Though many things continue to surprise me in hypnosis, it is always startling to notice that it need not be an enormously dramatic event that changes our lives, sometimes its quite innocuous.
During the end of the school year it’s common to receive calls from adults that are taking licensing or postgraduate exams but continuing to fail them by only a small margin. Recently a young man came to the office saying that he had failed his state bar exam for the second time, “I get into the exam room, my hands begin to sweat, I get this dizzy feeling and everything I know seems to dry up.”
Hypnosis is all about feelings, feelings we have inside that we just don’t like, which seem to overcome us at unknown times; just seem to pop up and shut us down. In hypnosis one is always awake, though it looks like sleep because the individual has their eyes closed and if you’ve ever seen a hypnosis stage show, they are slumped in their seat. Just the opposite of sleep is occurring however, the person is very relaxed but hyper focused on what the hypnotist is saying, engrossed in every word, kind of like tunnel vision of the ears, the person makes all other voices and sounds peripheral, concentrating only on the hypnotist. As if in a daydream, a guided daydream, the person follows the hypnotist’s instructions and might follow those unpleasant feelings back to other times when they occurred.
The bar student, easily in hypnotic relaxation, was able to go back to that exam period and virtually relive all the thoughts and feels that occurred at that moment. Following those feelings back he drifted to a much earlier time when he was in grade school, listening to his teacher telling Mom that he was having trouble in algebra and needed help, remembered the “Look of disappointment” on Mom’s face. There were other times as well, he remembered Dad telling him he’d, “ Never amount to anything” and finally all the way back to when Dad told him he wasn’t a student like his older brother, “You obviously inherited your Mother’s brains, she didn’t do well in school either.”
We’ve all heard negative messages in our lives, perhaps Mom or Dad having a bad day said something to us out of frustration with other things and and the comment rolled off our back, our self-esteem and confidence unaffected. However at that earlier moment with my student, as it does happen and continues to amaze me, Dad’s comment took root, it found mental soil that was just right for accepting and nurturing that defeating thought. Thousands of acorns blow from the trees but very few take root and grow to a new tree but against the odds it does happen, the acorn is nurtured, binds itself to the soil and little by little grows strong and mighty; good for trees, bad for humans when the thought is debilitating.
In hypnosis the bar exam student was able to see things from the perspective of being all grown up, could understand that their never was anything wrong with his ability to study, he’d gone all through undergraduate and graduate school, passed all the exams with perfectly acceptable grades. Though he knew about his successful school history in a conscious way, in hypnosis he was able to understand, accept and correct his thinking in a visceral sense. As if going deep into the ground and finding that particular root of that acorn that was malformed, deprived of nourishment, the young lawyer to be was able to nourish that damaged tendril. We added on a little future pacing, visualizing himself calmly sitting for the exam composed, focused, answering the questions easily, rapidly and well. The fellow phoned me after the exam, passed it just fine, also went on to take two other exams for two other states and passed those as well.*
Overcoming barriers to our success, whether taking the bar, real estate, Series 7 or surmounting any of life’s challenges, hypnosis might help us see the roots of our feelings and rework their pathways. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, the hypnotist might simply guide the client within themselves to heal the hurt, nourish the strengths that have always been there and to grow strong and well.