What do a magician and a hypnotist have in common?
They both require a varied bag of tricks to be successful.
We are not talking about a stage hypnotist who uses flamboyant devices to entertain an audience. We are talking about a professional hypnotherapist who must have multiple strategies in his or her therapeutic bag to address the needs of different clients who present with a variety of problems and issues.
For example, one strategy would be to use maternalism (a rhythmic, lulling induction to coax emotionally suggestible subjects into the hypnotic state) rather than paternalism (an authoritarian technique for physically suggestible subjects).
Other strategies are the use of stories and metaphors rather than a direct suggestion, the use of parts therapy, regression, and visualization.
Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) offers an array of useful techniques that a hypnotherapist may want to incorporate into his or her practice. Of particular interest is the technique known as anchoring.
Anchoring is the process by which memory or feeling is linked to (anchored to) some activity. In therapeutic terms, an anchor offers a simple way to create a stimulus-response pattern — a trigger — that ignites a specific feeling in the subject and helps to support the desired behavior.
This trigger provides a bridge to take the client from an undesirable state (e.g., anxiety) to a desirable state (e.g., feelings of confidence).
Creating an anchor is a simple five-step process:
The client first must identify what undesirable state is creating the discomfort — anxiety, fear, shyness, lack of confidence, et cetera.
The client then determines what state s/he wants to experience instead. The client MUST be specific about what outcome s/he wants to achieve. It is not sufficient to say, “I don’t want to be anxious anymore” or “I want to be better”.
The desired positive outcome needs to be described in specific terms. How does it FEEL? Rather than “I don’t want to be anxious anymore”, the desired positive outcome becomes “I feel calm and in control”.
Rather than “I want to be more confident”, the client chooses “to feel centered, balanced and powerful”.
Once the client identifies the desired outcome and states it in specific terms, the next step is to remember a time when s/he actually felt or experienced the desired state.
The client should recall a time when s/he FELT calm and peaceful, a time when s/he FELT centered and balanced. The key is to relive an especially strong experience when those feelings were full-blown and powerful.
The hypnotic state is an ideal state in which to retrieve memories and re-experience powerful feelings. While totally relaxed, the client can more easily allow all the sights and smells, and sounds to re-emerge.
The more senses that are involved — visual, auditory, kinesthetic — the more vivid the experience will be and the more vivid the experience, the more successful the anchoring process will be.
To create an anchor that the client can use at will to ignite the desired feeling, the hypnotherapist has the client re-live the powerful memory. As the client re-experiences the situation, s/he will feel the desired state build and build in intensity, then gradually subside.
The key is for the hypnotherapist to take advantage of the desired feeling at its peak — at the point just before the feeling begins to wane.
As the desired feeling grows stronger, the hypnotherapist instructs the client to make some unique hand gesture and has the client link that gesture to a word or phrase and to a corresponding image.
For example, the hypnotherapist might instruct the client to press together the thumb and middle finger of the left hand (touch) while mentally saying the word “balance” (sound) and visualizing a person in a perfect yoga pose (sight).
The hypnotherapist allows the client to savor the desired emotional state for a few moments. S/he then breaks the mood by refocusing the client’s attention on the hypnotist’s voice.
As the client continues to relax, the hypnotherapist again takes him or her through the anchoring process — the association of the desired feeling with the hand gesture, the word or phrase, and the visual image.
The client again recalls the strong memory that embodies the desired feeling. As the feeling reaches its strongest point, the client makes the hand gesture, says the keyword or phrase, and visualizes the corresponding image — all the while feeling the desired emotion.
Repeating this process five or six times will cement the anchor and will allow the client to trigger the desired emotion at will. Repetition “carves a groove in the brain”. The client now can easily retrieve the desired emotional state simply by firing any of the triggers — the hand gesture, the word or phrase, the visual image.
Anchoring is a simple, yet highly effective strategy that works almost like magic. With this awesome tool, it may look to some people as though the hypnotist is performing miracles. Indeed, the lines between magician and hypnotist begin to blur.