Understanding these three basic prime directives is not enough. You must also implement these concepts into your practice in order to increase your client’s chance of enhanced performance. Most hypnotherapists understand these concepts; sadly, few of them actually implement them. When you choose to utilize these concepts in your hypnosis and or guided imagery, you will achieve a class of success that few professional sports psychology coaches even experience.
1. Preserves the Body
All suggestions should lead toward the preservation of the body. This is why hypnotherapists or mental toughness experts have traditionally succeeded so much in smoking and weight loss. Preservation is a logical assumption in these therapies. However, most hypnotherapists do not realize that they should be linking preservation up to all of their client’s goals. In sports hypnosis, you will have a higher degree of success if you can link up preservation of the body to their intended outcome. For example:
“… Imagine if you will now, winning the gold medal. Beyond the feeling of winning, you realize the potential that now awaits you: from product endorsements to media coverage. All of these effects from winning are within your grasp. And by taking these opportunities, your income will grow and provide for you the ability to buy healthier foods, higher quality supplements, and receive the best healthcare possible. Who would have ever thought that by winning a gold medal you could actually become a healthier human, but like a pebble in a pond creating a ripple effect, everything affects everything in life…”
When linking up preservation of the body to any goal through hypnosis, it is important to make sure up front that in doing so it would be a healthy goal. If an athlete wanted you to hypnotize them for a specific goal that may not be healthy to link up toward preservation of the body, you should refuse. In order to know whether or not a goal is safe to link up to preservation of the body, you must be able to say yes to the following criteria:
Now when working with athletes, this criteria can get a little tricky. After all, injuries occur, sports are competitive, many times the goal is to beat your opponent, sometimes, as in boxing, even inflict harm on your client, so how can you answer ‘yes’ if asking whether the suggestions are safe to others? The answer to this is very subjective, and it will be solely up to you to make the call. But when working with athletes, this is my general viewpoint. When two or more people willingly enter into a sport that will have a clearly defined loser and a clearly defined winner, they do so openly and of their free will. There is an ‘unwritten’ agreement that risk is involved. When looking for the ‘safe to others’ criteria in sports, I am looking at this from the point of ‘outside of the agreement’. In other words, I would have no problem hypnotizing a boxer to punch faster and with more force against an opponent in the ring, but I would not suggest that the boxer be able to punch anyone with speed and force – only his/her opponent. For someone who competes in archery, I have no problem saying under hypnosis that they will shoot a target with accuracy and precision, but I would not say that they can shoot anything with accuracy and precision. Contextualizing your suggestions will play a major part in adhering to the ‘Safe to Athlete – Safe to Others – Safe to Planet’ criteria.
2. Is a Servant, Likes to Follow Orders
The worst thing you could ever do for yourself while practicing self-hypnosis, or for your client is to tell them that their unconscious mind can do whatever it wants. This is not appropriate. Your unconscious mind is a servant; it is supposed to follow your orders. This is the principle problem in the well-being of many people today. Most people don’t spend enough time with their own unconscious minds giving it direction and guidance. Like a child left without mentoring or leadership, it struggles sometimes to do the right thing, but often doesn’t know what that is, so the unconscious mind makes choices that ultimately are not healthy.
When I try explaining to people the complexities of the unconscious mind, I’ve found the following metaphor works quite well. Think of your conscious mind as the captain of a ship, and think of your unconscious mind as the crew that supports the captain. Now at first glance, most people think the captain runs the ship, but this is not true. The captain is in charge of the ship, but the crew actually runs it. If the captain wants to go right, she doesn’t run down to the boiler room throw on some coal, then run up to the galley and put lids on all the bowls to keep them from spilling. What does she do? She places an order to the crew, and they do the steps necessary in order to get the ship to go in the right direction. Your conscious mind is in charge of your vessel, but your unconscious mind is running it. The same is true for the athletes you work with.
There is a nautical term used to describe what happens when the crew stops listening to the orders of the captain and starts doing what they want instead. It’s called mutiny, and it provides a great parallel to what happens with the Conscious and Unconscious mind. How does mutiny occur in the Mind? The same way it can occur at sea. Treat the crew poorly. Don’t listen to them, don’t give them any breaks, abuse them, ignore them, do things that violate laws (in the Mind’s case, laws of nature). If you really were to stop and evaluate most people’s behaviors, you would see things that would make the most powerful of ships sink to unrecoverable depths. In today’s society, many people are “having a good time” by blowing out there energy. They drink fermented liquids that kill brain cells and rot their liver; they smoke drugs that destroy short term memory. They deprive the body of sleep and then drink stimulants to stay awake. They eat foods so full of preservatives that the body’s hydrochloric acids can’t even break them down. When I stop to think about what most people consider ‘having a good time’ is, I fear what they think would be a bad time!
Milton Erickson, one of the world’s foremost hypnotherapists once stated so profoundly, “Your patients will be your patients because they are out of rapport with their unconscious minds.” If you are experiencing any conflict in your life, that’s usually a sign of lack of rapport somewhere. In fact, you can use the outside world as a biofeedback tool. It will reflect back to you in exact proportion what you are experiencing inside. Your athlete will experience
conflict in their outer world to the exact degree that they are creating conflict in their inner world (Mind and Body). Soak that in.
Your athlete will experience conflict in their outer world to the exact degree that they are creating conflict in their inner world.
If the athletes you are working with are practicing over and over and over their moves and still not experiencing success, it may not be mechanical or lack of skill. It may be psychological. They may be doing things unconsciously to themselves that are creating elements of mutiny inside. Then, when they demand performance from their unconscious mind to provide enough oxygen to their bloodstream or give them enough adrenalin to compete, it may not be willing to cooperate.
Likewise, your athlete will experience success and health in their outer world to the exact degree that they are creating success and health in their inner world. Absorb that fully as well. These two laws of nature can dramatically determine how you cope with and create the products of your life.
Your athletes will experience success and health in their outer world to the exact degree that they are creating success and health in their inner world.
While your job is not one of counseling or therapy with your client, it is appropriate to provide for them a set of questions that may insight within them some motivation to change. After explaining to them the ship metaphor between the conscious and unconscious mind, you may want to ask them or provide for them a questionnaire that encourages them to take better care of their ‘crew’.
When was the last time you thanked your unconscious mind for supporting you in your sport?
Do you spend more time beating your unconscious mind up for not performing as well as it should, or do you spend more time praising your unconscious mind for cooperating and supporting you in success? Remember, the unconscious mind wants attention, and it will enforce behaviors that give it the most attention. Are you giving your unconscious mind what it needs to support you in your sport? i.e. nutrients, rest, stretching, etc… What are three things you could do regularly, and are willing to do regularly that would give your unconscious mind the attention it deserves, and encourage it to support you in your goal? What foods/substances are you putting in your body that is harmful to your ‘crew’? What are you willing to do about it? If you aren’t willing to do anything about it, can you honestly expect your ‘crew’ to change for the better?
Learn more about becoming a Certified Sports Psychology Coach. Sport psychology is the scientific study of people and their behaviors in sports and the practical application of that knowledge. Sports Psychology Coaches have endless opportunities to work with athletes ranging from beginning to professional and all points in between. Some coaches build businesses working with youth athletes. Others specialize in sports such as triathlon. Other coaches work with teams in the college and pro ranks. There are no limits to what is possible for your career.
Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.