How Do Hypnotherapists Work Successfully Within a Client’s Belief System?
ANY good hypnotherapist will on occasions work with a client whose requests/goals for their sessions may indeed be productive but they want to change or achieve something using a preconceived notion that may in fact work against them. They come with a specific idea of what they feel will help them the most and can be fixated on sticking to that ‘plan’ in their mind. Let me give a couple of real examples that clients have presented me with that needed skill to steer them to another approach which would result in success and still make sense to them.
“If you could just tell my mind to forget that I ever smoked cigarettes, I won’t want any. Just erase that I ever smoked, and then I won’t remember and won’t want to smoke.”
How would I answer this and still work within their framework of perception? Their belief system is crucial in success so I would need to honor their way of thinking but alter it just enough to actually create a subconscious shift. So, I might say something like:
“If I did help you to forget that you ever smoked this would only be one piece of the solution. The needing of a ‘habit’ and what you think it does for you still exists. No patterns have actually changed. So, most likely you will find something else to drive those patterns, emotional and physical triggers will still remain – sort of floating about looking for an outlet. What if, instead, we ask your subconscious to not only remember but re-install anything necessary to remind your mind and body BEFORE you ever smoked? Even if you were very, very young your subconscious can easily contact that internal mental and physical part of you that has no idea of what wanting a cigarette feels like. Wouldn’t that be much more powerful?”
The answer from a client to that question is always YES. So, I have given a more powerful idea which makes more sense to them than their original conceived notion of what will help them without stepping out of their internal belief of what they think will be successful.
Hypnosis is something that hypnotist and client do together. It really is team work but it’s crucial for the hypnotherapist to set the ‘framework’ up extremely masterfully before any actual hypnosis takes place. The session begins way, way before any actual ‘formal’ hypnosis begins. Many of us believe that powerful elements of hypnosis are already in full action during a pre-talk with a client.
I may ask a client casually. “Tell me a color you love. I won’t be childish and ask what your favorite color is, just a color you love.” They will give me a color. Then I may say, “Just out of curiosity, what IS your favorite color?” It is 99.9% of the time the color they already told me even though I said; I won’t ask your favorite color. It always fascinates me. This gently gives them the picture that they are in fact more receptive to unofficial suggestions than they realized.
Here’s another example. It hasn’t happened often in my practice but enough to keep me on my proverbial mental toes. A client arrives for a weight loss session and is a skinny minny! Not just by my definition but by any standard. They may not have been totally honest on their intake form!
What to do? Keeping in mind most hypnotherapists are not medical doctors or psychologists, myself included, can we still help with our skills? Absolutely. I would take some time to chat to them about their weight, eating patterns, food relationship and then maybe some key questions. For example.
“Do you want to lose weight or do you want to feel smaller? Is the actual weight bothering you or is it a feeling of being out of control with food that bothers you? Would you be willing to let go of the ‘numbers’ on the scale if you could fit into a particular piece of clothing?”
I have had remarkable success by just asking these types of questions. Often they will say things like:
“Yes, I just want my favorite jeans to fit” or “I’m sick of obsessing about food all day.”
So, you can see that now I can help them re-frame. Perhaps it’s not about losing any more weight but getting a little fitter with some exercise so clothes feel better on them or, not constantly thinking about food even though they’re slim. In other words they are ‘overweight’ in their heads only. You can see that the content of the hypnosis session will be totally different when we define what the target actually is. Often people really don’t know and have a preconceived idea that has little to do with what it is they actually WANT. Asking a client what they truly WANT seems so simple but is indeed often a really difficult question for them to answer. The most important and powerful question I feel a hypnotherapist should ask.
And lastly, I love this one which I figured out sort of by chance years ago. When working with an overweight client I will always ask what their goal weight is. I will then ask if they have ever achieved that goal previously by diets and so forth. Sometimes they have and sometimes they haven’t. I will then tell them that we’re going to change that number. Either by a few pounds less or a few pounds more. They can choose. They are surprised and ask WHY? I explain to them that because they gained the weight back and are now seeing me, I know that their subconscious has associated that ‘goal weight loss’ number as a failure. We’re going to push the re-set button.
The way we perceive our successes and failures has everything to do with how we approach future change. Like a broken beaded necklace, we must not attempt to restring it exactly as it was before.
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
Be confident and stay humble.
Vanessa Lindgren, Cht
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