5/18/09

Expectations

Long before I became a hypnotherapist, I visited a hypnotist as a client. I wanted to stop biting my fingernails. I didn't have a lot of faith that it would work, but I thought it was worth a shot. Before we began, I asked the hypnotist if this could be fixed in one visit. She said that if it was just a habit, it could be. I settled in and prepared to be cured. Unfortunately, I started biting my nails again within five minutes of leaving her office. When I contacted her later, she said I would stop when I was ready. I was thoroughly disappointed with her answer and gave up on hypnosis. I didn't understand at that time how our expectations influence the results we get. I hadn't expected hypnosis to work, and-- surprise!-- it didn't. 

When I was suffering from chronic pain a few years later, I looked for a non-medical way to manage the pain. After quite a lot of research, I developed high expectations that hypnosis would be effective. I had read a number of articles from various mental health journals, medical websites, and newspapers like the New York Times, had watched a number of news programs about hypnosis, and had spoken to a doctor who had witnessed a surgery performed with hypnosis in lieu of anesthesia. By the time I saw a hypnotherapist for pain management, I was convinced that hypnosis would work, and --surprise!-- it did.

This is not to say that the results were instantaneous, but I knew that if hypnosis could work for other people, then it could also work for me. I was also much more motivated to stop feeling pain than I had been to stop biting my nails. I realized I couldn't take a passive role and expect to be cured. I had to be proactive. I had to participate in my treatment by using self-hypnosis and doing the exercises assigned to me by the hypnotherapist I saw. When hypnosis worked for the chronic pain, I realized that I had given up too easily and too early on nail-biting. I hadn't really believed hypnosis would work for that, and I hadn't really wanted to stop. However, I knew that hypnosis would work for chronic pain, and I really wanted the pain to stop. Different expectations--and different levels of motivation--produced different results.

Since becoming a hypnotherapist, I have worked on a number of personal issues. Using hypnosis, I have overcome allergies, asthma, and chronic pain and have set and achieved many other personal goals. Ironically, nail-biting was the most difficult behavior to stop. The main problem was motivation: there didn't seem to be any penalty to continuing a behavior I had been doing for over 30 years. If you don't have a clear reason for changing your behavior, then chances are good that you won't. Finally I thought, "I'm a hypnotherapist, what message does this send to my clients if I bite my nails?" Shortly afterwards, I stopped!

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