The Psychology of Optimism: Practical no Nonsense Life Skills
Developing a positive outlook through the psychology of optimism is very different from seeing the world through unrealistic rose-tinted spectacles and pretending that your problems do not exist, or worse, running away from them in denial. On the contrary, you will have a clear aim and develop the positive motivation to pursue it with tenacity. You will be able to encourage yourself to work on achieving your aim, despite any obstacles that might be in your way, with optimistic, realistic thinking. You will enjoy increased self-confidence and self-esteem. You will learn practical life skills that will enable you to think (and feel it) 'I can', rather than 'I should' or 'I have to'. You will be able to tap into your inner resources, such as strength, resilience, courage, hope, and develop a radical sense of responsibility to face all the inevitable life difficulties.
Remember all those times when you really wanted to overcome a problem but, at the same time, you also thought (and felt) that you wouldn't be able to do it? 'What if I can't handle it?' 'What if I fail?' 'What if it doesn't work?' Your inner dialogue (the way you talk to yourself) was full of such self-defeating, energy depleting and anxiety producing 'What ifs'. In other words, what you wanted to do was in conflict with what you thought would be happening. You wanted a positive result, but, at the same time, you were imagining (and worrying about) a negative outcome. I am sure that you like me have experienced that when your will power conflicts with your imagination; your imagination usually wins out.
The psychology of optimism is designed to help you end that inner conflict and use your cognitive skills more constructively so that you can influence your feelings, your behaviour and your performance in positive ways. It will also enable you to gently uncover any unhelpful beliefs and attitudes, which in turn generate automatic uncomfortable and undesirable behaviour, and change them to more positive and constructive ones. The methods employed are easy to learn and very effective at reducing both physical and mental tension and anxiety, as they help you boost your self-confidence. You will be able to do things you were unable to do before or to stop doing those things you do not want to do anymore.
Hypnosis – Simple Facts Behind the Myth
Have you ever wondered how hypnosis could help you? What would it feel like, what would you hear, what would you see? And indeed how could you benefit from hypnosis? Remember the last time you stared out of the window with that far-away look in your eyes? You were absorbed in a particular thought or idea and for a few moments you were not quite there. And yet you were perfectly aware where you were and that you were doing it, and if anything needed your attention you immediately snapped out of that dreamy mode. In hypnosis your mind is gently focused on one particular thing while your body is deeply relaxed. You are turning inwards. Even though you may be staring at something in your environment, you don't really see it - you are immersed in your inner thoughts. The imaginative and feeling part of your mind is now more active than the critical part. You are in a deeply relaxed state where your mind readily accepts positive encouragement for your well being and self-improvement.
Some Popular Misconceptions About Hypnosis
While the state of trance is a naturally occurring phenomenon and professionals have been practising formal hypnosis for many years, it remains a subject shrouded in mystery. As a result there are many popular misconceptions about the subject in circulation. Here are some of them.
- The person goes to sleep or into a kind of sleep
- The Hypnotherapist has total control of the person's mind
- The person can remember nothing at all of what happened in the trance-state
- The person is completely unaware of what is going on around him/her
- If the Hypnotherapist were to walk away the person would not be able to return to the conscious waking state
- The person is unable to open his/her eyes when in hypnosis
- People with strong, active, intelligent minds cannot be hypnotised
- Some people are incapable of experiencing hypnosis
Often the above misconceptions of this naturally occurring phenomenon are related to the human being's innate fear of the unknown.
What is Hypnosis
Hypnosis can be best defined by describing the characteristic of the hypnotic state.
The person in trance
- Becomes reflective, and inward-looking
- Clearly focuses on internal thoughts, images, emotions and bodily sensations
- Is physically relaxed but inwardly alert and internally focused
- Suspend his/her conscious (logical, critical) reasoning
- Can minimise external distractions
- Momentarily consigns logical thought, deductive reasoning, rationality, problem-solving and the cares of the day to insignificance
- Prefers creative, imaginative and symbolic imagery to that of tangible elements
- Is inclined to be susceptible to those external suggestions, proposals, and propositions from which benefit can be derived
A Very Brief Modern History of Hypnosis
Hypnosis and its theories attracted Sigmund Freud (1865–1919), the father of psychoanalysis. He initially used hypnosis as a tool to uncover underlying causes for his patients' neurotic symptoms, but gave it up entirely because he assumed that hypno-analysis was getting unreliable results when several of his female patients started revealing memories of incest under hypnosis. The concept of sexual abuse within the family, however, was so unacceptable to Freud's nineteenth-century mind that he dismissed his patients' incest memories as wishful thinking, stating that they must be founded on unconscious sexual urges the women felt towards their father. As a result of this, psychological treatment using hypnosis was largely ignored or discredited by the medical profession for some time. However, during the First World War a shortage of psychiatrists and the urgent need to treat shell-shocked patients caused a review of the topic and a revival of the application of its principles.
Also, about this time, a French pharmacist, Emile Coué (1857-1926), developed the idea of autosuggestion. His well-known phrase, "Every day in every way I am becoming better and better", has become a popular catch phrase in the English language.
By the 1950s hypnosis was firmly established as a method of treatment for patients with neurotic conditions.
Hypnotherapy is today a well-established branch of complementary medicine and is widely recognised by the medical profession as an effective tool for the treatment psychological and psychosomatic disorders.
This is possibly one of the most effective forms of therapeutic assistance available today and is also the treatment that would be recommended for psychological and psychosomatic problems. Analytical hypnotherapy combines a psychoanalytical process with the use of hypnosis. It works on the principle of cause and effect. This means that if you have a problem or symptom, it is there as the result of an underlying cause. When this underlying cause is completely resolved there is no reason for the problem to return.
What Happens During a Hypnotherapy Session
Your therapist will show you how to gain access to your unconscious mind by teaching you how to relax physically and mentally. With the help of guided imagery exercises, your are enabled to get in touch with your memories and their emotional content in an easy and comfortable way. Your therapist will then gently guide you through dealing with old uncomfortable attitudes and habits that you may have unconsciously developed as a result of certain events in your past. This process does not just reduce your stress levels considerably, but also helps you achieve more in your personal and professional life.
Areas of Application
Analytical Hypnotherapy is employed for treatment of psychosomatic and psychological disorders, some of which are listed below.
- Depressive thoughts
- Eating disorders
- Exam nerves
- Habits (smoking/nail biting)
- Lack of confidence
- Low self-esteem
- Memory loss
- Performance nerves
- Panic attacks
- Post-traumatic stress disorders
- Sexual problems
- Sleeping problems
- Stage fright
Your Subconscious Mind
Our mind works on two levels – the conscious mind helps us to make decisions, think rationally, critically and logically. Our subconscious mind, on the other hand, is the seat of our memories, imagination, emotions and autonomic nervous system and controls our habits. Imagine your subconscious mind as if it were a computer that has saved everything you have ever heard, seen and experienced; all the memories of past events and all the emotions that you felt at the time those events took place. Later on, every time a similar event occurs, the original emotional response is revived, you tend to react automatically in the same way, without thinking on a conscious level - your subconscious mind switches to auto-pilot mode. This is all well and good, as long as your automatic emotional responses are positive. However, some of your reactions may be inappropriate or unwanted. Luckily, it is always possible to unlearn these negative automatic responses and learn positive new ones by actively employing simple and effective methods that help you get in touch with your subconscious mind. Logic alone does not change the way you feel. The intellect alone does not have healing powers. Understanding how and why your automatic emotional reactions come about will enable you to change them for the better and feel more in control of your life.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
I think my mind is too strong – What if I can't relax or be hypnotised?
As previously mentioned, the hypnotic trance is a natural state of mind, similar to daydreaming. So it is inaccurate to say that 'you are being hypnotised'. Rather, you allow yourself to drift into trance, easily and effortlessly. In other words, the experience of hypnosis is open to anyone who desires it. Of course nobody can be hypnotised against his or her will, so you cannot be hypnotised if you choose not to be.
You certainly can experience hypnosis, but only if you choose to.
I am a bit sceptical and I don't like the feeling of being out of control. Will I be aware of what is happening and what the therapist is telling me to do?
Yes, of course. Most people judge hypnosis based on rather misleading television's images of stage hypnotists or films. Hypnotherapy used for therapeutic purposes is nothing like that. It is not a passive experience, something that the therapist does to you. It is more like a team -work between the therapist and you. You cannot be made to do or say anything against your will (so please rest assured: you won't be made to behave like a chicken!), or to give away any secret. You will only be asked enough personal information so that your therapist can help you resolve your current problems. And you are definitely not asleep, comatose, unconscious, or out of control – just deeply and blissfully relaxed.
Is Hypnosis really safe?
Absolutely! The British and the American Medical Associations both approved the use of Hypnosis as a viable and beneficial health alternative in the 1950s. Hypnotherapy is totally natural, totally safe and, unlike many drug-based therapies, has no unpleasant side effects.
Also, you cannot stay in trance indefinitely because your bodily functions would arouse you at some point, even if your therapist stopped talking.
What does trance feel like?
Hypnosis is not sleep. While in a state of hypnosis, you are aware and in control the whole time. It tends to be a very natural experience, similar to that sense of deep relaxation and calm that we experience just before falling asleep.
In fact, trance is a natural state that we experience many times during the day, for instance when we get momentarily lost in daydreaming, feeling like we are 'miles away', or when we get absorbed in a book or a T V programme.
How many sessions do I need?
This varies greatly depending upon the nature of your problem. Resolving simple habits may take only few sessions whereas the successful treatment of more personal problems may involve a number of visits. It is impossible to say exactly, but your therapist will be able to give you a better idea after the first few sessions.