Self Hypnosis to build confidence and develop optimism

Source: The Times

Self-hypnosis can provide a low-risk environment in which to build confidence and develop our optimism by Dr Nick Baylis

Change will lead to insight far more often than insight will lead to change, said the American psychiatrist Milton Erikson, one of the 20th century’s most inspiring exponents of hypnosis. This is why the deeply absorbing, virtual-reality experience called self-hypnosis can be so helpful. By imaginatively experiencing how things could be as if they were for real, our horizons and expectations improve to such an extent that afterwards we think, behave, and perceive things differently, and even our automatic bodily functions may respond accordingly.

Last week, I championed the remedial role of hypnosis, but today I’d like to emphasise its potential for personal development. I start from the premise that we are in a trance whenever we are engrossed in an activity such as reading a book or vividly remembering something. Hypnosis harnesses our natural ability to enter this mental state by guiding us with suggestions strategically designed to facilitate positive change. In our workplaces and on the sports field, in educational settings just as much as in healthcare services, self-hypnosis could make a big difference.

It can provide a low-cost, low-risk virtual training environment in which to practise our skills in preventing and relieving stress and anxiety; build the confidence for public speaking and presentations; develop our optimism and overcome our inertia. Better still, these core skills can help not only in our work, but in our social and personal lives too. For young children it can develop the focusing of attention, and be a means of dealing with bad dreams, bed-wetting, and fear of school. It can also help women prepare for all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth.

Yet, most dramatically in my experience, hypnosis can help neutralise the emotional traumas from an accident, incident, or period in our past that may have left us slow to engage with or develop key aspects of our present life. Hypnosis can help us move on.

Which is why it’s so regrettable that despite being well-established in the US, hypnosis has yet to become accepted over here. For instance, it is rarely a sanctioned procedure for an NHS psychotherapy unit or for medical procedures. This reluctance reflects a long history of professional rivalries far more than any scientific reservations, but it doesn’t help that the practice of hypnosis is still unregulated. After all, it’s a profoundly powerful tool, and only as safe and effective as the practitioner using it. As the law stands, anyone can call themselves a hypnotherapist, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have adequate training in the technique, nor training in the vital medical or psychological diagnoses and treatment plans for which hypnosis can only be an aid, not a replacement.

The UK’s centre of excellence in research, training, and clinical practice is the University College London Hypnosis Unit ( As well as seeing NHS and private patients, the unit trains psychologists, nurses, doctors, surgeons and dentists. In addition, the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis (, or our local GP’s surgery, can point us towards trusted practitioners. Refining this natural personal resource in order to be able to enhance our daily lives seems to me an opportunity well worth finding out about.

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