I’ve been a practicing hypnotist since 2004.  I’ve hypnotized around 30,000 people.  Smoking cessation, weight loss, nail biting, test anxiety… I’ve helped a lot of people with a lot of issues.  Here’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from nearly two decades of working with people on self-improvement:

The problem isn’t the problem.

In the vast majority of client situations, the problem they identify isn’t actually the true problem at the root of things; it’s usually a symptom of the true problem.  The easiest way to assess this quickly and easily is to ask yourself, “Is the problem behavioral?”  If the answer is yes, then the behavior is actually a symptom that comes from the true problem.

Take being obese, for example.  Obesity is often thought of as a problem, and it certainly does pose some serious threats to one’s health, but obesity is the result of eating habits.  It’s a behavioral issue.  So if you want to create lasting results and stop being obese, you have to look at what drives the behavior.

People who overeat almost always have an emotional component to their overeating.  They eat more when they’re stressed, or lonely, or some other kind of emotional trigger.  Identify the emotional triggers, and then you can go deeper, find out what those triggers are all about, and resolve the emotional conflict.  Our ability to manage our own emotions is probably the most common skill that is lacking in human beings.

If you have a self-improvement goal, start with an assessment of your own emotional self-management.  Where are you lacking effective emotional management?  What particular emotional management skill (dealing with stress, not taking things personally, etc) should be improved?  How will you actually feel better when you improve your emotional self-management?

If you can articulate why this self-improvement is important to you, what the reward for achieving it will actually be, and in doing so determine the positive emotional states that you will get to experience, you have a much better chance of the self-improvement project coming to fruition.  This isn’t what most folks do.  Most of the time, we take on weight loss, or smoking cessation, or similar life changes because logically we know that it’s what we should do, or because our doctor told us we really should, or because a loved one expressed concern about us.  Those reasons just aren’t good enough.

Emotions drive human behavior.  Here are the most common feelings behind the choices we make:

  • The feeling of being in control.
  • The feeling of being important.
  • The feeling of being loved.
  • The feeling of novelty.
  • The feeling of growth.

For your self-improvement area, make a list of the behaviors that need to change in order for you to be successful.  Then, go through those behaviors and ask yourself what emotional need is being met by the behaviors as they currently exist.  Let’s go back to our earlier example of overeating and apply this process.

The person struggling with obesity, upon reflecting, may identify a pattern of several different things that trigger overeating.  Then, looking more carefully at those things what may unify them all is that food is being used to comfort.  It’s the need for comforting that then has to be addressed.  We’re not just going to remove the need for comforting; we must find a better way to be comforted.  This is where self-improvement becomes more of an art than a science.  How does one determine the best way to self-comfort?

The answer, broadly speaking, is in exploring new behavioral alternatives.  There is no singular answer; there’s just the one you find that’s right for you.  One of the possibilities that I promote to people often is self-hypnosis.

Self-hypnosis is a skill.  It can be practiced in different ways, with different techniques, so it affords some flexibility.  Self-hypnosis is an internal process that involves focusing the mind and narrowing attention.  Since this happens internally, you can practice just about anywhere, any time.

Need to de-stress at work?  Do five minutes of self-hypnosis on your lunch break.

Need to get over a break-up?  Use self-hypnosis to increase compassion for your ex and forgive them and yourself for conflicts you may have had.

The possibilities are endless.  Self-hypnosis gives us a way to manage our emotions more effectively so that we don’t turn to dysfunctional behaviors as the solution.

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