Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Mantras We Use

I am now three months into hypnotherapy school. I haven’t written much about it because I have wanted to process and learn what I’m talking about before I talk about it. I feel like I am there—at least on the topic I would like to write about today. But first, because there are still many myths and misconceptions about hypnosis (perpetuated mostly by stage hypnotists and old-school psychology texts) I will first explain what hypnosis is:

Hypnosis is a hyper-suggestible state that allows one (a hypnotherapist, lets say) to access the subconscious mind and reprogram subconscious programming that is no longer working for you (i.e. fears, phobias, bad habits, addictions, low-self esteem, etc.)

I don’t think we realize how much of our behavior is subconscious (or unconscious--I am using the terms interchangeably), and by that I mean we don’t consciously process it. Some people estimate that 90-95% of our behavior is unconscious. I know what you are thinking. No way. But I will give you a simple example. Humor me and fold your arms across your chest.

Now notice which arm is on top. Now switch them. Did you feel the hesitation? You had to consciously think about doing it the other way. Now, if I told you that you had to do it the other way from now on—that everything depended on it—how long do you think you could do it, using will power, and logic alone? Maybe half a day? Ever tried not crossing your legs all day? It’s extremely difficult to change unconscious behavior with will power alone.

Now let's use a more pertinent example as it relates to fear. Let’s say I had a bad experience with a dog as a child and my subconscious mind, in an effort to protect me (because that is what the mind does) programmed in a fear of dogs. By contrast, my neighbor shared her young life with a furry pal has positive subconscious associations with dogs. Now let’s say that my neighbor and I are both hanging out and a dog walks into the room. What happens? She walks up to the dog smiling with her hand out, while I slowly side step out of the room. Neither of us processed this behavior consciously. We just did it. It was unconscious.

That’s why hypnotherapy is such an effective tool for helping people with behavioral changes, because it works on a subconscious level.

But the state of hypnosis or hyper-suggestibility is not something that only your hypnotherapist can induce. Hypnosis is caused by an overload of message units to the brain, or basically—stress. This overload triggers the fight-flight mechanism and if you can’t fight, you escape into a disassociated or hypnotic state. Because we live in a pretty overloading world, most people are in a state of hypnosis several times throughout the day and some are “in state” all day for days or weeks at time. Some are in state for years.

Hypnosis happens while driving, just before sleeping, between snooze buttons, while watching a movie, and any time you feel like you are a little spaced out or when time suddenly warps. Love is a hyper-suggestible state. So is that feeling of being in “the zone” when playing sports. In all these hyper-suggestible states the mind’s filter is open and messages can easily enter the subconscious mind and effect your programming. The question is, what kind of messages are getting in? In a clinical setting, with a hypnotherapist, the suggestions are positive and targeted toward your presenting issue. But if you are just out there in the world in a hyper-suggestible state, the suggestions you are likely absorbing or giving yourself are often negative. If you are playing sports and have lots of happy endorphins flooding your body, the messages going in are more likely to reinforce happiness and strength and the ability to handle obstacles. That’s why exercise is so good for the mind as well as the body.

Now that you know about suggestibility and how certain situations can make you more suggestible, you should understand why the mantras we use are so important.

The origin, or ancient definition of mantra is literally: mind vibration, or mind tool. Mantras are literally a tool we can use to train our mind. For meditation purposes, mantras are usually a sacred utterance. While mantra mediation is extremely powerful, (because it also works on the subconscious level), I am not going to talk about mediation in this post. It deserves many separate posts. For now, I am just talking about self-talk, and the term mantra can apply to any phrase we repeat over and over.

We all have mantras whether we know it or not. Here are some that I hear from pregnant women and new mothers all the time, that I would like to invite you to stop using.
-I have a hard baby.
-I’m terrified of labor.
-I can’t handle pain.
-I don’t want to end up with a c-section.
-I don’t have enough milk.
-My baby doesn’t sleep.
The mind is very powerful. If you suggest these things to your mind (or to your baby's), they can become realities. Even if you really want to have a peaceful, vaginal birth, but you frame it in negative terms, such as "I don't want a c-section," your mind has to think of the negative first, so unconsciously, you are programming in the opposite of what you want. Here is an example: Don’t think of a blue tree.

You thought of a blue tree for a half second, didn’t you? I know you did. Because in order not to think about something, the mind first has to imagine it to then not think about it.

I was thinking about some really cool mantras we have in our religious culture. Particularly, I kept hearing the young women theme in my head. I haven’t recited it in years, but it came back easily.

“We are daughters of our Heavenly Father
who loves us and we love him.
We will stand as witnesses of God
in all times, in all things and in all places
as we strive to live the young women values, which are:
Divine nature,
Individual worth,
Choice and accountability,
Good works
and Integrity....”
What a great mantra.

Here’s another one I use:
“If there is anything virtuous, lovely,
of good report or praiseworthy,
[I] seek after these things.” (Articles of Faith 1:13)

Call them affirmations, call them whatever you will--but make sure they are positive, especially when you know you are more likely hyper-suggestible.

Don't worry about the idea of “vain repetitions.” As long as something is mindfully repeated, it is not vain repetition. In fact, repetition is one of the first laws of learning. For example, the temple ceremony is the same every time, but we are encouraged to go often. Also, within the ceremony, there is much repetition. That’s because God knows that repetition helps us learn—because he made us. (That's also one reason we have church every week and not once a year.)

For the most part, I like to keep my mantras short, so they fit in one breath. Here are some examples.
-Love as Christ Loved
-Be Still (and know that I am God) Psalms 46:10
-Power, love and a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7)
-Happy, Healthy, Holy
-Peace, stability, freedom

Suggestability and Children

When you are dealing with children, you should know that they are suggestible to everything. Their critical mind--the filter that protects the subconscious--doesn't form until about 8 years old. So everything that a child hears and experiences goes directly into their subconscious and becomes part of their programming. This starts at conception.

If you are pregnant, you are likely talking out loud or internal to your baby all day anyway. But in case you were wondering, they can hear you--and they believe everything you tell them.

Here is a great mantra we use in yoga to prepare both mom and baby for birth:
Head Down,
Chin tucked,
Back to Belly,
Hands on Heart.

On the right day,
at the right time,
my baby will come down
easily and out
of my wide open cervix.
Now that my daughter is three, I taught her a fun mantra that she can do on her own anywhere. it has arm movements that go with it. The words are:
I am happy. I am good.
I am happy. I am good.
Sat-a Nam, Sat-a Nam, Sat-a Nam, Ji.
Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, Ji.
(Sat Nam means: I am truth, truth is my identity. Wahe means literally “wow” or “praise” and Guru means: “that which brings light to the darkness.” Ji is a term of endearment.)

It is a fun mantra to chant, and it is totally impossible not to be happy while doing it. It is a good one for self esteem and protection against negativity.

[On a side note, I have witnessed that every now and then, when she’s in a mood, my daughter will change the words and start to sing, “I am mad. I am mad.” The first time I saw this I was sort of challenged by it, but then I realized that she is just doing aloud what all of us do privately. So when she’s chanting a different mantra, I make sure to tell her that all feelings are okay, and we let ourselves feel them. But once they have served their purpose, we let them pass. If they stay too long, we use the mantra to clear them away.]

Here are a few more short mantras for pregnancy and birth and beyond:
-I look forward to birthing with joy and ecstasy.
-Thank you body. Thank you baby. I love you baby.
-Happy I am, Healthy I am, Holy I am.
-I am grateful that my body already knows how to birth/breastfeed/nurture a child.
-Let go, and let God.
What are some of the mantras you use? What are some you plan to let go of? I’d love to hear your comments or experiences. If you listened to any hypnosis CDs or affirmations, what worked for you and what didn't? I am thinking of making my own hypnosis for childbirth CD with a spiritual angle, and would love any input.


  1. The mantra that got me through college and gave me permission to let go of guilt as a new mother:

    "All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough."

    And I love, love, love "Let go, and let God." I needed that right now! Thank you, friend.

  2. "Day by day I live by faith; all will be well." I can't tell you how much I've said that without even thinking about it.

  3. My mom had a little song she use to sing to us when we were tiny. It went "You can do it yes you can, you can do it is yes you can, you can do it even better than before. Make it through it yes you can, you can do it yes you can..."

    I've used that my whole life from everything from trying out for the Jr. High school to giving birth to my babies. I've never thought of it as a mantra, but I guess it is... a pretty powerful one for me.



Related Posts with Thumbnails