Most of us wouldn't quarrel with a definition of suggestion as "presenting an idea in such a manner that a person is likely to accept it as literally true, and therefore 'real.'" But hypnotists aren't the only ones whose work centers around making changes in the perception of reality!
Cognitive-behaviorial psychology works with automatic thoughts, which tell us how to respond to what is going on around us. Challenging people's automatic thoughts and substituting more adaptive ones is one way to produce a more efective adjustment to life. And, according to the definition just presented, these new ideas also qualify as suggestions.
When the environment is pretty much the same for everyone, as it is in a standardized test such as the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Suggestibility, well-documented individual differences in suggestibility do exist. However, if you vary the environment enough, these individual differences disappear. Imagine, for example. that the Harvard Group Scale is being given to a class of introductory psychology students at the American University of Beirut, let us say, when a person dressed in a police uniform bursts into the room and says in a loud, commanding voice, "The city is under biological attack, and a germ cloud is headed this way. Take refuge in the basement immediately and await further instructions!" Even if such an announcement is a hoax (i.e., a cleverly-designed suggestion) thought up by a dissident student organization to disrupt the orderly running of campus activities, if it were to be carried out in a sufficiently convincing manner, everyone in the class -- including the instructor -- would probably dash for the exits and head for the nearest underground shelter, manifesting a variety of emotional and cognitive responses to this suggestion without the necessity of a hypnotic induction!
Contrary to what cognitive-behaviorists sometimes advocate, not all clients are suited for working with thought records themselves. As hypnotists, however, thought records can be of great help to us in helping us to analyze a client's problem in scientific terms, in explaining a situation to a client, and in deciding what suggestions to provide and what autosuggestions to teach the client to use. For this reason, I am including more information in this posting to illustrate how cognitive-behavioral therapy may be utilized in a variety of ways. (I routinely use them both in my clinical psychology practice, sometimes individually and sometimes together.)
This free downloadable ABC Worksheet from www.smartrecovery.org can become your daily companion for taking control of your life in matters large and small. You can use it to make motivational and behavioral adjustments on everything from paying your bills on time, to stopping smoking, or deciding on which career path to follow. (If you don't have the necessary Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can also download it free of charge.)
It first asks you about the causes of something you would like to change in your life, and then asks about the emotional consequences which were the result, your beliefs about what happened, what beliefs could be substituted for the ones which brought about the unpleasant results, and how those changed beliefs make you feel. You can write on the form itself, clearing and changing it as often as you like. Then, when you are finished, you can either print it out or save it as a text file, using a different form for each problem you would like to work on. No induction is needed, and there are no individual differences in suggestibility to take into account, because each suggestion is individually customized to fit the circumstances and thought patterns of the individual to whom it is given.
- Panic Attacks
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety
- Body Dysmorphia
- Obsessions and Compulsions
- Additional downoads for record-keeping are also available.
Robertson, D. J. (2013). The practice of cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy. London: Karnac Books, Ltd.
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