Using Self-Hypnosis To Reverse An Unwanted Habit

Dr. Purushothaman
January 12, 2014

Classic habit reversal is a wonderful process from the field of cognitive behavioural therapy that I have found to be a very important part of my therapeutic work with clients.
There is a large body of evidence to support this process and I'd really recommend that if you are a therapist looking to use this kind of technique or strategy, then you need to go and study it in a lot more depth than I am offering up here. I'd start by looking at the work of Azrin and Nunn and see if you can even track down a copy of their book 'Habit Control In A Day' which explains this in much more depth.
I am offering up a lightweight version here for anyone to use, though its effects are amplified with the addition of self-hypnosis.
In order for habit reversal to be effective, there is some preparatory work for you to complete and enhance the effectiveness of the process. You want to have an awareness of what you do, how you do it, the conditions under which you do the habit and so on.
Before we begin with the actual process itself then, firstly, get sat down somewhere that you'll be undisturbed, I recommend you write down the answers to this exploration in order that you get an accurate account and it'll help you when it comes to repeating this process. It is a process that requires plenty of repetition.
Firstly, just become aware of the habit itself. Write down and describe what it is that you actually do - what is your unwanted habit?
With that written down, now heighten your awareness of the habit even more and make a note of how you do it, by that I mean the actual physical process of doing the habit, how is it done? Think about how often it happens - you might guess or even count it by how many items you do it an hour or a day.
With that awareness of the actual habit enhanced, now we want to establish what sorts of situations the habit occurs in. So secondly, write down and describe the circumstances when the habit typically occurs. Note down any common element of the habit, such as whether there are other people with you, or if you are engaged in a particular activity or if it happens at certain events. What situation is it that the habit typically happens in?
Now we are going to go a little bit deeper into you; the vehicle of the habit. Thirdly then, when the habit happens, how do you feel? What is the actual physical sensation you have when you do the habit? Whereabouts in your body are those feelings? Do you have an emotional feeling? Are there any accompanying emotions that go with the habit?
Write this stuff down and we carry on now to look at your cognitions. When you engage in the habit, what happens inside your head? What thoughts, ideas, or beliefs happen? What is your internal dialogue before, during and after the habit?
With all of that information noted down, we are now going to write a couple of things down to use with our self-hypnosis habit reversal process later on.
Firstly, think of a positive statement that you can say to yourself in the future when you are in those typical situations where the habit used to occur? What is a positive, powerful and helpful statement that you can say to yourself; write down a new cognition.
Word it in the present tense, from your own personal, first person perspective e.g. I am strong, I can do this, I have beautiful fingernails etc. Word it in your own way, but be sure it is something that is going to really help you deal with the problematic situations in the future.
Then we have the most important part of the entire process. What counter-habit action could you do that will physically prevent you from doing the old unwanted habit?
For example, if you had a clenched fist, you'd be unable to bite your fingernails, wouldn't you? If you relaxed your facial muscles, you'd be unable to clench your jaw? Think of some physical action that you can do to replace and counteract the habit, to make it impossible for you to do the old habit.
Now you have all that written down, we are ready to begin.
Seven Steps To Use Self-Hypnosis To Reverse Unwanted Habits:
Step One:Induce Hypnosis. Use any process that you know of, and develop a good receptive mindset.
Step Two: Firstly, really engage your imagination and picture a typical situation where the old habit used to typically happen. Notice the colours, the shades of light, be aware of sounds and feelings and all the details of the place. You may even use this time to deepen your hypnosis as you really engage your imagination and be in the place where the habit used to typically occur.
Really imagine that you are there and in the scene.
As soon as you feel as if you are really there and got the environment in as much detail as possible, then move on to the next step.
Step Three: Now start to tell yourself in your own words what you are experiencing. Start to describe what feelings you have and how you are thinking now that you are in this situation.
Tell yourself and talk yourself through the process of those feelings and thoughts (that you previously wrote down and explored in preparation) that are occurring that used to accompany the old habit happening.
Notice the actions you are taking in this environment, really engage with your thoughts, feelings and talk yourself through the scenario all the way up to the point whereby the old habit would have happened.
When you work your way through the situation and get to the point where the habit would usually happen, move on to the next step.
Step Four: Now instead of the habit happening, inside your imagination, now imagine that you do your competing action; the new action, the new behavior that you chose to do before you began this session. Imagine yourself doing that thing forcefully and with enthusiasm.
Imagine that you are blocking the old unwanted behavior before it actually happens.
As you imagine doing that competing, new behaviour, now repeat your positive coping statement to yourself. Say it with real meaning and in a way that is undeniably convincing to you that you are in control and capable of doing something new and different.
You can do this thoroughly but it does not have to take too long. Imagine that you do the new behaviour and state the positive thought to yourself, really affirming it inside your mind and then when you are sure you have mentally rehearsed this new response to the old situation, move on to the next step.
Step Five: Having run through the new response thoroughly, now just relax.
Keep thinking about being in that scenario, in that same situation, but as you imagine being there, now also imagine being more and more relaxed.
Imagine scanning through the body and relaxing away any tension you can find; imagine spreading a colour of relaxation through yourself, imagine the muscles softening and loosening and continue to get deeply and comfortably relaxed.
This relaxation is going to become associated to the situation and also help you feel a sense of assuredness with this new process that you previously practiced.
Once you have relaxed yourself and you feel notably more at ease, move on to the next step.
Step Six: Now repeat steps 2-5 of this process a couple more times. You really want to get this new response lodged in your mind. Be sure to do it with as much enthusiasm and vigour each time you do it, with each repetition, be sure that you do it with enough force and be sure you mean what you imagine you are doing.
Once you have repeated it diligently a couple more time, then move on to the final step.
Step Seven:Exit hypnosis. Wiggle your toes and fingers, take a deep energizing breath and open your eyes to bring this to an end.
As I have already said, repetition is really important with this process, so as my clients do following a hypnotherapy session with me, you are encouraged to practice this repeatedly as often as possible and at least once a day for the first week.
Once you have practiced this daily for a week or so, start to put yourself in those habit-prone situations and scenarios and test your skills, start to practice your new habit in those old situations and notice how much better you deal with them.
Then that is a simple take on classic habit reversal to be done using self-hypnosis. Enjoy!

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