Balking at Self-Change

Still Fighting the Changes You Really Want?

Most of us want things to be better in our lives. But then, when the opportunity for change comes, we may fight against the very things we say we want.

My friend Joanne had decided to have a large storage shed built in her back yard. She had even hired the contractor and paid him a sizeable deposit. The problem started when he asked where, exactly, did she want it located.

“Well, I can’t put it beside the house,” she told him, “my daffodils are there.”

“I can have my men dig up the bulbs and move them to another spot for you,” he offered.

“No, they wouldn’t look right anyplace else.”

“Then how about the back lot? There’s plenty of space back there.”

“Oh no, I’ll be planting my new vegetable garden there next spring.”

And so it went. Joanne never did get the new storage space which an extra building would have provided. She was holding on so firmly to what she already had that she couldn’t make room for the new thing she wanted. Not only didn’t she get her new building, but she ended up forfeiting her deposit as well.

Joanne’s not the only one, however. Most of us, at one time or another, follow the same pattern of resisting what we say we desire.

Louise desperately wants to lose weight, but then she sees those tantalizing cupcakes … and John really does want to get up off the couch and start exercising, but there’s just this one more show he needs to watch …

Everybody’s Doing it

It’s a nearly universal trait. It seems that almost everybody has something inside compelling them to hang on to old situations, no matter how much they want the new.

Smokers keep lighting up, nail biters keep nibbling away, and unhappy lovers keep meeting and falling for the same kind of toxic person over and over. The wheel keeps going round and round, getting them nowhere.

So, even though everybody wants things to get better, many people resist the very change they’re hungering for. But why? How come so many people behave against their own best interests? More importantly, what can they do to win their freedom from old, limiting behaviors?

As to why we resist change, well, that’s fairly simple and straightforward. It’s a matter of habit. If we perform an action — any action (from biting our nails to riding a bike) — the first time we do it, new connections are formed between brain cells. The next time we do it, those connections are reinforced and made stronger. After a while, with some steady repetition, that new behavior takes hold and grows into a full-fledged habit that can actually take over and start running on its own.

But then sometime later, maybe we decide we don’t like that behavior; we want to start doing things in a new and different way. It’s at this point that most folks find it hard to change. They often talk about self sabotage, or maybe “internal resistance”. But that isn’t really correct, is it?

What I mean is, the “resistance” that we experience isn’t really resistance at all. It’s just that we’re trying to jump out of the groove we’ve worn in our brain. It’d be like trying to get a river to flow out of the path it has cut through the countryside. But that very image gives us a clue regarding how to make the changes we want.

If the whole thing comes down to habits, how do we break a habit? Well, the bad news is, habits are very, very hard to break.

But the good news is, habits don’t HAVE to be broken. With the right approach, habits can be changed, rewired, or re-purposed so that they simply produce different results. In fact, it’s happening all the time. A lot of research is being done these days into the effectiveness of different change techniques.

Stop Smoking?

One of the most common things people want help with is smoking cessation. A number of methods are available for anybody wanting to quit. They include will power, patches, gum, acupuncture, meditation, and of course hypnosis.

Of the available methods, hypnosis seems to lead the field. In the Journal of Applied Psychology (October 1992), the University of Iowa revealed that hypnosis was found to be three times as effective as the patch, and fifteen times as effective as willpower alone.

The study was a meta-analysis of more than 600 studies involving 72,000 smokers in the US and Europe, in which various methods of quitting were compared.

How about Weight Loss?

In a 1996 Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology article, researchers analyzed 18 different studies in which hypnosis was used as an add-on to supplement other methods, including relaxation training, guided imagery, self monitoring, and goal setting.

The result: supplementing any of the other approaches with hypnosis produced significantly greater weight loss. In fact, the headline read, “Hypnosis Subjects Lost More Weight Than 90% of Others and Kept it Off.” Good news for anyone wanting to slim down for the holidays (or permanently).

It doesn’t really matter — not a bit — what the “cause” of all that eating may be. As long as it’s habit-based (and it is), hypnosis can help you change your weight, your shape and your clothing sizes by altering your relationship to food. It does this by changing your automatic, habitual responses to any situation that has been acting as an eating trigger. Soon those temptations, those difficult moments and those “I deserve a reward” times will point you to something other than the refrigerator or the chocolate box.

But Can it Beat Anxiety or Phobias?

Let’s take a specific fear, claustrophobia for example.

Around the world viewers watched in fascination on Sunday, November 4, 2012 as Austrian Felix Baumgartner skydived from 24 miles above the earth — from the very the edge of space itself, setting a new parachuting record.

But that display of daring and bravery nearly got derailed before it could happen. You see, Mr. Baumgartner was having a problem with his special sky-diving kit … basically a space suit. Once they pumped it up to full pressure, it so restricted his movements that his ability to function and make clear decisions was hampered by serious anxiety attacks.

Baumgartner’s problem was serious enough that he put preparations and training on hold so he could work with a hypnotherapist back in his native Austria. Hypnosis sessions got him past his difficulties and back into the air.

He was successful. On November 4th this year BBC broadcast the space dive live as Baumgartner totally smashed the old record.

Repurposing Old Habits

Earlier I mentioned that rather than “break” a habit such as one’s eating preferences or the urge for a cigarette, it’s far easier to edit that habit or to redirect its purpose.

Here’s what I mean. A habit is usually, by definition, outside conscious awareness. It’s something that is done on automatic. A habit is basically the subconscious mind making decisions based on precedence — on past experience. The more past experience, the more automatic the habit.

So a smoker, let’s say, has certain trigger situations. That first cup of coffee may be deeply associated with a smoke. So may having a beer, or finishing a meal, or chatting with friends. An upsetting phone call, an argument with the spouse, the car breaks down. Any or all of these might trigger the need to light up.

What hypnosis can do is go in and re-direct those well-established associations to new directions. When the hypnotist does that, suddenly that cup of coffee or that argument will have absolutely nothing to do with smoking. The association is removed and something else is put into its place — maybe taking a slow, deep breath, or maybe you’ll flash on a memory of the best vacation you’ve ever been on.

It’s important to understand that hypnosis doesn’t take choices away from us. It gives us more of them. You COULD still choose to smoke a cigarette if you really wanted to, but it would no longer be an automatic habit. Now the freedom of choice has been returned to you.

But this kind of change is difficult to accomplish using only the conscious mind. You’ll find it very hard to just THINK your way there. You need to install these changes when the mind is quiet, receptive and cooperative … in a word, during hypnosis.

One little-known fact about hypnosis is its distribution among the population. The higher you go among achievers, the more likely you are to find hypnosis being used to enhance performance and achieve goals.

Many people don’t realize that virtually all world-class athletes use some form of hypnosis or self-hypnosis to keep themselves at the top of their game. In fact, you could probably throw a dart at a list of the world’s top performers in any field, and you’d hit the name of somebody actively using mind training skills.

And there’s more good news. You can do this for yourself.

In our next article, we’ll take a look at self-hypnosis and some of the practical ways you can use it to improve your life … and do it quickly.