April 3

Changing States 1 – Imagine

Preliminary Techniques


Teaching a client how to change their state is a great way to prove that change is possible through hypnotherapy. It’s also a great way to empower your clients.   And techniques for changing states allow you to provide the client with an experience of how quickly they can create change for themselves.  

Why not show your clients the power of their own mind before you begin the hypnosis?  Teaching your clients techniques that they can use on their own helps to keep them to take responsibility for creating change. It also gives them a resource they can use on their own to claim back a sense of control over how they feel.

YOU can’t do it for them.  

You can only guide the process.  And clients need tools that empower them. Especially if they’re dealing with unresolved anxieties. Self-empowerment resources helps to keep your client actively involved in their own healing between sessions.  And clients who are actively participating in their own healing make your job easier.

If you’re working to help heal a lifetime pattern in a client's life, something to keep in mind is that impressions made early in life form neural pathways.  It can take a little time to rebuild those pathways and generate new responses. Research into brain plasticity shows that the brain can and does change.  But it can take time to develop the physiological changes.  

Anything the client can do between sessions will help reinforce the newer, better responses. For example, a client with a lot of anxiety will benefit from learning how to calm down the nervous system when they get triggered. This teaches them that, even though they experience a stress response, there is something they can do about it.  And teaching a client how to regulate their response to stressors is sometimes the best strategy you can give them.

Thoughts are the Chemistry of the Brain

Thoughts generate brain chemistry called hormones.  Hormones generate physical sensations in the body.  Some feel good.  Some don’t.

Positive thoughts generate feel-good hormones like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.  These hormones generate the relaxation response in the body.

Negative thoughts send out stress-hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and nor-epinephrine. These are the hormones that put the body into a state of arousal.  And that’s uncomfortable because everything gets tight.

When the body goes into a stress response, symptoms associated with sympathetic arousal include:

  • Physical tension (provides added speed and strength.)
  • Increased blood pressure and blood sugar (supplies added energy.)
  • Suppressed immune system function
  • Digestion slows down
  • Sweating (to prevent over-heating.)
  • Shallow breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat (to supply more energy.)
  • Dry mouth
  • Pupil dilation (to help sharpen vision.)

Our Natural State is to Feel Good

Human beings are hardwired to feel good and avoid feeling bad.  For example, when a child is happy and safe it enjoys feelings of relaxation, openness, curiosity and play.  Anxiety, on the other hand, is a learned response.

Anxiety wears a lot of masks.  It can show up in your office as:

  • Cravings
  • Physical tension and pain
  • Busyness
  • Addiction

When a stress response becomes habitual it can generate a great deal of distress.  But it is important to remember that this is a learned state.  And what has been learned can be un-learned.

The Main Problem: Avoidance

When something doesn't feel good the tendency is to avoid.  When this becomes a habit, it keeps a person stuck.  They keep cycling through the same stimulus-response pattern.  Techniques that help a person change their state can help to break this pattern.

When a negative state becomes a patterned response the person gets caught in a kind of “feedback loop” where the thought triggers the symptoms.  And the symptoms trigger the thoughts.  The client then feels out of control.  The solution is to break the state and trade it in for a better state.

There are many ways to change a person’s state.  The process of helping a client change their state begins with teaching them to pay attention to those uncomfortable feelings in the body.  Then, teach them what to do with it.

Change the Picture

The easiest way to change a person's state is to change how they picture things.  That’s what we do in regression sessions.  We take a person into a scene of an event from the past.  That’s an image.  The memory is just an image.  And if you change the image it’s going to change how it feels.

The client can take the physical sensations in the body or uncomfortable emotions which are felt in the body and create an image of them.  They can take the memory of sounds of voices, negative thoughts, etc. and turn them into a picture. You can then work with the image.

Working with the image allows the client to have a little distance from the problem.  And you can change the overall pattern by working with it symbolically.  The picture is an internal representation that contains all the information.  Like a hologram it contains the whole pattern. And because memory is stored as image and emotion, the image contains all the information about that pattern including perceptions, thoughts, emotions and physiological reactions.

Perceptions generate thoughts. Thoughts generate emotions.  Emotions motivate action and drive behaviour.  And they generate conscious and unconscious responses and reactions.

Start Small

Stress inhibits a person’s ability to think.  All they can do is react. To help a person change their state, start with something small. Don’t try to teach a person when they’re highly triggered.  A person cannot think when they’re in the midst of a stress-response. 

Pick something small with a low intensity. To determine the intensity, take a Subjective Unit of Distress (SUD).  Ask the client - On a scale of one to ten, where ten is the worst or strongest it has ever been, how strong is it?  The intensity level should be five or less.

Provide Proof

All you need is just enough intensity to demonstrate a change.  Teaching the client how to be successful with the process will provide proof that change is possible. Have the client come up with a picture that’s going to represent the trigger.  Then, have them change the picture in some way.  This will change how they feel.  Simple, right?

The goal is to give the client back their sense of control.  That’s what they want.  You’re teaching them how:

  1. The way they picture things (think) causes them to feel a certain way.
  2. Changing how they think will change how they feel.

Changing state is one of the simplest techniques you can use to instill confidence in your client.  You don’t need any special training to do this.  And it’s easy for clients to learn.  Just be willing to experiment and play.

Let the Client Do the Work

Let the client find her own solutions.  Let her experiment to find what works best.  Let the client discover, for herself, what happens when she changes how she sees. The worst thing that can happen is nothing.  And even that can be useful information for you.  

At the very least you’re encouraging the client to be curious. Curiosity is a resource state.  You can’t be anxious and curious at the same time.  And teaching the client to work with the image is preparing them for the regression work.  So this can make your job easier. Nice, right?

Instruct the client to create a picture of the problem.   Then transform the image.  It might be an image of physical discomfort in the body.   For example: pain, tightness, pressure, constriction, cramping.

“Choked” is a picture of a physical sensation. “Punched in the gut” is a picture of a physical sensation.

Or it might be a sound.  For example, the sound of someone’s voice.  Or, even the sound of their own voice.

It might be an image of emotional pain.  For example, “Waiting for the other shoe to drop” is an image of fear. “Crushed” is a picture of hurt.

Make note.  Where there’s hurt, there’s somebody to blame!

7 Steps to Transform the Image

  1. Let the client come up with a shape, a color, a size, a temperature.
  2. Involve all the senses, especially visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
  3. Locate it in space. Is it inside or outside the body?
  4. Ask the client, “What would make the picture feel better for you?”
  5. Invite them to change the image until it feels better. (see below)
  6. Place the image in the body.
  7. Notice what’s changed. Acknowledge it.

Regression hypnosis is not dealing with facts.

Regression hypnotherapy is a process of working with the symbolic language of the Subconscious Mind.  The Subconscious speaks in images and emotions.

The problem is not what happened.  It’s the emotional charge that holding the image of an unresolved event in place that's responsible for generating unwanted symptoms.  So, it’s not really the event that you’re dealing with.  You’re just working with the client’s internal representation.

You are not dealing with the facts of an event.  You are only dealing with the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings associated with the event.  So, if a client wants you to uncover the facts of what happened in their past you can’t do it.

We don’t record events like a video recorder.  We record our impressions of the things that happened.  It's all based on the age we were at the time the event happened.  And those impressions may or may not be accurate.  

The image you are working with is a personal symbol.  It holds all the meaning the client gave to it at the time the event happened.  And that meaning is what decides how it makes them feel. Good or bad.  Safe or threatened. Happy or unhappy.   If you change the picture it will change how they feel.

5 Techniques for Changing an Image

Once the client has created an image you can change it.  You can change WHAT is being pictured or HOW it is being pictured.  You can move it, add something to it, use colour, contain the image, or integrate it.  This changes how it feels.

 1. Move it.

If the image feels threatening, you can have them move the picture further away.  Or make it smaller. This provides more safety which brings down the intensity on the fear.

2. Add something to it.

If the image is a movie, give it a silly sound track like circus music.  If there are voices, change them to cartoon characters.  Make it funny.  Laughter automatically changes a person’s state to a more positive one.

3. Use colour.

You can change the picture from color to black and white.  You can make it yellowed like an old, faded, outdated photograph.  This suggests putting it in the past where it is no longer seen as a threat.

4. Contain it.

You can put a frame around it.  This is a particularly effective technique to use once you have changed the “negative” image into a “positive” one.

5. Integrate it.

You can use the framing technique as a test to see if the issue is completely resolved.  Ask the client what colour the frame might be.  If it’s dark or murky, you might want to continue clearing as it’s likely there’s something still unresolved.

If it’s a bright, clean “happy” colour, invite the client to flow that colour throughout the nervous system of the body.  That’s what was missing.  So, really amplify the good feelings associated with that image.

This is also an integration technique.  It’s a great way to wrap up your session by flowing those changes throughout the body-mind system.  The language of the Subconscious Mind is image and emotion.  So, when you create an image that feels good, and then have the client to imagine it flowing throughout the body, you are instructing the Subconscious Mind to integrate this new pattern.

Cool, huh?

So, that's it! I hope you can see how important it is that you let the client do the work.  Come up with ways to guide your client to experience what it’s like to take charge of how they feel.  Show them how you can help them to create change for themselves very quickly.  

Empower your clients and they’ll think YOU are amazing.

Which you are. ; - )

Click here for Part 2

About the author 

Wendie Webber

With over thirty years of experience as a healing practitioner, Wendie brings a broad range of skills to her approach to regression to cause hypnosis. She combines a gentle, yet commanding way of presenting with a thorough, clear and systematic approach to helping healing practitioners to make sense of regression hypnotherapy.