Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NIAGARA FALLS, slowly I turn...

When I lead group sessions, such as the weight management pilot project at Windsor Medical Aesthetics, I put together a generic script for the hypnosis portion drawing from shared or common answers to goal setting questions.

I also have had to develop a post hypnotic suggestion (aka PHS) for the end of the hypnosis session that will fit the needs of the group. A post hypnotic suggestion is a suggestion given while the client is in the state of hypnosis to implant a response (an action, feeling or physical change) to take place after the hypnotic experience is over. A posthypnotic cue (an action, thought, word, image or event) is selected to trigger the desired response as the client goes through daily life.

When I was a kid my friends and I, Three Stooges fans all, loved to re-enact one of the most famous depictions of the PHS’s effect ever - “Niagara Falls, slowly I turn…” an old vaudeville skit performed most famously in different versions by the Three Stooges and Abbot and Costello (their cue being Poko Moko). A man, down on his luck begins to tell a tale of woe to 2 unsuspecting listeners. In a rage and with vengeance in his heart, years ago he had tracked down and killed his quarry – the man who had run off with his sweetheart. Since this traumatic event happened in a virtual self-induced, hypnotic, state in Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls becomes the cue. Of course one or the other listeners can’t help saying the word and each time it is uttered the storyteller’s desire to kill is triggered only to be broken and triggered again and again to comic effect as he repeatedly attacks one of the people listening to his tale of woe.

But, I digress…

The cue had to be something that is common to the group. An action seemed a logical choice, something that I hoped everyone would do at least a few times every day. Since emotional issues are often at the root of poor eating habits and cravings I wanted to promote a positive and uplifting response capable of shifting ones mood to a more optimistic mode to encourage a more positive and empowered state of mind from which healthy eating habits would be more easily chosen.

And so I came up with, next to Niagara Falls, slowly I turn..., what I consider the greatest PHS ever!

Every time I smile I feel grateful for that which makes me smile.

One of the most beneficial aspects for me personally in leading these groups is that, as I repeat in a relaxed and focused manner the script and PHS to my clients during the hypnosis session I too receive the benefits of what I am suggesting.

And this one hits so many targets simultaneously. For I have found that each time something makes me smile a natural momentary pause occurs in which I become mindfully aware that I am smiling. This makes me smile inside even more, deepening the experience as it happens and increasing my awareness of the present moment. This naturally induces a feeling of gratitude for both how good it feels to smile and for that which has made me smile.

So, every time I smile I know that I am smiling and I feel grateful for that which makes me smile.

Rather than writing a gratitude list at the end of the day I am giving myself permission to be in and enjoy the moment, to immediately appreciate the event as it happens. This sets a tone for the rest of my day helping to keep me engaged in the present and as I live more in the present moment I become more observant of my thoughts and feelings.

Paradoxically since I am fully engaged in the experience while being aware that I am fully engaged in the experience the stance of the witness is being cultivated and what began as a post hypnotic suggestion has evolved into a mindfulness practice.

And another thing, since initiating this PHS I find I choose to become more aware of things to smile about. In fact like the man in "Niagara Falls" skit stalking his quarry, I consciously seek them out and make space for them in my life. In recognizing the opportunity for joy to arise I am welcoming it into my life.

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