When clients first arrive at our clinic, they often have questions regarding what, exactly, will happen during the hypnosis sessions. At Morpheus, our goal is to provide no-nonsense, scientifically backed hypnosis, while giving our clients information about our process, so they can make an informed decision. Last month, we spoke about Reframing, an important technique that is commonly used in hypnosis. This month, we’ll be talking about a technique that often goes side-by-side with reframing: visualization.
What is visualization? We often refer to visualizing something in casual conversation, but then it simply refers to a mental image of an object or action a person has thought of. The act of creative visualization in hypnotherapy, or in your own self-hypnosis practice is more complex. As a short form, you can think of it as the cognitive process of purposefully building visual mental imagery, with the specific goal of modifying their associated emotions or mental impact. Guided visualizations are frequently used in hypnosis for their high impact. Let’s talk a little about how visualization is used during a typical hypnotherapy session, and break down some common visualization techniques used by hypnotherapists. Then, we’ll go over tips and some sensible exercises to improve your own visualization practice.
Guided visualizations are when the hypnotherapist speaks to the client in hypnosis, and introduces a specific mental image. One of the first guided visualizations a client might experience with a hypnotherapist is the classic “Lemon Test” for measuring your aptitude for hypnosis. Many hypnotists use this test as a quick way to see if the person they are speaking to might be a good candidate for hypnosis. Luke, the founder of our clinic, has made a youtube video of our version of the lemon test, which you can find here: The Lemon Test
As was mentioned in the video, although we refer to it as visualization, sight is not the only sense we use. Involving all the senses makes the visualization more real, more “true”. Although everyone has a specific image of a lemon in their head, by taking the time to describe it in thorough and specific detail, the hypnotherapist draws the client into the visualization. They use targeted language to describe the color, texture, temperature, all the things about the lemon that a person wouldn’t normally actively think about. For the video, all that results in is a puckered mouth as they think about the sourness of the lemon. Where it shines is when we turn the power of visualization towards our goals of changing habits and patterns of behaviour.
In the field of hypnotherapy, there is a concept called the Law of Reversed Effect, originally coined by French psychologist Émile Coué. The basic notion is this: The harder one consciously tries to accomplish a goal, the more difficult it gets. Your conscious mind can be ready and pumped up to make that change in your life, but if you unconscious mind feels unable to make that change, either because of bad past experiences, or feeling like you will fail, then you are hard pressed to make that change. Visualization helps a hypnotherapist around that issue. Instead of trying to force the client into changes, they sidestep, and use something powerful: the client’s own imagination. By visualizing the change, we go around the internal belief system your conscious mind has built up, and speak directly to the imaginative unconscious mind. Your unconscious doesn’t make much distinction between a visualization and something that happened to you, so it gives your mind a change to practice, and experience success with the goal. This helps to reprogram your mind, and create a new, more positive belief system.
So, how can you incorporate visualization into a self-hypnosis or meditation practice? Let’s go over some tips to improve visualization.
The first tip is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Visualizations grow and take time, and you will improve with them the more you practice. Your unconscious will help guide you to the best way for you to visualize. If you are struggling to get started, try first writing down some of what you would like to visualize. As an example, let’s consider someone who is trying to visualize a board room, so they can address a fear of public speaking. Try first writing down the 5 senses, and then attaching several descriptive words related to a board room. What is looks like is important, but the smell of the HVAC system, the warmth from the light as it streams in through the window, the feeling of the wood of the lectern as you prepare your speech, all create a more powerful image, taking you deeper into the visualization.
The second tip is to practice! Try taking the room you are in right now. Sit down and try to memorize the room. Pick a portion of the room, close your eyes, and visualize it. Repeat that process until you have a vivid and detailed recall of that portion of the room. By adding the small details, you workout the part of your brain required for full and detailed imagery.
Another tip is to connect emotionally to the visualizations. If you are picturing yourself in a situation where you would be stressed normally, image the situation as if you were clam and confident. Repeat the visualization until you feel calm when thinking of the situation. By believing the visualization, and connecting to it emotionally, we cue our unconscious mind to believe that what we are visualizing is the objective truth.
As a last tip, consider keeping a list of specific visualizations, tied to specific goals. The more you can build and use a visualization, the more powerful the visualization becomes. Keeping a list of your goals and the specific imagery allows you to build on your visualization as you more towards your goal, and helps you keep track of what has worked in the past for you. Remember, this can take time!
If you are interested in visualization for goal setting or to tackle a problem you’ve been facing, it can be a powerful technique in the right hands. We at the Morpheus Clinic for Hypnosis are experts in the use of language for creating change. If you’d like a professional guide to assist with visualization, consider reaching out to us for our professional hypnotherapy services.