Being resilient in the face of adversity, whatever the difficult or unpleasant situation, has both immediate and long-term benefits for mental and physical well-being. We are always inherently free to choose how to respond, no matter what difficult situation we may find ourselves in, yet for some, it may not feel like that. Each time you use your inner strength when faced with a challenging situation, you become more confident that you can do so in future situations. Yet, there needs to be a first time of using that inner strength. Hypnotherapy can help a client develop a more positive mindset, access support and gain personal growth, leading to greater resilience overall. This resilience can support an individual at times of distress and hardship, whether it is an unfortunate event or incident, a catastrophe or disaster, or an ongoing time of trouble or misery.
‘Resilience’ or the ability to cope with and bounce back from adversity is sometimes regarded as a personal trait. Indeed, everyone has their own natural level of resilience, yet this is something that can be developed without even needing to be immersed in difficult times. By strengthening personal coping strategies, you are better able to meet hardship and challenges when they arise, cope well with them, and learn from them. This strengthens resilience even further.
A common request made of hypnotherapists is for help to get over a past difficult or unpleasant situation or to help gain a way of coping with a present or upcoming challenging time. For anyone currently immersed in a challenging situation, then a different hypnotherapy approach may be used initially to address the present distress. However, resilience boosting can reduce the risk of struggling with a traumatic experience or negative event by helping boost overall resilience.
Key areas that you may explore within a hypnotherapy consultation or intake, in order to help you target your resilience building work more accurately, will include:
Ability to set and achieving goals
Extent of feeling that life has meaning
Having and engaging in a supportive social network
Ability to focus, plan and act when faced with adversity
Being able to notice when overwhelmed, and assess the reasons
Having a positive attitude to challenges
Having faith in something outside of the self that can give inner strength
Having a belief in the ability to choose response in crisis or when in a stressful situation
Taking care of self, healthy eating and exercising
Having an ability (and mindset) to adapt to change
Three key areas which you are likely to work with are, the client’s mindset (can do/can’t do), their ability to engage with support (no-one is an island), and their ability to grow, learn and develop positive coping strategies.
Are you a glass half empty, or a glass half full person? Generally, those who are more towards ‘half-empty’ and have a more pessimistic mindset are less resilient than those who are more ‘half-full’ and optimistic. Your mindset influences how you view a challenge. Whilst an optimistic person will focus on what can be done to improve a situation, a more pessimistic person is often more focused on what is wrong in that situation. Also, within the realm of mindset, is the perception of control. By focusing on what can be done, an optimist will feel more in control and this then can lead to positive actions and build on resilience. Rather than ‘this is awful’, it can be more helpful to think ‘what can I change to make it different’. For example, your car might breakdown and you are waiting for recovery. Rather than get stressed about the meeting you will be late for and all the (perceived) negative consequences, you could focus on what you could do. Such as listen to the radio, make notes on your phone, even take some time to think and plan your next holiday and make use of that albeit unexpected ‘pause’ time.
A hypnotherapist faced with a ‘victim’ mindset client is likely to engage in work to develop that client’s emotional responsibility and help them gain the habit of responding to situations in a more positive and resourceful way. This may link in with changing old unhelpful ways of responding (habitual behaviours) as well as developing new, more useful strategies. Habit release techniques and imagery can be helpful and mental rehearsal/future pacing can be utilised to great effect here to explore new positive ways of responding. However, cognitive work is also highly beneficial, helping a client learn how to identify and challenge rigid and limiting beliefs and understand how to develop and engage with more flexible, resourceful ways of thinking.
There are many analogies of a lone wolf being a strong leader, yet wolves are pack animals. Whilst you could build a house on your own, it is often easier and better to do so with others. It can be perceived as a sign of strength to not rely on anyone else, yet that can also be viewed as a weakness. Personal strength is positive, yet being able to ask for and receive support when it is needed is a sign of a healthy ego. Furthermore, being able to relate to and understand someone else’s challenges and offer them support is also healthy. Simply knowing that there are people who would help, and who do care, can be enough to offer strength in times of adversity. By giving or receiving help, there can be a sense of ‘together we are more’, as each person’s strengths come together. Yet to be truly supportive, friendships and other important relationships benefit from being maintained, rather than just called upon in times of need.
For a hypnotherapist helping a client, it can be easy for the client to start to rely on you as their form of support. However, it can be far more beneficial to help the client develop skills and strategies to develop and build strong, supportive relationships and gain the understanding of how to maintain those relationships through good and challenging times. This can be achieved both with a discussion and using a range of behavioural techniques to develop good relationship habits, cognitive techniques addressing any limiting beliefs about their ability to contribute and engage in relationships, and even analytical techniques to gain insight about where they might have struggled before, as well as gaining greater understanding over what contributes to any strong positive relationships they presently have.
It is easy, when something doesn’t go well, to simply not even attempt to do it again. Indeed, few people will say that they find failure a positive experience. Whether it is a reluctance to get it wrong again, a fear of making a fool of ourselves, or even the perceived risk of getting hurt emotionally, it is easier to turn away from the same or a similar challenge, than face it. However, when we choose to use that failure as information, a way of ‘getting feedback’, it can take the emotional power away from it. We then have the potential to make use of that information to find a new way of working with that situation. So much personal growth can be achieved by learning from testing situations, especially where the outcomes are unexpected or ‘off-plan’. Interestingly, when things go really well, this is also an ideal time to consider the feedback information as well. We can learn both from what didn’t go well, and what went really well.
When your client has developed the perspective of deliberately learning from positive and negative outcomes, you can then take it one step further; by having them actively challenging themselves. By engaging in small tasks and activities that do test your coping strategies, you start to grow your resilience, just like a regular workout, though challenging, can boost your physical fitness. You start to understand that you can rely on yourself and your ability to cope. This form of ‘real-world testing’ is a great way of moving awareness of your resilience from thinking (that you might be able to) to doing (and actively coping with it). There is no need to immediately immerse a client with a 10/10 on the ‘challenging’ scale though. Start at a 1/10 and explore the ways of responding as you build self-knowledge and resilience skills. It can also be helpful to step away from the perceived ‘win’ of success and take a more exploratory perspective, so being curious as to what it would be like in that situation, rather than focusing on a specific outcome.
For a hypnotherapist helping a client, both successes and failures can be utilised when working with a client to boost their resilience. This can be done with a discussion, exploring each situation and gaining insight that way, yet it can also be explored within hypnosis. This can be particularly effective when using regression to past positive events and drawing on the learnings from those events to develop an awareness of inner skills and resources. This can then lead into future pacing, using those same resources in anticipated future challenges. These can be explored with a number of different responses and the client helped to discover the optimal way of responding. Furthermore, this approach helps a client ‘practice’ the response, thus taking them from knowing how they could respond to having experienced themselves doing so, thus gaining confidence in their abilities.
We hope that this blog about building resilience with hypnotherapy has been helpful. If you have any questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks