In Peter W. Sheehan’s paper Memory Distortion in Hypnosis, printed in International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Volume 36, Issue 4, 1988, he presents data from a series of studies that varied the range of conditions affecting potential increase of recall, memory distortions, and distortions of confidence during and following hypnosis. He was able to conclude that hypnosis did have an effect on memory and therefore confidence as it is often a distortion of our memories that negatively affect our self-confidence.
There has been much more focus over the last decade in the use of hypnosis in confidence building, so how does hypnosis increase self-confidence? First consider how you build confidence in the real world. How do you get to the point where doing something that you were afraid of isn’t scary anymore?
You repeat the behavior until it just isn’t scary anymore! Most things in life you have mastered were difficult at first, and but then you mastered them and built your self-confidence. Fear, or lack of confidence, is all about uncertainty, and once you have done something enough for the uncertainty to disappear, the fear disappears too.
In hypnosis, you can use visualization, also called mental rehearsal or “future pacing” to see yourself doing something over and over. Because the subconscious mind cannot tell imagination from reality, it accepts that you have that much experience. And because you’re controlling the imagination, you can make certain that these imagined experiences are positive ones. This can significantly shorten the amount of time it takes to gain mastery over a skill.
Overcoming the Hurdle
How do you overcome something that you are too afraid to do, because you lack the confidence to try? You’re so scared to do something you can’t even get started. This is where hypnosis can really help. Hypnosis builds a ‘bridge’ from where you are just now to your destination – doing what you want to do comfortably.
An Example of using hypnosis to build confidence
Suppose someone is afraid to drive. Before you lost your self-confidence, you were driving to and from work and everywhere in between. Then one day an angry driver started began honking their horn and driving right up behind you. They swerve in front of you and shout at you out of the window.
During this period you were dealing with other job related stresses and your family demands were high. Perhaps you hadn’t been getting good sleep and were eating poorly. This leads to a panic attack behind the wheel. Now your self-confidence in driving is impaired. You get back in the car the following day and have another panic attack and you are unable to drive. You lost the confidence to drive. You are stuck because you need to drive to work and are relying on others to get to work, but this has impaired your life because of your loss of confidence.
What has to be done!
In the example you have to get back behind the wheel and drive, but how can you? You have this memory of the person cutting you off and the feeling of a panic attack. You are terrified of it. It’s this type of situation that can make you feel pretty hopeless, but this is where hypnosis can help.
Hypnosis can be used to help you to feel differently about the road rage incident. Hypnosis can help a person to remember events without panicking and – more importantly – so they don’t experience panic when you engage in the event again, in this case getting behind the wheel of a car.
Once the person can experience the event in their mind again without fear they can begin rehearsing the behavior over and over in hypnosis so they can experience doing it while relaxed. Eventually the person feels more relaxed and they begin building their confidence again. In some cases this would not be possible without hypnosis. Hypnosis builds a bridge over the chasm you have to leap.
How Hypnosis Improves Confidence
In Mark Tyrell’s Master Series essay on What is Hypnosis? he describes how hypnosis accesses the REM state to create a new blueprint for the instincts. These sessions create a more confident emotional blueprint for specific events.
And here are some more great reasons why you can be more confident…
As I said above, you can never be sure before you do something that ‘everything is going to be OK’.
But you can trust yourself that you’ll do your best.
And you can accept the possibility that you’ll surprise yourself.
And you can concentrate on relaxing so that your unconscious mind can help you.
And you can form a clear picture of your desired outcome so your unconscious knows what to aim for.
Hypnosis works by re-educating the unconscious mind, giving you control over responses that you can’t control consciously, or by trying harder. This in turn builds confidence.