Determining the best times to practice self-hypnosis

Have you ever considered self-hypnosis?  As a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, I advise my clients there are situations where self-hypnosis can work wonders!  It all depends on the emotional situation.  It’s important they know when to use it, when not to use it, and why.  Hopefully, this story will help you decide when, and when not, to self-hypnotize.

My first foray into self hypnosis was back in 1978, and it was a complete disaster.  

I was seventeen.  My then-boyfriend and I had been to see the Pat Collins’ show up in Hollywood.  Pat was famous back then as “Pat Collins, The Hip Hypnotist.”  Her shows were sell-outs, every time.  I was mesmerized.  I was hooked!  This was fascinating!  As an audience member, I had been astounded that I was so easily hypnotized.  “I wonder if I could hypnotize myself just the way Pat Collins did?” I pondered.  Wow, I bet I could hypnotize myself to love running!  I wanted to like it.  I wanted to love it.  I wanted to be normal!

Previously, my daily runs played out in my head something like this (decidedly NOT normal):

“I hate running!  Why can’t I go past a mile?  This sucks!”  I would tell myself, gasping for air.     

“There must be something wrong with me,” my inner voice would continue.  “Other people get used to running.  Why can’t I? I’ve been at this for months.  I’m so weak and nauseous.  My legs hurt.  My stomach hurts.  My neck hurts. I think I’m going to die.   Please, God, let me die right now!  I’m slow.  What if somebody I know sees me… I can’t even shuffle one foot in front of the other.  This is so boring!  Do I look fat from the side?  This bra hurts.  What am I doing wrong?  When will it feel better?  Where are the so-called endorphins everybody talks about?  I’m fat!  I should be able to do this.  Maybe I have exercised-induced asthma.  There must be something really wrong with me.  Maybe I have MS or MD.  Lymphoma?  That would explain this weakness.   I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!” 

Back in 1978, running had taken over as the exercise of salvation throughout Southern California.  James Fixx (who later fell dead of a heart attack while running) had just written a book about this new fitness craze.  Running was what everybody was doing.   It was the in-thing.  Even my once out-of-shape, gray-haired mother was running 10K’s.  She would run them with my little brother Jonny, who was only about seven years old at the time.  Jonny loved running.  Mom loved running.  The whole world loved running but me!

“That was great!” Mom and Jonny would pant, as they returned from their latest beach run, sweaty and elated, tanned and toned, claiming they’d experienced massive rushes of endorphins.  “You should join us, Janna… you’d really like it.  It’s such a beautiful day!  We ran clear to the beach, we saw some dolphins!  You should come with us… we could all have so much fun!”  

“But I hate running! I can’t do it!” I cried.

Shame bubbled up as I remembered the voice of my seventh grade English teacher, Miss LaValle.  “We do not hate!  Hate is not a good word!  We may dislike intensely, but we never hate!”  Sorry, Miss LaValle.  I don’t dislike running intensely.  I freaking HATE it!

That’s when the idea hit.  I’d use hypnosis!  I’d be just like Pat Collins!  Obviously, it was my mindset, that was the problem.  I needed to hypnotize myself to love running!  Then I could be skinny and normal, part of the in-crowd!  

I charged straight over to the spare bedroom.  I tried to remember what Pat Collins had done to put us all into the hypnotic state.  Oddly enough, as I repeated her induction suggestions to myself, I found I went easily, fully and deeply into hypnosis.  I was kind of surprised.

  “I’m doing it!”  I thought.  I was excited.  Naturally, I started to visualize and imagine myself running.  I imagined the pain, the agony.  I told myself to stop feeling bad RIGHT NOW, I was to enjoy running.  I told myself I wouldn’t feel nauseated anymore.  I told myself I wouldn’t feel so terrible.  I told myself I wouldn’t be such a fat pig.  I told myself I could make it up that horrible, steep hill.  Problem was, I was imagining the exact opposite of positive imagery and emotions.  I was imagining my usual horror, and trying to make it go away.

I didn’t know any better.  I wasn’t a hypnotherapist back then, just a simple teenage girl.  So what I did, quite by accident, was focus on what I DIDN’T want.  The subconscious can’t understand “not nauseated.”  It has no language.  It simply internalized the physical feeling of “nauseated.”  The deeper mind can’t interpret the word “NOT.”  “NOT a fat pig” simply means “fat pig” to the subconscious mind.  As I imagined myself running, I couldn’t help but pull in my own personal negative experience of running. Negativity had been my only known association to running.   So what happened?  I went for a run later, and I felt even worse.  I had inadvertently hypnotized myself to feel worse!

Don’t get me wrong, self-hypnosis can be a great tool when used properly.  However, when attempting to feel better when you feel bad, self-hypnosis can backfire on you, like it did with me.  The following is a partial list of times NEVER, EVER to use self-hypnosis.


1.  When you’re depressed.  You’ll pull that depression deeper into the subconscious mind.

2.  When you’re in pain.  You’ll pull that pain in even deeper.  You can’t focus on a negative in order to turn it into a positive (even though three lefts do make a right).  

3.  Never use self-hypnosis if somebody just broke up with you.  

4.  When somebody you love died.

5.  Anytime there’s a negative emotion or negative situation that you want to eliminate.

In all of the above cases, hetero-hypnosis, not self-hypnosis works far better.  Hetero-hypnosis means you get the help of a Certified Hypnotherapist, who can change your state of mind to the positive.

A good analogy is this:  Imagine a patient ready for open-heart surgery.  The highly trained surgical team shaves and carefully disinfects the chest area.  The operating room is clean, controlled and well-lit.  The surgeons and nurses are scrubbed, with hair nets on their heads, sterile clothing, gloves and cute little blue booties over their shoes.  The instruments have been carefully sanitized.  Why?  Because when the human body is open, it is vulnerable.  Nobody wants to contaminate the open heart with germs, loose hairs, dandruff, bad breath or sneeze juice (which is why they wear masks).

Hypnosis creates access to your subconscious mind, which is no different than the surgeon preparing for surgery.  No negative emotions or suggestions should be introduced to the open subconscious mind.  Only positive suggestions AND EMOTIONS should be present.  If you see a hypnotherapist because you are in emotional or physical pain, he or she will help you create a positive feeling in-state BEFORE that positive feeling is anchored deeper.  When changing a negative emotion to a positive one, you need the help of a trained professional.  Otherwise, you’re pulling in your negative mood.  You’d never allow a dirty surgeon to touch your open heart; therefore you mustn’t bring bad feelings to your open mind.  There are times, however, when self-hypnosis can be quite effective:


1.  When you are feeling very confident.  You can anchor that confidence deeper in self-hypnosis;

2.  When you are at peace and relaxed, for the same reason;

3.  When you have been given self-hypnosis homework by a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist.  In that case, there has been a post-suggestion and/or blocks placed to keep you away from the negative path;

4.  Anytime you want to reinforce a pre-existing positive feeling, like winning a race (provided you’ve won a race and felt great while doing it).  If you focus on the positive, more positive will come.

As I write this, I am not seventeen anymore.  At fifty-five, I am in far better shape than I was at seventeen.  But the best part is I love physical activity.  Don’t get me wrong, that old negative mind-set emerged occasionally from time to time, but with the help of my mentor, I have overcome self-consciousness and negativity when it comes to physical exercise.  I have taught yoga and competed in open-water ocean swims.  I have made peace with my body and I enjoy life now more than I ever did.  As Snoopy used to say, “Youth is wasted on the young!”

To learn more about how hypnotherapy can help you, please don’t hesitate to call or schedule an appointment.

Hypnotically yours,


Janna Colaco, C.Ht., is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Master Therapeutic Imagery Facilitator in private practice in Downtown Fullerton.  She is also a Licensed NLP Practitioner, Reiki Master, Ordained Healing Minister, and Yoga Teacher.  An honors graduate of the Hypnosis Motivation Institute, Janna has received numerous awards for achievement in transformational hypnotherapy, and has coached both individuals and groups in motivational transformation since 1986.