Habit: NOUN: A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition
“Sow a thought reap an action. Sow an action reap a habit. Sow a habit reap a character. Sow a character reap a destiny.”
Habits are created in many different ways. You have hundreds of them and use specific ones depending on the situation you are in. When I work with clients it almost always involves either the modification of an existing habit or creation of a new more resourceful habit. The first step in affecting habits is to have a clear understanding of the conscious and unconscious minds (if you haven’t read Basics of Hypnotic Psychology I would strongly urge you to do so).
Changing habits is a combination of science and art. The same basic structure can be applied to everyone, but you make it more powerful by tailoring it individually to your client. The process can be broken down into 3 parts; decision, desired behavior, and congruency.
Decision is the first step and definitely the most important. People come up to me all the time and ask me if I can make them stop smoking. I immediately respond that I can’t make them do anything! The choice is always the clients’. The only thing an ethical hypnotist can ever do is assist a client in reaching their goals, never deciding what those goals are. In order for change to occur their has to be a decision made by the client to want that change to occur. This may seem minor but your results will depend on this.
The easiest way to get the client to decide is to elicit a decision state that they have experienced in the past. Everyone has made a decision in their life where they have never looked back and that is the state you want to maximize effectiveness during the session. This is important because it will eliminate 90% of the perceived habit. Remember the unconscious mind is a servo-mechanism and when you give it orders it is in its nature to follow them. When you have a client who makes a genuine decision to stop smoking they unconsciously send a message to their unconscious mind to find new ways to deal with stress, be social, and relax.
Desired behavior is the next step. It is important to always remember that the unconscious mind which runs the show, only has the ability to think constructively. This means that it cannot understand things that you don’t want. If I tell you not to think of the color blue, what is the first thing that you think of? The color blue, right? This is because you need to think of the color blue first in order to not think about it. So, if someone comes in and says “I don’t want to be overweight anymore”, the first thing you need to do is to get them thinking constructively about what they do want. “How would you like to look? What is your ideal weight?, etc.” When people begin thinking like this they give their unconscious mind a goal to work towards. Understand that if someone says “I do not want to be a smoker” they are literally saying that they perform the action of not wanting to be a smoker, the unconscious understands that as they need to be a smoker in order to accomplish that. The first reframe you need to do with this client is to get them to state constructively what they do want; for example: “I want to be a non-smoker”, “I want to have healthy lungs”, “I want to experience peak physical health and have an athletes stamina” You get the idea. These reframes send completely different signals to the unconscious mind, and will ensure a much better success rate with your clients.
Finally, you need to make sure that the new behavior is going to be congruent with the clients’ personality. Skipping this step is often the reason that the change does not become permanent. It is important to understand that the client has a lot invested in long time habits. So, when your client wants to create new behaviors you need to make sure that they are going to fulfill the secondary gains the original behavior did. Smoking for example is less about nicotine addiction than it is about the secondary gains it creates. For example the stronger reasons for smoking are usually for the feeling of reward, or relaxation, rebellion, etc. When you approach the habit on this level you get to the heart of the behavior. So, rather than trying to change a habit with no thought about the good feelings it creates you go right to the secondary gain and come up with alternative ways to experience this.
Once you have come up with alternative behaviors you must check for congruency. This is important because you want all of the clients’ resources to be helping with this change. So as the client is in trance you ask if there is any part that has a problem with this new behavior, you will often get a yes. At this point you can do some parts therapy which will quickly resolve the issue. Once that specific issue is resolved you ask again if there are any other parts that have a problem until the answer is no.
By using these three steps as a general structure for helping your clients create new habits you will find your results improving. I believe that reading people scripts alone has a limited effect because it is not a collaboration between the hypnotist and client. Using this format will help your client understand themselves a little more and you will find that the changes will last because they played a bigger role in the process than just laying their in trance being read suggestions that may or may not relate to them.