So, Doc, you gonna make me bark like a dog or quack like a duck?”

Kevin handed me the clipboard with his pre-session questionnaire as he sat down in my “client recliner.”

“No, I think we’ll skip that today,” I said smiling. “And please call me Dave. I’m not a doctor.”

I could see he was nervous but was trying to put up a brave front by joking. It was his first visit to a performance hypnotist.

Kevin was a tall, muscular seventeen-year-old, his baseball team’s ace pitcher. He had suffered a shoulder injury in his throwing arm at the end of last season. Even though it had healed physically over the off season, his performance this season had not come back to where he and his coach thought it should be.

His coach had called me and asked if I could help Kevin. “He seems to be holding back, afraid to throw hard. He hasn’t made it past the second inning, maybe thirty pitches, in any game he’s started this year.”

Kevin and I chatted for a while about school, baseball, his social life. I wanted to establish trust and get him to relax. Finally, he couldn’t hold it in any longer.

“Just what is it that you’re gonna do to me?”

“Before I answer that, let me ask you a question. Why do you think your pitching skills aren’t back to where they were before your injury?”

Kevin explained that even after his shoulder had healed, he didn’t feel comfortable or confident on the mound. He didn’t have his usual “stuff,” and he felt he was letting his team and his coach down by not performing as well as he had in the past.

“That’s what I’m going to help you with,” I said. “Your performance issues seem to be more mental than physical.”

“Doesn’t that make me a head case?” he asked with a pained look on his face. Another stereotype. Many athletes think they will be seen as “head cases” if they talk to a performance consultant.

“Not at all. Have you ever been hypnotized?”

“A hypnotist came to our school once, and he had kids doing all kinds of goofy things. I was too embarrassed to go up on stage.”

I explained that what he saw was stage hypnosis used for entertainment. But hypnosis is a very powerful tool and can be used to help people in many different ways such as controlling pain or producing anesthesia (helpful for a visit to the dentist); reducing stress and anxiety; improving sleep and inducing relaxation; developing better focus and concentration; increasing motivation, self-confidence, and self-esteem; even helping to regulate blood pressure and bleeding.

“I could use some of that. But the trance thing makes me nervous. It reminds me of one of those zombie movies I saw as a kid.”

Yet another stereotype. I told him that hypnosis is not mysterious or supernatural and has been used for thousands of years in various forms. It is a natural state that he had probably entered into perhaps hundreds of times.

“Do you ever daydream?” I asked.

“Sure, doesn’t everyone?”

Most people don’t realize that daydreaming is the most common form of hypnosis. They get lost in the image or fantasy and tune out external distractions. Another example is driving somewhere regularly and seeming to be on autopilot, eventually arriving at a destination without conscious awareness of the process of getting there.

“Yeah, I’ve had that happen. So that’s hypnosis, huh?”

“That’s a light level of hypnosis. You probably go in and out of a light hypnotic trance several times a day.”

Hypnosis can be defined as “focused concentration,” a relaxed state during which the filters of the conscious mind are bypassed and suggestions are made directly to the subconscious mind. These suggestions can get rid of negative, destructive, or habitual thought patterns that block the mind-body connection. By adjusting and adapting these filters through suggestion, hypnosis can help us feel better, both mentally and physically.

“That all sounds great, but this trance thing still has me spooked.”

I walked him through some of the most commonly asked questions about hypnosis:

* Will I turn over control of myself to the hypnotist? Actually, you have more awareness and control of yourself during hypnosis, and you may come out of the trance anytime you wish if you feel uncomfortable.

* Can the hypnotist make me do something I don’t want to do? Again, no. You cannot be made to do anything in a trance that you would not do when you are conscious.

* Will I remember anything after I come out of the trance? Normally, you remember everything that happens during a session, unless the hypnotist suggests that you not remember, as in the case of a traumatic memory that surfaces during a session.

* Can I stay “frozen” in a trance? If something should happen during a session and the hypnotist is not able to bring you out of the trance, you would either awaken on your own after a few minutes, or you would fall into a natural sleep and awaken after a short nap.

Finally, Kevin seemed satisfied. “So how is all this gonna help me?”

I explained that I use “performance hypnosis,” which provides the athlete or performer with tools and techniques they can use during practice or competition to control focus, concentration, breathing, and psych, or arousal, level. Your psych level is how excited, or psyched, you are during an activity. A football linebacker needs a higher psych level to reach peak performance during competition than, say, a golfer.

We identified three things that Kevin wanted to accomplish both before and during practice and competition :

* relax his mind and body
* control his psych level
* eliminate distractions and focus on each pitch.

Kevin felt that these things would allow him to regain the self-confidence he had lost.

I worked with Kevin in the office and observed him during practice, giving him reinforcement suggestions when necessary.

I taught Kevin deep breathing exercises, a progressive relaxation technique, and how to use self-hypnosis to aid him in using imagery and visualization. With Kevin in a trance state, I regressed him back to events when he felt successful, confident, and in control. Then I embedded specific suggestions and triggers to bring back these feelings when he needed them. I also embedded specific triggers for relaxation, focus, and controlling his psych level. These triggers could be fired at any time using a combination of specific mental and physical cues. We rehearsed these tools several times in both a trance state and on the practice field with great success.

In his next game as starting pitcher, Kevin pitched the entire game, throwing a total of 128 pitches with no physical problem. He struck out five batters and gave up three runs on four hits. He got his first win of the season.

Kevin continues to use the tools and techniques we worked on not only in baseball, but in other areas of his life. He, his team, and his coach are delighted with his performance.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health”, visit http://selfgrowth.com/healthbook3.html

Author's Bio: 

Dave Oreshack is a certified hypnotherapist, energy therapist, and performance consultant. He serves his clients through MindSet Performance Solutions and can be reached via his Web site at http://www.mindsetperformance.com.