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Friday, March 15, 2013

Clinical Hypnosis and "Acting As If" You're Already the Person You Want to Be

Many people, especially people who were traumatized early in life, have difficulty transforming themselves into the people they want to be because they don't know how.  They often don't have a frame of reference for making these changes and, as a result, they feel stuck in their lives.  Working through trauma in therapy is important.  But, in the meantime, before they've worked through the trauma, what can they do?  One possibility is a combination of clinical hypnosis and "acting as if" you're already the person you want to be.

The Concept of "Acting As If"
"Acting as if" is a familiar concept to people in recovery programs.  Some people equate it with "fake it til you make it," but I see it as something, potentially, very different.  It's all in how you approach it and what inner resources you use to "act as if."

Clinical Hypnosis and "Acting As If" You're Already the Person You Want to Be

For example, you might not feel especially confident in social situations.  Maybe the thought of meeting new people at a party makes you feel nervous.  But even though you lack self confidence to mingle at a party with people you don't know, you might know a friend  who does this with relative ease.  

Using Clinical Hypnosis and Your Imagination to "Act As If" You Are the Person You Want to Be
Using your imagination aided by a skilled hypnotherapist, you could imagine what it would be like to be your friend, who is friendly, self confident and enjoys mingling at social events.  What would it be like to be your friend in this situation?  What would she do?  How would she feel?  What would she think?  You could sense your way into her experience to "act as if" you had the confidence that she has in these situations.

As a psychotherapist, I've worked with many clients who lack self confidence.  We will often work on whatever underlying issues that have caused this problem.  But, in the meantime, these clients are often confronted with situations where they can't allow their lack of self confidence to get in their way.  Clinical hypnosis and "acting as if" often helps clients in these situations.

The following vignette, which is a composite of many cases, is an example where the concept of "acting as if" with the aid of clinical hypnosis was helpful:

Betty grew up in a home where both of her parents were physically and emotionally abusive with her.  They were also highly critical, and she grew with a low sense of self worth.  She was an "A" student in school, but she was self conscious about speaking up in class.

After college, she took a job as an assistant manager for a small firm, and her manager asked her to give a presentation to senior management.  It was a great opportunity for Betty to shine because it was a topic that Betty was knowledgeable about, but she was very anxious and self conscious about giving the presentation.

Initially, Betty considered telling her manager that she couldn't do it, but she knew she couldn't pass up this opportunity.  She was already working with me to overcome her early trauma, which was extensive.  But we still needed to do a lot more work, so she couldn't rely on the trauma work we were doing to overcome her lack of self confidence in time to do the presentation.  

Instead, we decided to try the concept of "acting as if" combined with clinical hypnosis.  Although Betty couldn't access confidence in herself, she could imagine her friend, Alice, being confident and poised while doing a business presentation.  So, we used clinical hypnosis and Betty's imagination to help Betty to tap into Alice's experience of confidence and poise.  We also used an "anchoring" technique where Betty imagined herself "anchoring" these feelings in her body so she could access them when she needed them.  

On the day of the presentation, Betty spent a few minutes in her office accessing the self confidence and poise she experienced during our hypnosis sessions before she gave her presentation.  Then, she walked out in front of senior management feeling empowered and confident.  Afterwards, several senior managers complimented her for doing a great job.

In our therapy work together, Betty and I continued to do the trauma work so she could work through her early trauma and she could eventually feel her own self confidence.  But as technique to help her get through the presentation when she couldn't feel confident on her own, the concept of "acting as if" combined with clinical hypnosis worked well.

"Acting As If" Can Become a Reality
While I believe there is no substitute for working through the underlying issues that keep people from maximizing their potential, for some people, "acting as if" can change how they feel about themselves.  Just practicing certain behaviors or social skills, even though they're "acting as if" they had the skills, helps them to develop these skills.

Clinical Hypnosis Combined with "Acting As If" Can Be a Powerful Tools
When used by a skilled hypnotherapist, clinical hypnosis can be a powerful treatment intervention because it allows you deeper access to your unconscious mind.  When hypnosis is combined with "acting as if," it's possible to tap into a deep reservior of your imagination, as in the composite vignette above.  

Getting Help
If you're suffering with a lack of self confidence or you have other emotional obstacles that are getting in the way of your being the person you want to be, you're not alone.  You owe it to yourself to overcome these problems so you can maximize your potential and live a more fulfilling life.  When choosing a therapist, always make sure that the person you choose is a licensed mental health professional.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist. I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or send me an email:

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