I just finished reading an article in this months issue of “New Scientist”, which included an article about hypnosis. The article described the author’s experience with a hypnotherapist somewhere in the United States, and concluded with the following remark:”You know, last year’s positive thinking, is this years hypnosis, and next years neuro linguistic programming. At the end, it is all the same”. This begs the question, what really is the difference between all these things?
The basic building block of positive thinking, namely positive self affirmation, is thousands of years old and can be traced back to Tibetan meditation practices (and maybe even before that). However, a quick search on amazon revealed the earliest book being written in 1952 and only thereafter did it really enter main stream society. Basically, positive thinking is about observing your thoughts and building positive counterthoughts to negative ones. This approach was also incorporated into cognitive behavioral therapy.
Hypnosis goes back thousands of years, and has been used in some way or other in every society on this planet. The basic premises are that the human mind has all the tools necessary to heal itself, physically and mentally, and it is just about accessing these resources. It is only today that we are scared of hypnosis, as Hollywood has given it a bad name through various movies, and the always famous “you will turn into a chicken” suggestion. Hypnosis not only tackles the thoughts, but also deep rooted emotions and can lead to quick pervasive change.
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a conscious application of hypnotic tools and was developed in the 70s. NLP takes advantage of how the brain processes information to construct reality, and without touching the content, only changes processes. Through changing the process, the content then automatically shifts. Many times, NLP and hypnosis are used in conjunction in order to maximize effectiveness, and in general the aim is to help people to help themselves, and thus have only few sessions.
I do believe that positive thinking (and CBT) is important, but it only represents one part of a much larger complex that is us. We are more than our thoughts, as Gurdjieff pointed: rational is only one part, the rest is made up of instinct and emotion.
Hence, in my mind, those three tools, while they might be called distant cousins, are separate entities, and tackle problems differently. Each of you probably has their own preference, while for me, a good mix of all three is the optimal way to go! What do you think?