(An earlier version of this posting appeared in HYPNOS, 2004, 33(2), pp. 82-87 under the title, "Multimodal Hypnosis for Improving Self-Confidence and Academic Performance," by Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D. and Annette K. Schreiber, Ph.D. Reprinted by permission.)
Abstract. The experience of hypnosis and subsequently-administered therapeutic suggestions may be more effective when they are constructed in such a manner as to simultaneously involve several different modes of experience. Multimodal hypnosis utilizes suggested changes in Belief systems, Emotions Sensations and physical perceptions, Thoughts and images, motives, and Expectations (the "BEST ME" technique) in the induction, direction, and termination of a hypnotic session. This case study investigates the use of multimodal hypnosis for improving self-confidence and academic performance.
Arnold Lazarus has amassed a considerable amount of empirical evidence in support of his hypothesis that therapeutic change can be brought about more rapidly and more effectively by working simultaneously with several different modes of experience. His multimodal approach to therapy employs behavior, affective responses, sensations, cognitions, interpersonal relationships; drugs, biological functions, nutrition, and exercise. He refers to these categories using the acronym, BASIC ID.
Considering the variety of hypnotic suggestions which may be accepted by sufficiently responsive individuals, Lazarus’ experiential categories may be re-cast into a set of suggestions for multimodal hypnosis, and expressed as follows using the acronym, BEST ME.
Belief systems which orient an individual to person, place, time, and events may be suggested as being different, allowing the participant to mentally transcend present realities.
Emotions may be enriched, intensified, weakened, or combined with others.
Sensations and physical perceptions may be suggested and experienced with an intensity approaching those of real events.
Thoughts and images may be created and guided in response to explicit or indirect suggestions.
Motives may either be suggested directly or implied as a consequence of other events.
Expectations may be structured concerning the manner in which the participant will look forward to and remember suggested events which will occur in the future, and the manner in which suggested experiences will subsequently be recalled and interpreted in memory.
"Best Me" suggestions may be administered in any order, each of the aforementioned categories may be employed as often as necessary. Since the purpose of the Best Me Technique is to insure comprehensiveness, each step in the procedure may also incorporate elements of the others, if desired. In the latter case, the label applied to each step refers to the dimension of experience which is currently being given the greatest emphasis. For example, in the transcript below, the multimodal suggestion, “Believe it will happen, expect it to happen, and feel it happening,” is subsumed under the label, "Expectations."
“Jan” was a 59 year old single white female with a Ph.D. in biology. After a successful academic career, Jan decided to change course and enrolled in a medical technology program. She hoped that her new laboratory skills, along with her doctorate, would help her to begin a new career in a hospital.
Several years ago, Jan had worked extensively with one of the authors (A.K.S.), when she was in another transitional phase in her life. From this previous experience, we knew that she was not only open to hypnosis, but was also highly responsive to suggestion. This time, Jan was seeking help with confidence. She was particularly concerned about her final examination in hematology. Following is a transcript of the multimodal hypnosis session which occurred a few days prior to her examination.
Sensations and physical perceptions. Just imagine that it’s a warm summer afternoon, and that you’re lying on the deck of a small boat which is safely tethered at the edge of a shallow bay, about a hundred feet from shore.
Belief systems. If you accept each detail of the scene as I describe it, without trying to think critically, your imagination will allow you to experience the situation just as if you were really there.
Sensations and physical perceptions. Let your body absorb the peacefulness which is all around you, as the boat rocks you gently back and forth and the sun shines warmly down. Let the warm, golden glow of the sunlight spread throughout your entire body, relaxing you completely from head to toe. Feel the cool breeze upon your skin, and savor the freshness of the fresh, salt air. Listen to the cries of the birds in the distance, and the sound of the water quietly splashing against the side of your boat as it rocks you gently back and forth, and that warm, golden glow of the sunlight relaxes you more and more with each passing moment.
Emotions. As that warm, relaxed feeling grows and grows, it is driving out all of your worry, all of your tension, and all of your cares, leaving you filled with perfect, infinite, boundless peace, calm, and tranquility.
Thoughts and images. It’s so calm, and so peaceful there in the bottom of your boat, that all you want to do is keep drifting, and dreaming, and floating on, and on, and on, into a deep, peaceful state of total relaxation.
As the sun slowly sinks lower and lower on the horizon, you can just let go, and allow your consciousness to sink down into a deep, peaceful hypnotic state. Sinking down, and shutting down. Sinking down, and shutting down. Sinking down, and shutting down, and shutting down completely, as the sun gradually sinks lower and lower on the horizon. As the sun slowly sets, and the sunlight turns to twilight, and the twilight turns to darkness, you can let yourself drift even deeper.
Motives. And the deeper you go, the deeper you want to go. And the deeper you go, the deeper you’re able to go, and the more enjoyable the experience becomes.
Expectations. Now, while you remain deeply hypnotized, I am going to guide you to experience a different situation, which will be of great help to you as you prepare for all of the remaining tests in the course.
You will always be able to hear and to respond to my voice, and I will bring you out of hypnosis in a few minutes. But until I do, every aspect of the situation to which I guide you will be completely real, and you will experience it all just as if you were really there.
Belief systems. Now I’m going to ask you to experience a different scene, in which you are becoming aware of yourself warmly dressed, standing at the top of a large, snow-covered mountain which slopes steeply downward toward the valley below.
Sensations and physical perceptions. Feel the crisp, cold winter air upon your face, and savor its freshness as you inhale. Notice the dazzling whiteness of the snow in the morning sunlight, and feel its soft crunchiness underfoot as your mind absorbs the silence which is all around you, broken only occasionally by the faint stirring of a distant breeze.
Down in the valley below, at the very foot of the mountain, you can see the goal you have been trying to reach. Your journey has brought you as far as this mountaintop; but all along the mountainside, standing between you and your objective, are barriers and obstacles of many kinds, which have been blocking you from the attainment of your goal.
Thoughts and images. Bending down, you pick up a handful of snow and start to examine it. Notice how soft and powdery it feels in your hands. In a way, it is like your resolve has sometimes been ‑‑ soft and powdery, when it ought to have been firm and strong.
See yourself packing the snow together in your hand now, and compressing it into a snowball as you add still more snow, packing it down firmly, as you resolve to make your confidence just as firm and just as hard as the snowball itself. See yourself rolling the snowball along the ground, packing into it every ounce of confidence you possess, until it has grown to the size of a boulder.
Emotions. And as the snowball grows even larger, you can feel your own courage and resolve becoming as hard and as firm as the snowball you are getting ready to roll down the mountainside, all the way down to the deserted valley below. As you push the boulder over a small ledge and start it on its way, you can feel your confidence growing along with it.
Expectations. Believe it will happen, expect it to happen, and feel it happening.
Motives. As the boulder begins to roll downwards on its own, you can feel your confidence growing along with it as it grows in size ‑‑ growing and growing, becoming larger with every foot that it travels, until it has become an avalanche, sweeping away all obstacles in its path, as it thunders all the way to the bottom of the mountain.
Thoughts and images. As you stride purposefully down the mountainside, you feel more and more confidence. And as you complete your descent and approach the valley, you find that the snow has disappeared and the winter has turned into spring. The air has suddenly grown much warmer, and the trees are covered with fresh, green leaves. The birds are singing, the flowers are in full bloom, and a small brook is bubbling quietly as it flows beside your path.
Motives. Just as the climate around you has turned into springtime, your future has turned into springtime as well. You know that your life headed for a certain and inevitable success, in ways which you cannot presently even imagine.
Expectations. And whenever you have a carefully chosen goal that you can deeply believe in, you will be able to act, think, and feel as if it were a reality.
Belief systems. In just a few moments now, you will return to the everyday state of consciousness in which we spend most of our waking lives.
Emotions. Your mind will be clear and alert, and you will be excited about the opportunities to put these experiences to use.
Sensations and physical perceptions. You know how helpful hypnosis has been to you before, in ways you did not realize at the time.
Thoughts and images. And you will also find many new ways to use today’s experiences, in addition to the ways you already know.
Motives. Now, you are ready to resume your life’s journey of achievement, secure in the knowledge that, in whatever form it may take, you are destined for a complete and inevitable success.
Expectations. As soon as you are ready now, you can open your eyes, feeling wonderful. [ after a brief pause:] You can open your eyes now, feeling wonderful!
Jan told us later that she had decided during the hypnotic experience to construct her boulder in a different location than the one which was suggested. Since the snow on a mountaintop is very fine and powdery, she reasoned, she had chosen to imagine herself in the back yard of the house where she had lived as a child, “where the snow was wetter,” and consequently better suited to making a snowball. As she rolled the boulder downhill and into her neighbor’s yard, its weight exposed a stretch of green lawn beneath it. Then, in order to experience the springtime scene, she had visualized herself in a nearby park. She believed that the imagery was effective; but she stated that she had wanted me to repeat the suggestions about feeling, and acting.
Instead of questioning her about it, I (D.E.G.) decided to re-frame her choice in a way which would facilitate her sense of empowerment. I complimented her on her selection of new imagery, and told her that the clients who seemed to benefit the most from hypnotic suggestion were those who felt free to spontaneously modify the suggestions they were given in order to better suit their own needs and preferences.
Then, on a file card, I wrote the following summary: “Believe it will happen, will it to happen, and feel it happening. As you do, you will be able to act, think, and feel as if it were a reality,” which incorporated all six multimodal hypnosis categories. She was then briefly re-hypnotized, and it was suggested that the statements on the file card would serve as posthypnotic suggestions whenever she looked at it; and that as soon as she became sufficiently familiar with their content, she would be able to repeat them to herself as autosuggestions whenever she desired to do so.
Jan reported back that she had studied just one day for her hematology final examination, rather than her usual three, and that she had gone into the examination room with confidence. She earned a score of 95% on her examination, and was elated.
In a telephone follow-up which was conducted some weeks later, Jan expressed some anxiety over an upcoming microbiology exam. A. K. S. added the following to Jan’s multimodal autosuggestions:
Thoughts and images. Everything you read, write, study, and learn will be absorbed into your brain as if it were a sponge.
Sensations and perceptions. When it comes time to take your tests, the information will flow forth from your brain, down your neck, shoulder, arm, hand, fingers, and into your pen and onto the paper.
Thoughts and images. Everything you read, write, study, and learn will be engraved upon your mind as if it were stone.
Expectations. And when you take your exams, you can pluck the information out when you need it.
Jan did indeed become a medical technologist, and no she longer regards any examination as a “life or death” situation. During her one-year course, she reported that she consistently obtained “A” grades on her tests after only a reasonable amount of preparation, and without experiencing any more anxiety than she regarded as “normal.” She indicated that she repeats these suggestions to herself several times a week; and that she continued to experience a noticeable increase in confidence as a result.
By restricting Jan’s use of multimodal autosuggestion to those situations in which she had a carefully-chosen goal that she could deeply believe in, we were attempting to avoid several common pitfalls attendant upon its indiscriminate application. Emboldened by their initial successes, many people who have mastered various techniques involving the use of positive affirmations may be inclined to apply them to more and more areas of their life, without sufficient forethought. As they encounter more and more unforeseen problems, their confidence in these procedures begin to wane, and eventually, it becomes difficult for them to escape the belief that they are merely lying to themselves.
The late Ernest R. Hilgard frequently observed that "a suggestion is an induction." Viewed in such a manner, multimodal hypnosis presents a systematic, comprehensive method for continually modulating the experience of hypnosis for maximum involvement and effectiveness in therapy.
This Blog contains many other examples of hyperempiria, or suggestion-enhanced experience, for the enhancement of human potential, the ennoblement of the human spirit, and the fulfillment of human existence.