• Rachna Murdeshwar

Hypnotherapy and metaphors for self-esteem and related issues

In today’s world where adults have their own stresses related to career, relationships, finances etc, even children are experiencing their own challenges. In preschoolers, separation from parents can cause anxiety. As children get older, academic and social pressures (especially from trying to fit in), parent’s expectations (to perform academically etc) and peer pressure create stress. Many children are too busy to have time to play creatively or relax after school. Also, complicating factors can be an illness in family, death of a loved one, or a divorce, world news etc. When these are added to the everyday pressures they face, the stress is magnified. Stress may be intensified by more than just what’s happening in their own lives. Children also pick up on their parents’ anxieties and start to worry. Children try to understand and handle the situation successfully, but fail. They start blaming themselves for all the failures - to perform up to parents and teachers’ expectation, for tensions in family, for broken up relations of parents etc and start developing low self-esteem. As these children grow up, they work really hard, but fail. Many people defeat themselves simply by expecting defeat in the first place. They don’t expect success and it actually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But there is huge difference between wanting-to succeed and willing-to succeed. As they try to succeed, there are people and circumstances around every corner that try to tell them “no.” The circumstances they were born with, their dominating parents, their pessimistic friends, addiction, their lack of self-esteem …… all these factors discourage them. One major cause of not succeeding in life is low self-esteem. At least 85 per cent of the world's people suffer from diminished self-esteem in one or more key life areas. Studies show that high self-esteem is the number one ingredient essential for developing happiness, fulfillment, rich relationships and overall success in life. No one is born with low self-esteem. A basic need of every person and especially children is to believe that they are lovable and to know that they are loved. When people have low self-esteem, however, they are unsure of themselves and are likely to question if they are lovable. What is self-esteem? Self-esteem is the collection of beliefs or feelings we have about ourselves, our “self-perceptions.” Self-esteem also can be defined as feelings of capability combined with feelings of being loved. Studies have proved that self-esteem develops in childhood usually sometime between birth and age six and may continue to be cemented up to age eight or 10. Self-esteem fluctuates as kids grow. It’s frequently changed and fine-tuned, because it is affected by a child’s experiences and new perceptions. Self-esteem and ego Many mistakenly confuse high self-esteem with ego. It is important to distinguish between fostering high self-esteem in children, as opposed to creating ego-maniacs obsessed with themselves at the expense of others. High self-esteem means being competent and capable of producing result in every area of life. This includes being effective in relationships and in communication with others with an appreciation for other people. Those who care only about themselves with no concern for others do not, by my definition, possess high self-esteem. How do children develop low self-esteem? Many times, very small incidents (as we perceive as grownups), can be the cause of development of low self esteem. In the life of every child something happens to have the child doubt him or herself. Unlike other psychological traumas that are produced by a specific event, low self-esteem is caused by a series of events undercut by a parent or guardian, who does not recognise the merits of the child but always criticises its ways. For example: • A child who is happy with an achievement but does not feel loved or appreciated. • A child who feels loved but is hesitant about his or her own abilities. • An unkind word from a peer or authority figure, a spanking, an insult, an argument, a bullying or name calling episode. It could occur as a direct result of something the child said or did that provoked an attack on his or her sense of worthiness or ability to fit in. • Child misinterpreting someone's words or actions to mean that the child is flawed, unlovable, or defective in some way. In such a case, no insult or demeaning connotation was intended. • Comparison between siblings in the family. • Another example of this faulty reasoning might be when parents get divorced. Child may make up that if he had behaved in better manner, parents wouldn’t have fought so much and would still be together. The child may make up that he is bad and people leave him because of this. • Misinterpretation by child can be when the parents drop off a child for a few days with a relative as they might need to tend to some business matter or event. The child makes up that his parents don’t love him and want to get rid of him. There are hundreds of episodes for a child to misinterpret life in a way that tarnishes their self-image over the long term. They then keep looking for evidence to “prove” to themselves that their initial fear was correct. Over the course of years and decades, they gather hundreds or thousands of pieces of evidence that they are imperfect, unlovable, and not worthy of all the good things life has to offer. Effects of low self-esteem Low self-esteem, ultimately change the child’s perception of himself and the world. Low self-esteem sufferers either: 1) try harder to please in order to win the love and attention of the significant other; 2) become angry and depressed when they feel that they are not getting what they need and deserve from any significant person in their life; 3) feel they deserve of this treatment and conclude that they are indeed, unlovable and start self-sabotage. Some of the effects of low self esteem are: Insecure feeling, anger, procrastination, worrying, frustration, bullying, being manipulative, depression, fear, hypersensitivity, defensive, eating disorder, hypervigilant, sarcastic, poor communication, poor relationship and social behaviour, promiscuous, self-sabotaging, victim mentality, giving up too easily etc. Many other situations including abuse, addictions, and school drop outs, criminal activities and even suicide are also strongly linked to NOT having sufficient self-esteem! The negative emotions that come with low self-esteem also weaken the body immune system and can manifest in psychosomatic ailments. Over the years the person produces a kind of inner voice that criticises him and always keeps his self-image at a very low level. Low self-esteem is a serious disorder that affects millions of people--both men and women--destroying their relationships, paralysing them with fear, and creating lives that will never reach their full potential, leaving them off balance, needy, and unfulfilled. Hypnotherapy and metaphors to enhance self-esteem Hypnosis and hypnotherapy Hypnosis is a normal, naturally occurring, healthy state of mind. It is state of physical relaxation accompanied and induced by mental concentration. During hypnotic state, person is awake but eyes are closed. Only the conscious mind i.e. reasoning, evaluation and judgemental skills are reduced (not completely switched off) which makes them more receptive to suggestions and commands. Hypnotherapy is form of therapy where trance is induced along individualised techniques of counselling to bring changes in perception and memory. To help person reach the stage of trance, therapist uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and attention focusing techniques. The person’s attention is so focused while in this state that anything going on around the person is temporarily blocked out or ignored. Within the sessions of hypnotherapy, one may discover hidden memories, latent creativity, new insights, and feelings of competence, release of fears or release of repressed emotions. The facts about hypnosis are that in this state a person is actually in a very relaxed state and therefore more in control. A hypnotherapist CANNOT make him do anything against his will or morals, ethics and beliefs. Person hears and remembers everything. Most people wake up feeling more refreshed and energised. Hypnosis is a natural state of mind and has been established as safe. It has been accepted as a therapeutic technique by various medical bodies across the world. Children and hypnotherapy Children respond more to hypnosis than adults and are actually easier to hypnotise then adults. Although children may at times manifest marked anxiety and resistance to hypnotic induction, this occurs less frequently than in adults and is usually overcome more easily. It is because children are usually more focused, entirely absorbed in what they are doing, learning with all their senses at once. Most children have a love of magic and fantasy and easily intertwine fantasy and reality. Moreover, the tendency towards concrete, literal thinking facilitates acceptance of appropriately worded hypnotic suggestions. On emotional level, children can often move from one intense feeling-state to another with only minimal assistance and are generally open to new experience and eager to explore, unless they have significant anxiety around these issues. Children usually do not have the intense conflicts around issues of control and submission that interfere with many adults’ ability to utilise hypnosis. Children naturally strive toward mastery of their own bodies and autonomy to the environment. They are likely to be intrigued with the idea of hypnosis if it is presented as an opportunity for them to learn a new skill. Knowledge of developmental levels in childhood is actively used to formulate and utilise the hypnotic interventions at their most effective and constructive level and to provide maximum therapeutic benefit to the patient. Hypnotherapy for children is therefore specifically suited for the developmental needs of children, and is an alternative to the ‘child as a smaller adult’ way of thinking. Hypnotherapy for enhancing self-esteem Hypnotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for low self-esteem and low confidence. Hypnosis is used to achieve three major targets: Induction and relaxation Clinical hypnosis usually starts by introducing relaxation. For children, there are various methods for deep relaxation and induction. Method and route is selected after having talk with children. To choose the method for relaxation and induction, various things need to be kept in mind e.g. age of child, his likes, what interests him, what type of books he reads, what television programs he prefers, what are his favourite activities or sports, what is exciting for him, what type of thing and places give him pleasure etc. Once the therapist is making child imagine about his favourite things, it is very easy for a child to relax. Ego-strengthening Generally this is the first treatment every client receives - whether an adult or a child. Almost every condition benefits from initial work on building confidence. Sense of self-belief in our abilities influences how we think, feel, motivate ourselves and behave. Suggestions are being made when the child is in a trance/hypnotic state. Extended initial suggestions are given for using one’s imagination; intended to enhance the subject’s responsiveness to the suggestions to follow. And then powerful and direct suggestions for feeling more confident, more in control and more effective in their lives are placed through metaphors i.e. using their favourite cartoon character or film star or animal or toy etc. This information is gathered from child before starting the therapy process. In addition child learns how to remember and focus on previous experiences of success and confidence while learning how to view experiences of failure or low confidence as learning situations. In hypnosis they rehearse situations where they want to feel more confident and through this experience of mental rehearsal in hypnosis they develop a sense of self-mastery that influences performance in real life situations. Release of unwanted memories related trauma and anger The aim of hypnoanalysis and subsequent therapy is not to ‘'control’ or ‘manage’ the problem, the aim is to resolve the underlying subconscious emotional cause of the problem completely and results are very rewarding, liberating and permanent. It is a uniquely successful therapy which allows the client to resolve the very root cause of their problem, helping them to change their lives significantly in a short space of time. Analytical therapy is used to discover the cause of the problems to allow an emotional release. In therapy, in every session we empty out a little of what is contained in the emotional bag and at the end of therapy the major emotional experiences are gone out of our system along with whatever difficulty/symptom they were creating in us. The emotion once released will take with it the symptoms it’s causing, including the feeling of low self-confidence or low self-esteem. At the end of every session, post-hypnotic suggestions are placed to practice self-hypnosis to clear the thoughts and release any negative ideas on every day basis. Hypnotherapy is a method whose intrinsic qualities and values make it possible to tailor interventions according to both the developmental and individual needs of the child. It is fun for children as they can do whatever they want using their imagination. They can simply change their world; make it more loving and peaceful. Because of its flexibility, hypnotherapy can be used as an adjunct to other therapies. The results are faster, permanent and without any side effects.

CitationMurdeshwar R. Hypnotherapy and metaphors for self-esteem and related issues. In: Das S, editor. Souvenir-cum-Scientific Update for the 22nd Annual Conference of Indian Psychiatric Society, Assam State Branch. Guwahati: ABSCON; 2012. p. 44-7. Available from:

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