Philip Holder, PhD.

Copyright Philip Holder, PhD. 2001


Today we live in a society that provides more “stressors” than perhaps at any time in history. This is especially true here in the USA with the recent terrorist attacks and related safety concerns. Absent of effective coping skills for dealing with stress both our peace of mind, as well as our physical health, can be negatively impacted. We know that stress can reduce the effectiveness of our immune system. That being true, it stands to reason that good coping skills for dealing with stress can enhance our immune systems. There are a couple of important issues that should be addressed when helping clients or patients to better manage stress. First, it is a fact that there will always be stressors around us.  The issue therefore isn’t about getting rid of the stressors because it is impossible to eliminate all stressors from our world. More significantly, the issue is how best “NOT to internalize them”.

Here are a couple of simple yet effective techniques that you might want to try with your clients or patients. I sometime have the person imagine a balloon in there hand. Then I have them take 10 deep breaths and as they exhale blow all stress tension and irritation into the balloon. When all of the stress is in the balloon, I have them release the balloon and watch it drift away. As it drifts away, I suggest that the farther it drifts the better they feel and the happier they are. Then I have the balloon disappear into the distance and with that all stress, tension, and irritation, disappears too. Then I suggest that any time they feel stress, tension or irritation attempting to return, they will instantly recognize that feeling and they will simply take a deep breath in, close their eyes, and with one big breath they will blow all negativity into the balloon. I suggest that they will then release the balloon and that very quickly (just a few seconds) it will drift away and disappear. As the balloon disappears, all stress will disappear with it. They can then open their eyes feeling peaceful, calm, relaxed, and in control.

Another method I use is to have them construct a magic bubble around them. I tell them that this magical bubble has fascinating properties. This bubble will repel all negativity while at the same time allowing anything positive (love, humor, etc.) to filter through easily. I then provide them with a trigger to bring back and/or strengthen this protective bubble whenever they feel the need to.

A very important area that I find many therapists sometime are not addressing is the subject of “Expectation”. A significant percentage of stress related problems are the result of a person’s expectations of both themselves and of others. Often these expectations are unrealistic. When a person harbors these expectations, and the expectations are not fulfilled, internal emotional and mental stress may often result. I have a personal life philosophy that “I don’t expect anything from anybody”. By expecting nothing, everything I receive is a gift and I am never disappointed. I’m not saying that we should not strive to do better in our lives by setting goals and by being diligent in achieving those goals. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t set standards for our children as well as for ourselves. I am simply saying that the goals we set for ourselves must be realistic. As well, we must help our clients and patients understand that they have no control over others and therefore cannot expect others to live up to their image of how, what, and who, the other person should be. We are not in this world to live up to the expectations of others nor are others in this world to live up to our expectations. Unfortunately, we (as a species) do expect others to behave and to think as we do.

As hypnotherapists we know that what the mind perceives as real, is real to that individual within the context of that person’s perception of the world. Because each person perceives the world differently, expectation of others is often a setup for stress related problems and disappointments… especially when we expect others to fulfill our expectation of how they should think and act.

In order to help clients or patients to cope with stress it is often productive to work with them on the issue of expectation. For example you might have a client or patient say… “When my mother does X, Y, or Z, it makes me feel angry and stresses me out. The fact is, this person’s expectation of his or her mother may be unrealistic in relationship to what the mother is capable of providing. The answer is not in changing the mother’s actions or behavior (since neither the client nor you have any control over the mother) but rather in awakening the client or patient to the idea that their expectation of the other person is what needs to be reframed.

One method that I use in addressing expectation is that the client or patient needs to take back “The remote control of their life” from others. I instill as both waking hypnotic suggestion in the pre-talk, and as post hypnotic suggestion, the idea that no one can push their buttons unless they willingly give the remote control of their life over to another person. Expectation is one of the ways through which we give that control away. I have them imagine the remote control in their possession, and suggest that any time they feel that they are giving up that control, they will immediately take the remote control back. Sometimes I will actually give them an object that will act as their remote (The object can be virtually anything, even something as simple as a small stone or an eraser.). They can easily carry the object with them thereby creating a trigger mechanism to reinforce my suggestions to them. In addition, you can suggest erasing expectation. If they are visual, simply have them imagine the word “expectation” on the blackboard of their mind and then have them erase the word. By accepting that expectation leads to stress, and by erasing that expectation, you can help the client or patient to significantly reduce their levels of stress.

To some extent we all want the world to fit our individual standards. It is human nature to think that other drivers go too fast, or too slow, when obviously we are great drivers. It is human nature to think that others should share our brilliant views on child rearing, politics, and society. The fact is that others often do not share our views and to expect that is unrealistic. When we rid our clients or patients of expectation regarding others, and help them to take back “The Remote Control of Their Lives”, we give them a powerful tool in the battle over stress.

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