As the name suggests, self hypnosis is a type of hypnosis that you can learn to induce. Using a variety of autosuggestion techniques, it’s possible to put yourself into a state of deep relaxation and trance without any external help. This means you don’t need someone swinging a watch before your eyes saying, “You are getting sleepy”, like in a cheesy old movie in order to be hypnotized. You can learn self hypnosis quickly by following a few simple techniques for achieving this trance state.
Why would you want to take the trouble to learn how to hypnotize yourself? Well, it turns out that there are marked benefits to self hypnosis: for one, it can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety and circular thoughts, much as meditation does. Psychologists also sometimes use hypnosis on patients with low self-esteem and stress management issues to implant affirming suggestions to bolster their self-esteem or induce relaxation. Entering a self-induced hypnotic state has also been used to manage and even eliminate chronic pain, as we’ll see below. Finally, learning self hypnosis can provide you a fast track to entering lucid dream states and can noticeably improve your dream recall once you wake up.
The modern Western concept of hypnotism was first introduced in 1841 by James Braid, a Scottish physician and surgeon, who reported using hypnosis to lull some of his patients into a deep state of relaxation. Many of his patients later attested that Braid’s hypnosis had helped them recover from chronic pains. Three years after he first wrote about his hypnotic therapy program, Braid had the chance to try self hypnosis when he started suffering from sever rheumatic arthritis pain. Later, he reported that the pain and stiffness in his left arm, neck and shoulder were so severe that he could barely move them, and in desperation he decided to apply hypnosis to himself, employing some friends as sitters to help him come out of it. Writing of the experience, Braid said that once his sitters roused him from his self hypnosis some nine minutes later, he felt “remarkably free from pain, able to move in any way with perfect ease”. He experienced a minor return of rheumatic pain about a week later, which Braid was able to alleviate with another round of self hypnosis, after which he had been pain free at the time he wrote the report, six years after the experience.
If you have any experience with relaxation techniques, the steps for inducing self hypnosis should sound quite familiar. Before you begin your self hypnosis routine, identify the goal of your practice: do you want to hypnotize yourself so you can achieve lucid dreams, sleep better, improve your dream recall, or all three? Having a clear goal in mind will determine the nature of the affirmation or auto-suggestive phrase you choose. For instance, if you want to improve your dream recall, you might pick a phrase like “I will remember my dreams” or “My dreams will be vivid”. This is the phrase you’ll want to repeat once you have hypnotized yourself into an auto-suggestive state. You may also want to choose a trance word or phrase to mentally repeat as you enter the hypnosis itself. It can be anything— even “I am getting sleepy”, if you want— as long as it’s easy to remember and repeat. Decide on your trance and auto-suggestive phrases before you start your self hypnosis routine; you don’t want to have to stop and think about when you’re entering your trance, which could break the hypnotic state you’ll have worked hard to achieve!
Okay: you’ve got both an affirmational phrase and a clear goal for your self hypnosis in mind. Now it’s time to lie down and guide yourself into a hypnotic state. Choose a safe, comfortable space where you won’t be interrupted, such as your bedroom. As you lie down and get comfortable, focus on becoming physically relaxed: you might practice breathing deeply as you relax your muscles from head to toe, picturing the tension of the day washing out of them. With eyes closed, start (silently) repeating your trance phrase to yourself to draw yourself deeper into the hypnotic state.
What’s even more effective is if you combine a trance phrase with a visualization technique: since you’re trying to descend into a deeper state of relaxation than the normal waking state, the most effective visualization might be to imagine yourself descending a staircase or otherwise “moving” downward into a deeper state of consciousness. You might count off the number of steps you descend, as a way of tracking the progress of your self-hypnosis. Once you feel you have reached the bottom, or the deepest level you can, mentally pull out those autosuggestions and repeat them as many times as you want, until it feels as though they’ve sunk in and become as natural as breathing.
When you’re ready, start climbing back up your mental staircase. You might want to count off the steps back to the “surface”, as in “I’ll count to 10 and then I’ll wake up”. Visualize yourself taking a step up the staircase with each count; once you’ve reached the top, you can open your eyes. Sit or stand up slowly: it may feel as though you’re rising from a nap, and your body may be still be waking up. With any luck, your autosuggestions took root while you were in hypnosis, and will manifest in better dream recall and more easily achieved lucid dreams. Self hypnosis is a great technique for inducing more vivid and lucid dreams because it taps into the same subconscious realm of the brain where dreaming activity also takes place. Good luck and happy dreams!