Hypnosis: the trance that refreshes you


     Stillness falls over your office. Miraculously, the phone has stopped ringing. The boss is fussing and fuming in someone else’s department. You look at your watch and take a deep breath. In less than a half-hour you will be giving a presentation to a prospective client with very deep pockets. It’s the kind of business you’re expected to generate, recession or no recession. You’ve rehearsed your presentation many times, you’ve prepared graphic aids, you’ve convinced yourself of your mission’s importance. Now you have 25 minutes to kill.

     Feeling fatigued, you sit slumped in your chair.  Overhead, cool air rushes from the air conditioner, sounding much like the ocean. You close your eyes and think of the last time you were at the beach. You remember the vastness of the sea, the power of its waves. You feel the water rushing past your ankles as you stand at the ocean’s edge. You remember what a fine swimmer you are, and how alive you felt that summer before your senior year in college, when you went running on the beach every morning.

     You open your eyes. It’s time to go. You’ve relieved the stress that precedes crunch time.  And what’s more, you’ve hypnotized yourself into giving a winning presentation.

     Hypnotized yourself? Why, that was just daydreaming, you might say. And you would be right. Hypnosis is a form of daydreaming. Let’s call it daydreaming for overachievers.

     Today, hypnosis holds an important place in a world increasingly interested in tapping the power of the human mind. Sick people are turning to hypnosis to ease their pain and stimulate their body’s healing powers. Athletes are using it to visualize better performance. “Self-hypnosis allows us to look into our resources and potential creativity,” says Evan Longin, a psychologist based in Salem, Massachusetts.

     Hypnosis can’t work miracles. It can’t make you feel rested if you’ve gone without sleep for days, and it can’t change your personality from Type A to Type B (or vice versa). Hypnotists who promise quick cures to complex emotional or physical problems should be avoided. Furthermore, hypnosis takes some work and patience. You can’t expect to enjoy a wonderfully enlightening and restorative trance every time you try. To get the most out of hypnosis, you might want to invest in a few sessions with a therapist trained in its techniques.

     Ready to try an exercise? Here’s one that’s very effective in reducing one’s level of stress:

     Sit down and relax on a couch or comfortable chair, letting your hands rest on your lap. Slowly roll your eyes toward the ceiling. Then roll them to the floor. Continue the eye movement while you work on your breathing. As your eyes creep upward, inhale. As they fall toward your feet, exhale. Heighten this process by lifting your head, shoulders and chest as you inhale, and letting them fall as you exhale. Let your eyes close as your breathing stabilizes. Now comes visualization: Begin to imagine a special place that fills you with peace – the ocean, the mountains, a forest. Whatever place you choose, try to visualize it with as many details as possible. You may find your thoughts drifting to various pleasant memories and images. Indulge yourself in whatever thoughts make you feel good. Push from your mind such worldly concerns as sales presentations and departmental budgets. Remember, this is your time, these twenty or so minutes of self-hypnosis.

     You can use and combine various hypnotic techniques. For instance, you might begin your trance by focusing on a small object or shape (a spot on the wall, a light switch) and staring at it until your eyes become heavy. Or you can spend some moments acquainting yourself with your body. See if you can move the muscles at the top of your head. Proceed to your forehead. Then roll your eyes up into their sockets. Then drop your jaw a few times. Roll your neck. Shrug your shoulders.  By the time you’re marveling at the heat radiating from the soles of your feet, you’re probably already in a nice trance. And if exploration suits you, take a trip in a hot air balloon. Imagine the balloon slowly expanding and then lifting you from earth. Picture your friends on the ground getting smaller and smaller. And then sit back and watch where your balloon takes you.

     When you feel ready, blink your eyes open and emerge from your trance. Chances are you will feel less stressed and more ready to face life’s challenges, as you’ve just returned from a vacation. A real vacation. That is, a vacation as real as you allowed yourself to imagine.

Jewish Professional, Boston, 09/23/91