Yesterday I wrote about some scientifically validated ways to improve and increase your empathy. The key point I hoped anyone reading would take away, is that empathy is not simply innate, rather it can be developed and skillfully increased. You can read yesterday’s blog entry here; 8 Scientific Ways to Improve and Increase Empathy.
Anyway, as tends to very much be the case here, self-hypnosis can be used to advance the development of this skill set further. Self-hypnosis helps to amplify and magnify our ability to advance emotional and psychological skills and this is no different. With this self-hypnosis process, you get to mentally rehearse and amplify many of the scientific components that we identified yesterday, and increase the likelihood of applying the learned empathy skills in real-lee scenarios. Simply follow these steps:
Step One: Induce Hypnosis:
You can do so by any means you desire or know of. You can use the process in my Science of self-hypnosis book, use the free audio we give away on 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 Chiasson Self-Hypnosis Method
Hand to Face Self-Hypnosis Induction
Using Magnetic Hands for Self-Hypnosis
The Coin Drop Self-Hypnosis Induction
Once you have induced hypnosis, move on to step two.
Step Two: Deepen Mindfully:
Being mindful will assist everything else you do in this session, so begin by being aware of your entire body as one… From the top of your head, all the way down into your fingers and finger tips… and down into the tips of your toes. Be aware of your entire body as one… Just be aware of it and watch it. As you develop a sense of mindfulness throughout this step, let it take you deeper into hypnosis and become more absorbed in the session.
Don’t try to change anything; don’t try to stop anything from changing. Sometimes things change all by themselves when you watch them, that’s ok… Embrace what is happening within you instead of fighting or resisting it…
Be passive, a detached observer, just be contented to notice what you notice, feel what you feel… Once you really feel tuned in and aware of your body. Notice the sensations of your breathing… notice your tummy… rise as you inhale… and fall as you exhale… Notice your chest expand… and relax…
Notice even the faintest of sensations… even the tiniest feelings caused by the breath anywhere and everywhere in the body.
Don’t try to change the breathing… don’t try to stop it from changing… just be a passive observer… let the body do the breathing… Observe it, as if you were watching a bird on a tree breathing, or as if you were watching someone else breathing or as if you were watching a well-maintained machine. Turn your attention to the sensations in your arms, legs, chest, tummy, head and everywhere else… One by one.
As you focus on each area, let your awareness spread over the surface of your skin… deep into the muscles… and even into the bones and joints… Let the breath guide your awareness… deeper and deeper into the body… let your mind be more patiently absorbed in even the smallest feelings…
Now turn your attention even deeper… toward your mind… to consciousness itself… Turn your attention to your thinking…
Become more aware of your thoughts… of anything you say to yourself, in your mind… Notice the imagery that is there and the speed at which it is all moving… Become mindful even of unspoken thoughts at the back of your mind… Notice deliberate thoughts, or one’s that just happen to cross your mind… Don’t judge them… just accept the fact that they are happening, and allow yourself to become a detached observer of your own stream of consciousness…
Notice in particular, how you respond to your thoughts, as they occur, moment by moment… how you feel about them as they happen… Just watch them happening, then with a sense of going deeper into hypnosis and being mindful of your entire self in this moment, move on to the next step.
Step Three: Increase Self-Awareness During Interaction:
Imagine being in a scenario whereby you’d like to be more empathetic. Perhaps a typical situation whereby you are engaging in a conversation with another person in your personal or professional life.
See the sights, hear the sounds and feel the feelings of being in that scenario with another person, and be absolutely present. Keep mindful, breathe comfortably, and give full attention to the person sharing his or her experience with you. Give them the gift of your full presence.
Bring awareness to how what they are saying is making you feel, think and behave – how are you responding? Pay attention to your breath and bodily sensations. Notice if the breath is flowing easily or if there are places in your body where there may be tightness. As you soften all that is rigid within you, notice the emotions surfacing within you, the thoughts that are entering your awareness (and those at the back of your mind) what is the mood of your feelings, thoughts and subsequent behaviours?
Just be aware of your own responses, feelings, thoughts and behaviours in this moment when you engage the other person. When you have that sense of awareness, move on to the next step.
Step Four: Develop Empathetic Mindset; Be Wise and Non-Judgmental:
Become the sage. Act as if you have a profound wisdom, tap into the wisdom you have acquired throughout your life experience; think wisely, communicate wisely, behave wisely – be wise.
As much as you can, adopt the role of someone who is wise and cultivate an ability to find the right words to express how you feel at the time and communicate with this other person in a way that is kind and well-intentioned.
As you continue to be wise, also validate the other person’s perspective and make it your aim to truly understand the person you are with. Get a sense of the reasons for them being who and how they are in this moment. Acknowledge who and how they are, you do not have to agree with them, just recognise what they have communicated. You can accept that people have different opinions from your own, and that they may have good reason to hold those opinions.
Practice being non-judgmental. Do not judge that person at all. Accept where they are at, and even if you disagree, do not judge. Accept and offer up your own honest stance without judgement, but with a sense of wanting what is best for them, have a good intent underpinning your communication.
Apply the right mindset – want what is best for this person regardless of how they may make you feel, think about how you can serve them. Remember that faux empathy will be detected, your empathy needs to come from a genuine place whereby you wish for both you and the other person to come out of the interaction well.
Once you have adopted the stance of the wise person, applied non-judgment, and achieved the right mindset, then move on to the next step.
Step Five: Consciously Apply Empathy:
Adopt the role of being empathetic. Act as if you are empathetic and it will start to happen more readily. Express empathy in intention and action.
Seek the reasons that they are who and how they are, listen to them deeply and actively. That is, listen to their words, the way they speak them, and listen deeply so that you are not considering your own next words, instead you listen profoundly to what they are communicating.
Continue to listen without judgement. Listen deeply, with presence and focus. When you really feel that you are being empathetic, then move on to the next step.
Step Six: Relax and Reflect:
The aim here is to spread relaxation into various parts of your body so that you can then reflect with accuracy and free from any emotion created within the earlier steps. Use any relaxation process you know, here are some ideas of how to do this:
a) Use your internal dialogue and simply tell yourself that each part of your body is relaxing. For example “my toes are relaxing deeper… and now my ankles… moving into my lower legs…” and so on.
b) As you work your way through your body, you may like to use a colour or light or imagined warming sensation and spread that through the muscles and imagine the colour (ideally one you associate with relaxing) spreading through the muscles as you reach each part of your body.
c) Additional cognitions. Richard Bandler uses the word “soften” as he relaxes parts of the body. He focuses on each muscle and then says “soften” as he works through, you might like to do the same.
d) You may imagine a relaxing sound moving through your body.
e) You may imagine the muscles limp, loose, dormant; maybe like a loose rubber band, or a rag doll, or whatever else you can imagine to indicate the relaxation spreading. i learned a great technique from Terrence Watts who suggested imagining the body as a candle and as the candle softened and got warm and liquid-like, so the muscles of the body got warm and softened and so on.
Ideally, use a combination of these elements.
Once relaxed, reflect upon the benefits to you and your life of advancing your empathy. Start to consider all the positive ramifications to you that this has. When you are out there, engaging in activities, communicating with people that have an impact on your life, start to recognise how enjoyable it is to have an advanced empathy.
Reflect and feel good about what you are doing, then move on to the final step.
Step Seven: Exit Hypnosis.
If you use my own protocol as shown in my science of self-hypnosis book, count yourself up and out from one through to five. Otherwise, open your eyes, wiggle your toes and get oriented to the place you are in.
Practice this process in regular self-hypnosis sessions, then start to apply the skills and ultimately notice the difference in the way people react and respond to you and how much more enjoyable communication is when you express a deep-rooted sense of empathy.