Hypnosis is a suggested technique that has been used to help a person change thoughts, perceptions, sensations or behaviors. The use of hypnosis for enhancing sports performance has enjoyed a steady increase over the past three decades. As athletes have recognized the importance of mental training techniques in their quest for excellence, effective interventions such as hypnosis have become increasingly into use. Although hypnosis has that value if used properly in sport performances, it also has the potential for harm if applied inappropriately is sporting situations. What you are about to read focuses on the characteristics of sports performers who can be successfully be hypnotized, the way hypnosis can be used effectively to empower sport performers, and the type of hypnosis thoughts to be most effective with the athletes population.
Characteristics of hypnotic subjects in sports
Hypnosis is a psychological intervention that is often misunderstood by the general population, including athletes. Hypnosis consists of three distinct stages: 1) introduction stage, 2) utilization stage, and 3) dehypnotization stage. Most sport performers are prone to try any technique that is supported to enhance their performance, even if it can also be dangerous. Athletes are specially gifted physical specimens, but that attribute is far from the most essential characteristic that makes for an ideal hypnotic subject. The trait that influences a person to be an ideal candidate for hypnosis is suggestibility. Many authorities believe that approximately 95% of the general population to be successfully hypnotized. Strangely enough, most athletes are not easily hypnotized because, through experience and training, they learn to be guarded and untrusting instead of being open and receptive. Even though many sports performers expressed a willingness and desire to be hypnotized ( because this it is deemed to be a quick and effective processes ), initially athletes are not ideal subject until they become educated concerning this technique and become more trusting. To facilitate learning in the scale of being hypnotized, it is important for the hypnotist to debunk any myths surrounding hypnosis. Unfortunately the “stage hypnosis” movement has served to reinforce these myths with all potential subjects, including athletes. Stage hypnotists usually do not have formal training in hypnosis and served to perpetuate this myths. They are often very talented in the induction and dehypnotization stages but are lacking in ethical considerations during utilizations. For instance, no person who uses hypnosis in clinical practice would use stage entertainment purposes. Sport hypnotists use this technique for the suggested aids in performance mentioned later in this article.
Empowering sports performance through hypnosis
Hypnosis has been used by sports performers in a number of different ways : (a) to receive more benefits from relaxations, (b) for controlling anxiety, (c) pain management, (d), for enhancing imaginary, (e), to improve concentration, (f), for raising a performance block, (g), injury rehabilitation, and (h) for ego strengthening.
Hypnosis and relaxations
Many, if not most, hypnotists use fairly deep relaxation as an induction technique i for entering a hypnotic trance. Naturally then, subjects surmise that hypnosis and relaxation are the same phenomenon, but this is inaccurate. Actually, the quelling of the active mind (relaxation) is a skill in itself and is a beneficial side-effect that hypnosis seems to enhance. There are various forms of “active hypnosis” as well as passive hypnotic trances. It is even possible for an athlete to actively move in a hypnotic state while performing. Also, there are various induction techniques that use active hypnosis as the most effective way to get the athlete to experience this state. An athlete could enter a trance and then actually perform or move to the rhythm of his or her event while in a trance state. This is a very powerful and effective way to mentally as well as physically practice a sport.
Controlling anxiety and arousal
Two of the most powerful factors that limits sport performances are the emotions of anxiety and arousal. As anxiety increases, the ability to focus effectively is greatly diminished. On the other hand, as arousal increases, the ability to focus narrows. These situations are crucial because most athletes experience anxiety and also need to reach an individual level of arousal to perform well. Hypnosis is beneficial in sport performance because it can contribute to creating the state of relaxation then mitigates anxiety. Also, hypnosis can be used as a technique to reach an optimal level of arousal prior and during competition. In other words, hypnosis can effectively train a performer to be intense but I’m not tense. These emotional balance is crucial for obtaining great performances in sports situations. Suggestions can be made in the trance state for powerful emotional transitions. Suggestions made in a trance state are not questioned by the athlete and often last for long periods of time if the sport hypnotist uses posthypnotic suggestions.
The human mind has the unique ability to either recognize and feel pain or ignore it. While in a hypnotic trance, it is indeed possible to reach an altered state where pain is not felt at a conscious level. Since pain in sporting situations is a common occurrence because of expensing physical exertion, athletes readily seek ways to eliminate or reduce the feeling of pain. Hypnosis trains the mind to ignore the feeling of pain. Hypnosis is so powerful that under this technique some athletes have been able to withstand surgery without anesthesia and remain fully conscious during the entire operation. The whole concept of “glove anesthesia” is a demonstration of pain management in a hypnotic state. The sports hypnotist must be very careful to always leave some pain awareness in the athletes so as not to induce complete anesthesia, which would be very dangerous and would increase the possibility of overreaching injury.
For sports performance, this skill of imagery normally has to perspective: (1) seen (visualization) or (2) feeling ( kinesthetic). Both of these perspectives of imagery are extremely important for high-level performers. One of the benefits of hypnosis is to experience “heightened awareness” in all the human senses. Sports performance use their senses in a variety of different ways so that simple posthypnotic suggestions can be employed to enhance or at least focus on the various imagery perspective. Learning to ignore distractions, feeling more intensity, and reliving the past events (regression ) are examples of the use of hypnosis and its effecting competition with imagery. In fact, even an increase learning effect can be induced with hypnosis as athletes can remember more information and practice cues when in a trance state. This is a very effective way to do additional practice while away from the athletic area.
Being able to concentrate while in the appropriate attentional style and at the right moment is the secret to committing fewer performance errors. Sports performances require the athlete to be able to change attentional styles almost instantaneously and automatically. If an athlete has to stop and think about what to attend to, it is most likely too late to perform effectively. Again, heightened awareness is a benefit of hypnosis and allows a performer to focus more quickly and clearly. Through hypnosis training, athletes can learn to change a attentional styles with minimal effort and precision effectiveness. The ability to focus is a crucial skill in athletic performances. Hypnosis has been proven to increase an athlete’s ability to concentrate for longer duration and on the more appropriate cues.
Erasing a performance block
Performance blocks are frequently the results of overanalyzing or overthinking about a motor movement that has previously been made automatic. As soon as an athlete interferes with an automatic response, the rhythmof the response is disrupted, and this creates a negative emotionality, which is very strong and contributes to the increased probability that the negative response will occur again. Hypnosis can be used to keep the mind focus on a correct response instead of worrying about the wrong one. Hypnosis can aid in putting the mind in “automatic pilot” instead of focusing on the particulars of an incorrect technique. The athlete’s mind in a hypnotic state is unquestionably more susceptible to suggestions and, therefore, will move immediately to the subconscious suggestions for improved self image and performance possibilities then maybe blocked by the conscious mind.
In addition to mitigating the pain associated with injury, hypnosis is useful in recruiting the mind’s powers to aid in the rehabilitation process. An example would be having the mind (under hypnosis) focus on sending more blood volume to an injured area to aid in removing infected tissues or reducing swelling, then, the injured area will heal more quickly. Employing hypnosis techniques to attain long periods of relaxed states also helps the process of rehabilitation of an injury. Much research has supported the ability of a hypnotic trance to facilitate and accelerate the healing process for athletic injury as well as to reduce the fear of reinjury in the athletic population.
Negative believes ( fears ) that interfere with the ideal performances are often buried deep the unconscious mind of the athletes. Under hypnosis, these fears can be reached and subsequently reduced. Once the fears are addressed and overcome, the eagle is strengthened, which is a lasting benefit for future performances. The self image is constantly being fed imagination in a conscious and unconscious manner. Self talk or internal dialogue is an ongoing phenomenon. Hypnosis is a very valuable tool to aid in programming the mind in a positive way.
After ego strengthening, athletes can again use hypnosis to help increase inner strength (self-confidence). By eliminating some of the detractors to being confident and then providing uplifting scenarios to work on, hypnosis helps sports performers to be more positive about themselves and their abilities instead of focusing on the negative.
Types of hypnosis and their effectiveness
The two general types of hypnosis that are commonly used with sport performers are hetero-hypnosis and self- hypnosis. Hetero-hypnosis is facilitated by a hypnotizer, while self -hypnosis occurs when a person enters a trance without the help of another person. People respond to hypnosis in many different ways, and the athlete is no different. With these thoughts in mind, most professionals who have used hypnosis with sport performers begin with hetero-hypnosis ( to determine how suggestible a subject will be ) and then eventually train the athlete to use self hypnosis. This is ideal because self-hypnosis allows the use of hypnosis by the individual instead of waiting for the hypnotist to be available. You should be clear that the hypnosis might not be the answer for all psychological issues and sports performance. It is also of great importance hypnosis to be used by properly trained professionals only.
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Gordin, R., D. (20017) Hypnosis and Sport Performance. Hypnosis and Sport Medicine: Encyclopedia of Sport Medicine