and visualize what you will do.
You may have heard the story about the basketball players who just visualized making free throws versus the players who actually did practice. This is a great story and a great example of visualization and self-hypnosis, but it wouldn't have worked if they didn't know how to shoot a free throw in the first place. Mental practice is important, but it isn't everything. You have to learn and practice the fundamentals of your sport.
Is believing in yourself enough? If there are six runners with the same qualifying time lined up at the start of the Boston Marathon and they all believe they will win, will it be a six-way tie for first? That will never happen. But if they don't think they can win, they won't.
Self-hypnosis isn't just for elite athletes. You can use it to improve your tennis or golf game, your weekend softball batting abilities or the local 5K race. Want to improve your bench press? Try self-hypnosis. Is your mind holding you back from advancing in yoga? (You may have a fixed idea that you are not flexible or "limber.") You can fix that too.
Refer to the examples in the sample scripts section to see how you can make this work for you.
Weight loss is another common goal for usng self-hypnosis. But then, weight loss is a common goal whatever the technique. Self-hypnosis does work for weight loss, but the approach is not as straightforward as with most other goals.
The problem is multi-faceted. You have to eat the right number of calories (usually less than you are eating now), and you have to exercise. With many people, there is a psychological factor as well. And, of course, unlike smoking and goals to lose bad habits that are done with you're done, with weight loss, you still have to eat.
Can you just turn the whole thing over to your subconscious? In most cases, you have to do some other things first. Do you have to eat less? Do you have to exercise more? For most people who need to lose weight, the answer to both is yes. Do some research to find out what healthy, low calorie foods really are, and what is a good intake to meet your weight goals. Consider what exercise you like to do, so your subconscious has the right data to work with.
Start with self-hypnosis for more exercise or for better eating. Choose one, then when you have some success, work on the other. (If you are already, for example, exercising an hour a day, but your diet is bad, just work on the eating part.)
Once you have laid the groundwork and are eating less and exercising more, you can bring your subconscious into the final goal, which is weight loss.
A loss of one or two pounds a week, on average, is generally recommended. You can lose more with extreme weight loss measures, but it is less likely to stay off. Set intermediate goals, if you have a lot to lose. If you weigh 200 lb, for instance, and want to weight 160, set your first goal for 180, a 10% reduction. When you reach that, set a new goal. Visualize yourself at that goal weight, and see yourself standing on the scale, with the scale reading that weight.
I knew a professional hypnotist who said she lost 50 pounds just by visualizing a sign with her goal weight on it often during the day. You can incorporate this idea with your self-hypnosis routine. Be patient and consistent, and you will succeed.
Self-hypnosis is often used to establish some form of self-confidence, self-esteem, or self-efficacy. Self-confidence makes you believe: I am a good, capable person. With self-esteem, you think: I like myself. With self-efficacy you believe: I can do that. Of course, there is overlap. None of these is exclusive, but you may want to emphasize one aspect.
If you have problems with self-confidence, you may want to work on this first, before you go on to your other self-hypnosis goals.
Lack of self-confidence may be general, as in thinking you can't do anything right, or specific, concentrating on certain things you think you can't do right. Erroneous fixed ideas are at fault in both cases, and it can be one idea or many. Write your suggestion to address your personal problem.
Gaining self-confidence may be your primary goal. You know what you want to do and how to do it, you are just unsure as to whether you're really good enough. If that sounds like you, get some self-confidence. It may open your mind up to many opportunities you haven't considered.
Not everyone needs to work on self-confidence first--or second, after relaxation--but if you do, it will help you reach your other goals. In fact, if you have confidence that you have control over your life, you will have confidence that self-hypnosis can work for you. So self-hypnosis gives you confidence, and then you know you can use self-hypnosis to reach other goals.
Smoking cessation is one of the most common and popular uses for self-hypnosis. Cigarette smoking can be a behavioral problem (habit), or it can be a true addiction. In most cases, it is some of each. The physiological craving is gone after about seven days of not smoking. But the psychological craving, which can be just as strong, persists much longer.
You can quit smoking just by self-hypnosis. If you feel you are addicted and want to use a nicotine patch or one of the new drugs prescribed or recommended by a doctor, do self-hypnosis along with it. (Tell your doctor if you intend to do this.) After all, you have to contend with the long-term craving that usually persists after you quit. With some people who quit with self-hypnosis, the urge to smoke does not go away. With others, that old habit may push an urge to smoke into your brain. But you will be able to withstand it, as you do other urges that are socially unacceptable. You will be able to just not do it.
Hypnosis is one of the most effective ways to quit smoking. Even the Surgeon General's report on smoking noted that hypnosis could be effective. There are many hypnotists who give group stop smoking workshops, usually "guaranteed." I can't comment on these specifically, but I'm sure some are more effective than others. I would prefer they also give you some self-hypnosis exercises or a CD to reinforce what you learn. You also have the option of seeing a medical professional, usually a psychologist, who specializes in smoking cession. Your knowledge of self-hypnosis will help you evaluate their credentials and approach.
No matter which approach you choose, you must be ready to quit smoking. Then you will succeed. A sample suggestion for quitting smoking with self-hypnosis is included in the section on sample scripts.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|