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  • What Does Hypnosis Feel Like? The Answer May Surprise You.

    What does hypnosis feel like? So many people are curious about this, and there are many misconceptions about it. For me, "hypnosis" refers to a mental process. During the process different “feelings” can be suggested by ourselves or by a hypnotherapist. For this reason, the hypnosis experience is different for each person and even the same person can experience it differently in different situations. And yet there are some common characteristics. Most research indicates that hypnosis involves becoming absorbed in an idea to the point that other distractions are filtered out. Once this happens, your brain will notice things in your inner experience (internal dialog, images, thoughts) or input from outside ( words, events, environment) that support the idea and the idea gets reinforced. This creates a deeper level of absorption which is again reinforced and the hypnotic cycle continues. This "feedback loop" is essentially a combination of focus and imagination. It doesn't necessarily involve relaxation, but it can. I believe most people are already experiencing the hypnotic cycle pretty much every day in some form. But it’s typically just a random occurrence and not directed toward any specific purpose. Here are some examples of "everyday" hypnosis: With relaxation: When the mind relaxes but drifts to something specific and vividly imagines it. This can happen during: a boring lecture, during after lunch drowsiness, at bed just before you fall asleep, during a long drive or plane flight, waiting in line or on hold, during TV and other media commercials. Without relaxation: When the mind focuses on something and the brain goes to work without your conscious intervention: shopping for a highly desired product like a car, being a “diehard fan” of anything, obsessing over how many social media “likes” you’re getting, reacting to a hurtful comment, reacting to praise from someone you admire. As you can see there are different ways the mind can become absorbed. But the end result is an idea takes hold and the brain scans for things in your inner experience or your environment to confirm it. Some people are naturally able to achieve this absorption and focus better than others. They are good at “make believe” and they can easily make their imaginary world seem quite real. Others are extremely logical and analytical. Most people are somewhere in between. How does this work in Hypnotherapy? In hypnotherapy we use various techniques to introduce mental absorption in an idea intentionally. We can direct the power of this absorption toward a goal that the client wants to achieve, Typically, relaxation is an important part of the program. This is always beneficial and restorative. But many other techniques can be introduced that are more active and targeted to a specific area. Sports performance, confident public speaking, targeting a goal, getting rid of fears and anxiety and much more. I use various imagination exercises to help the more analytical clients develop their imaginative skills. I find the exercises work really well. It's possible that clients may find it easier to imagine in hypnotherapy than in stage hypnosis because the outcome is something they truly desire and the problems have sometimes already become hyper-real to them, even bigger than real. In any event, with the right techniques almost anyone can achieve the kind of imaginative focus needed to do effective hypnotic change work. Please feel free to leave any comments or reach out to me if you have any questions about hypnosis or hypnotherapy. Gary Schwantes, CCH, CHt, MFA, Clinical Hypnotherapist

  • Procrastinating? Stop Pretending and Set Goals That You Really Want.

    Are you feeling stuck? Perhaps you have some goals but you're having trouble getting started on them. You brain keeps finding a million excuses, a million things that need to be done before you can start and then you turn ar ound with no time left, and no progress has been made. So things stay the same. Maybe your brain is trying to tell you something. Our subconscious processes have an amazing ability to analyze our situation and steer our behavior. Perhaps you're aiming for the wrong goal. Nobody is better at being you than you. Somewhere deep down, you have a sense of the best possible version of you. It may be buried under layers of other people’s expectations. But it’s there. You have an innate sense of the best possible version of you. But the weird thing is, so many us try to be someone else! Partly because of influential people in our lives, social media brainwashing or societal and cultural expectations. Now, don’t get me wrong, modeling an expert’s skills is an amazing way to learn. But trying to be someone, or something fundamentally different than your true nature can be very frustrating. It can create a lot of stress and make things harder. What Do You Really Want in Your Life? What Are Some Fundamental Long Term Goals? A lot of what we think we need or want is the result of conditioning. Ask yourself, "what do I really want in life?" If I could do anything and had nobody to answer to, if money was no object, and the only opinion that mattered was mine. If that was the case…then what do I want in my life? Think in a realistically optimistic way. Don’t be concerned at this point about how you’re going to get it. Then ask yourself…. What Are Your True Higher Values? Let’s talk about the things in your life that are most important to YOU. What do you value? These are key motivators and they can either power our success or affect us adversely if our way of life is in conflict with our values. There are higher reasons for most of the things we do. And the more we understand what they are, the more you can live a life that’s in tune with those values. We're not talking about getting the best deal on a new car, or your favorite vacation spot. We're going higher than that. Identify a few things you really want and ask yourself, "why do I want that car, or why do I want all that money? What does that get me?" and keep asking "what does that get me" or "why is that important to me" until you arrive at the highest level of values. Note which is the highest as well as the next couple down. Some examples: Family Honesty Being Part of a Community Independence Unconditional Love Being a Force for Good in the World Strength Spiritual Evolution Self Realization To Serve My True Purpose Security And now the rubber hits the road... Are Your Long Term Goals In Line with Your True Higher Values? The thing is…there are many different ways to satisfy those higher values. Be flexible in your thinking about how to live by these values. For example, a ballet dancer and an arts administrator can both bring art and joy into the world. An insurance broker can offer security and a degree of protection to families, their loved ones and the community. There are many different ways to honor the higher values in your life, but the higher values themselves are not things that can be easily swapped out. So it’s a good idea to know what your higher values are and to honor them. Give this some thought and possibly make some adjustments to your long term goals if appropriate. And now... What Do You Have to Work With? What resources both internal and external are available to you to help you reach your goals? Look for opportunities right under your nose. Keep a flexible outlook. What skills and resources do you already have? (smart, loyal, persistent, detail oriented, loving, kind, determined, fair honest, cunning, brave, outgoing, existing contacts, influential friends, membership in organization, money, location, equipment) What skills and resources do you want to develop? Vividly Imagine Your Ideal Outcome (Target State) Regularly So, taking all this into consideration, you can start to bring a vision of that outcome into focus. Set aside a few minutes of quiet time regularly to think about what it would be like if this target state was your reality right now. Be there. See, hear, feel, wh at you'd experience as much as you can. Where are you, who is with you? The more sensory systems you use to imagine this, the more power the process has. An interesting result of this process is that you may begin to notice things you hadn't noticed before. People, situations, products, behaviors that are either in harmony with your highest values or not. You'll certainly feel a pull towards the things that are in harmony. You’re teaching your subconscious what you want and providing information it can use to help you get it. If you've read this far, a seed has been planted. I'd urge you to go back over this article and spend a little time on each step. If the process resonates, keep doing it. You'll like what happens. Gary Schwantes, CCH, CHt, MFA, Clinical Hypnotherapist

  • Afraid of Public Speaking? Read This.

    Many people feel extremely uncomfortable when they are asked to speak in front of a group. Sometimes to the point where it interferes with their career goals and other things they want to do. It's normal to have a little bit of excitement before speaking, if you've experienced this, you're not alone. But if it's become problematic, if it's stopping you from doing the things you want to do, you don't have to put up with it. Changing your mindset will change your experience when speaking. As a result, you'll make a much better connection with people and you'll get much better results. Read on... A Gallup Poll conducted in 2000 found 40 percent of people said they feared public speaking. And according to that poll, public speaking was the second most common fear, just below a fear of snakes. But why do so many people fear public speaking? Most of us talk to people every day. What makes public speaking different? Here are a few things I've observed about this. The Shock of Self Awareness Public speaking is one of the few times that people become aware of themselves as a separate entity. Most people float along carried by life's currents with a very low degree of self awareness. They melt into whatever group, situation or media stream they're part of. Standing in front of an audience you can suddenly become acutely aware of your own consciousness, physical sensations and motor movements. This in itself can be a shock for many people. Automatic Protection Mechanisms Survival programs get activated when our brain senses a threat in the environment. But what threat are we experiencing with public speaking? The imagined, but primal threat of being ostracized from the tribe. In the distant past this could be a matter of life or death. We needed to be part of a tribe in order to survive against predators, enemies and lack of food or other resources. One of these survival programs is the fight or flight response which results in a burst of adrenaline and energy toward the large muscle groups and a temporary slowing down of anything not immediately necessary for physical combat like digestion, logic and reason, or fine motor coordination. This can result in heart racing, sweaty palms, shaky voice or a clumsy brain fog. Pattern Recognition and Reinforcement Our brains excel at recognizing patterns. Once an activity has been tagged as a threat by the subconscious, we will experience uncomfortable feelings when we engage in that activity or even think about doing it. This can become a self perpetuating cycle, reinforcing the perception of the imagined threat. Hypnotherapy Can Get to the Heart of the Problem The fear of public speaking is rooted in subconscious responses that have become automatic. These responses are very difficult to change with discussion or by logic and reasoning as the reaction happens instinctively and automatically before you can think about it. But in hypnosis, we can use modes of communication (emotion, symbols, a sense of involuntary movement, metaphor) understood by the part of you running the unwanted response. We're able to dissipate the negative response and redirect your experience so that you can feel normal excitement and high energy when you speak to a group, free from unnecessary and unhealthy fear and anxiety. Research Backs This Up A wide body of research has established that hypnosis is a powerful tool for overcoming anxiety. Hypnosis is being used by medical facilities like The Mayo Clinic as a complementary treatment for anxiety-related disorders, i.e. like fear of public speaking, social anxiety and fear of flying. Gary Schwantes, CCH, CHt, MFA, Clinical Hypnotherapist

  • Hypnotherapy for Weight Loss: Why Does it Work?

    Perhaps you've tried to lose weight in the past and found it difficult. You're not alone. Maybe you've struggled with special diets or other complicated weight loss processes like weighed portions and calorie counting. While these things can be very useful at times, they're difficult to keep up long-term. It's much easier to reach and maintain your desired weight if healthy eating becomes a natural, automatic behavior. Let's look at a hypothetical but very common situation. Jasmine started a weight loss program including some of the strategies listed above, ie a strict diet and calorie counting. Things were going great, she was sticking to the diet and losing weight gradually. As long as she was able to consciously focus on her program and use some willpower, the progress continued. But then life threw a curveball. There we re big changes at work and her stress level went way up. Out of the blue she found herself reverting to the old behaviors: overeating, eating high fat and sugary foods and while this made her feel good in the moment, it left her feeling terrible afterwards. Suddenly the thought pops into her mind, "what's the use?" and her weight loss program is out the window. It doesn't take long for the weight to come back. Why does this happen to so many people? One reason that this sequence of events is so common is that food carries powerful emotional associations. It can be associated with comfort, happy times, relaxation, celebration, closeness with people we love. And in times of stress, upset, or boredom your brain may automatically try to help you avoid feeling these emotions by triggering eating behaviors that flood your sensory systems and block out the uncomfortable feelings. This can become an automatic protective behavior pattern that is hard to change by willpower alone. In our example, Jasmine's brain reacted subconsciously to protect her from the stress she'd been feeling at work. It was triggering the protective behaviors that were programmed, well rehearsed and readily available. The Key to Real Change Any successful weight loss program must address these subconscious programs or else they can activate again whenever willpower drops momentarily, as Jasmine experienced when the stress at work used up so much of her mental energy. This is where hypnotherapy comes in. Through hypnotherapy, your mind can be redirected to trigger better, healthier alternatives when these difficult situations arise. And you'll get the same positive result (comfort, relaxation, connection etc). In fact, during our sessions, you don't even have to come up with these alternatives consciously (ie exercise, calling a friend, reading a book, working around the house, etc) because we can ask the part of your mind that's been managing your problematic eating to do this for you in the background. Once the new patterns take hold, you'll have healthier automatic responses when you hit rocky waters. Hypnotherapy does not make weight evaporate like magic. Our goal is to change the underlying programs around eating so that new healthier eating habits become automatic. Also, hypnotherapists don't prescribe diets, supplements etc. You'll have the opportunity to choose a reasonable diet of foods that you like. Choose a combination that you know will be sustainable long-term for you health and well being. This can be adjusted as we move forward with your program as you'll probably find that your preferences will change. The better you feel, the less you'll want to eat unhealthy foods that keep you from your goal. Conscious / Subconscious Partnership Another important part of your weight loss program is mindfulness and awareness of your own responses and behavior. I believe that conscious as well as subconscious processes are important to successful change work. We can leverage the power of both. This is why I employ what I call Cognitive Skill Building techniques to help you stay on track. These are simple mental techniques you can use when you're out and about to navigate mindfully and pilot your own course through whatever situations present themselves as you go through your day. I hope this short article gives you a general idea of how and why hypnotherapy can provide a very effective way for you to reach your ideal weight. If you have any questions, please get in touch. Gary Schwantes, CCH, CHt, MFA, Clinical Hypnotherapist

  • Break Free from Anxiety and Boost Self-Confidence

    Anxiety, worry, stress, self-doubt. These are words used to describe thoughts and feelings that all of us experience from time to time. For the most part, these thoughts and feelings are temporary, perfectly normal and actually useful. They're a signal that something needs our attention. We all know that there are things in life we need to be cautious about. Sharp objects, wild animals, downed power lines during a storm, etc. But unnecessary worrying about things that will probably never happen is not healthy. There’s no need for it. In some cases anxiety can become habitual and problematic. Irrational fear might hold you back from doing the things you want to do in life. Things like advancing in your job, starting a business, participating fully in school, or even normal everyday things like shopping, family get-togethers, enjoying intimacy or going out for a good time. Some people seem to know exactly what causes them to feel anxious, while for others it’s harder to pin down because it’s become more pervasive in their lives. An Overactive Protective Mechanism Certain types of anxiety are related to the future, a fear of something that might happen. Others types of anxiety might be connected to an event in the past either known or unknown consciously. It may be a combination of both. In our Hypnotherapy sessions we’ll discover the best approach for your particular situation so we can free you from the anxiety habit. Think of habitual anxiety as an unconscious skill you’ve developed. Your unconscious mind is doing its best to protect you from something that fits a pattern from the past. The anxiety will tend to keep you out of situations that match a pattern that some part of your mind has tagged as a threat. Even though you may be completely safe and not in any danger at all, The response is an automatic survival mechanism. This automatic response could have been created by a single powerful experience or it could have developed over time with a series of experiences. The good news is that this is not uncommon and you don't have to put up with it. Hypnotherapy can allow you to let go of this response fairly quickly. You Don't Have to Put Up With It There are many techniques we can use to help you break free from unnecessary fears and anxious feelings. As the anxious feelings dissipate and you stretch beyond your old self-imposed limitations, you’ll inevitably find your level of self-confidence rising. As your confidence and comfort level rises you'll find yourself once again participating in the activities you enjoy and had been missing. You'll feel so much better, free of that old useless, unnecessary fear but still safe and well protected, with a more realistic perspective. Gary Schwantes, CCH, CHt, MFA, Clinical Hypnotherapist C

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