Massed Practice and Self-Hypnosis To Overcome Unwanted Habits or Behaviours

Yes, it’s true, today I am encouraging you to repeat negative behaviours over and over again.

Why oh why Adam?” I hear you cry.

Let me attempt to explain.

Way back in the 1950s and 1960s a large number of studies supported a method used therapeutically called ‘massed practice’ (Yates, 1958; Jones 1960; Rafi 1962; Walton, 1961 and 1964; Lazarus, 1960; Clark, 1966). Massed practice is based upon the idea that repeating at speed a problematic habit (most notably used with tics) builds up an inhibitory ability to control and eventually stop the habit or unwanted behaviour.

The evidence has since become less universally positive and so the idea of repeated practice of an unwanted habit or behaviour is used less in the therapeutic environment on its own these days.

However, in combination with some other interventions, there is still some benefit to be had from it’s use, in particular in combination with aversive therapeutic interventions and operant principles – that is, rewarding a new, better behaviour and sensitising the old, negative behaviour.

With this self-hypnosis process then, you get to watch yourself, dissociated, engaging in massed practice, then associating and imagining you are doing the massed practice, which you are aversively sensitised toward, and then you rehearse a better response.

All that might not have actually explained it all that well and may have left you none the wiser with regards to how this process is going to function, so have a read through of the following steps a couple of times before you then practice the actual process.

6 Steps To Use Negative Practice & Self-Hypnosis To Overcome an Unwanted Habit or Behaviour:

Prior to step one, you need to have an idea in your mind of the unwanted behaviour and the typical situation that it occurs. This can be a habit or any other unwanted behaviour that you wish you’d just stop doing. With that in mind, find a comfortable place where you’ll be undisturbed for the duration of the exercise, with your arms uncrossed and your feet flat on the floor and we begin.

Step One: Induce hypnosis.

You can induce hypnosis in any way you desire or know of. You can use the process in my self-hypnosis book, use the free audio at this website to practice or have a look at the following articles as and when you need them; they are basic processes to help you simply open the door of your mind:

Heavy Arm Self-Hypnosis Induction Method

Using eye fixation for self-hypnosis

The Betty Erickson Self-Hypnosis Method video clip

Hand to face Self-Hypnosis Method

Using Magnetic Hands for Self-Hypnosis 

Once you have induced hypnosis, move on to step two.

Step Two: Imagine that old target situation where the unwanted behaviour typicaly used to happen. Notice the details of the place, the colours, the shades of light, the sounds and just create this place in your mind.

Spend some time doing this, and imagine seeing yourself in this place behaving in a way you usually do. Notice how you position yourself, where you are in the place, how you hold your body, what you are doing, saying and really get the scene vivid, watching yourself in it, drifting deeper into hypnosis all the time.

With this scene vivid in front of you, move on to the next step.

Step Three: Watch yourself doing that old unwanted habit/behaviour over and over, going fast, but not so fast that you can’t see it happening properly.

Just watch it happening over and over again. Repeat it over and over.

As you look on start to think and realise how silly it looks when you do that. Start to become embarrassed at how it is when you do that unwanted behaviour. As it is repeated start to look upon it as ridiculous, start to think that this is something you are almost offended to see and certainly not something you want others to see.

Amplify those thoughts and feelings towards that behaviour as you watch it happening and allow yourself to feel enough discomfort and sensitivity towards this behaviour as you watch it for it to be useful here.

Once you have experienced some notable discomfort, and repeated the scene, watched yourself do this unwanted behaviour at least 5-10 times or more, then move on to the next step.

Step Four: Now step over towards that version of you in your imagination and step into the shoes of that version of you.

See through those eyes, hear through those ears and become that version of you in that scene.

Now start to repeat the unwanted behaviour, repeat the old unwanted negative habit/behaviour that you used to do. Repeat it over and over and as you do generate more of those feelings and thoughts of ridiculousness, start to feel embarrassed to be doing this behaviour, start to feel some objection towards it as you repeat it over and over again.

When you have repeated it again another 5-10 times and you have really generated some unwanted, unpleasant feelings towards the old behaviour and associated those unwanted feelings with the habit, then move on to the next step.

Step Five: Clear your mind, and set the scene once again and this time mentally rehearse doing something else. Mentally rehearse being in control of this situation, responding as you wish, as you prefer and desire.

As you do this, notice waves of great feelings washing over you, like colours, sounds and glorious feelings. Convince yourself without doubt that you are feeling great feelings as you conduct this new response to that situation.

Repeat some encouraging words to yourself inside of your mind and reassure yourself of how great it is to take control and do a great new behaviour.

Become aware of how refreshing and contrasting this great new feeling is when you behave this way now.

Once you have rehearsed that in great detail, then move on to the final step.

Step Six: Exit hypnosis. Thank yourself for investing time and effort in your own well-being, then count yourself up and out of hypnosis, take a couple of nice deep, energising breaths, wiggle your fingers and toes and open your eyes.

Think about going into that situation for real now and go and do that new behaviour. Take that action, do the new behaviour and show yourself what a great new change you have made and believe within yourself that you never choose to have that sensitive feeling by doing that old, unwanted feeling again.

Enjoy that, and have a wonderful day.


Clark, D. F. (1966) Behavior therapy of Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome. British Journal of Psychiatry, 112: p. 771

Jones, H. G. (1960) Continuation of Yates’ treatment of a tiqueur. In Eysenck, H. J (ed) Behavior Therapy and the Neuroses.

Lazarus, A. (1960) Objective psychotherapy in the treatment of dysphemia. South African Logopedic Soc, 6: p.8

Rafi, A. (1962) Learning theory and the treatment of tics. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 6: p. 71

Walton, D. (1961) Experimental psychology and the treatment of a tiqueur. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2: p.148

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