From Dr Knight's www.hypnosis.org
One reason for High Self-Esteem is a sense of accomplishment. In contrast, Low self-esteem is widespread in North America partly because of the foolish practice of many schools of not allowing children to fail.
Other causes of Low self-esteem are emotional and can be dealt with on an individual basis with hypnotherapy.
Often the only conscious sign we have of an underlying feeling of guilt or shame is Low Self-Esteem.
We walk around with a low opinion of ourselves; perhaps we mask it with sarcasm or a confident front. Inside we feel awful.
Guilt-ridden or shamed people hate to be alone. Sometimes we also hate to be with others. In fact, if we are troubled by subterranean guilt or shame we rarely feel comfortable.
Guilt is something we bring upon ourselves; shame is something put upon us. Neither exists in a vacuum.
We feel guilty because of an action we took, or didn't take.
We are shamed by someone we love or who has authority over us.
But each emotion can, through hypnosis, lead us to the origins of our guilt or our shame. This is marvellous. Without the technique of hypnosis we might go through life forever miserable, and not truly know why. Or we might spend years, instead of weeks, in psychotherapy.
Because it bypasses the conscious, critical mind, hypnosis gets swiftly to the root of the problem.
People pleasing may be a symptom of Low Self-Esteem. Its opposite -- people using, manifest in utter selfishness, coupled with arrogance-- may likewise be a symptom but its practitioners rarely seek help.
The man who is unfaithful to his wife with as many other women as he can find is unlikely to view his philandering as evidence of his need to boost a poor self-image. Yet, like the people-pleaser, he has an insatiable need for reassurance.
Not only is hypnotherapy useful in tracing the origins of Low Self-Esteem, it is an excellent way to correct the emotional mess, and to build High Self-Esteem. Take the case of Jackie.
An engineer, she had grown up in a loving, church-active family, was currently happily married but for years had held a low opinion of herself.
"I can't understand it. I never used to feel this way. Everything's going great in my life. Why do I feel I'm so unworthy?"
In hypnosis Jackie was asked to visualize a calendar of the twelve months of the year in which she began to feel unworthy.
"Now", said the hypnotherapist, "as you continue to relax, keep glancing over the calendar, letting your gaze go slowly from January through to December. As you continue to relax and to gaze at the calendar your subconscious will select a special date. This date has some meaning, some connection to your low self-esteem.. It will probably show as a red circle around the particular day."
Within moments, Jackie reported a circle around July 18. When the hypnotherapist asked what significance, if any, that date held for her, Jackie replied, "that was the day of my abortion."
Out of hypnosis, Jackie expressed astonishment that she would be bothered by the abortion. After all, she was actively pro-choice and had no conscious concern about the abortion whatsoever.
But in hypnosis she made contact with an unexpected feeling of guilt. This in turn was connected with Jackie's love and admiration for her pro-life parents. She knew they would have been horrified about her abortion. Jackie had buried the memory of deceiving her parents -- and the guilt that accompanied the deceit.
Hypnotherapy quickly relieved Jackie of the guilt. To her surprise, she found there was a profound sadness behind the guilt. The sadness was for the unborn child.
This had also been a feeling which Jackie had buried. At the time of the abortion she had been so caught up with the rightfulness of her decision that a fleeting sadness had made no conscious impact.
This sadness was transformed when Jackie, in hypnosis, "spoke" to the fetus. This technique can provide a powerful release of feelings such as sorrow and guilt.
It is vital that the hypnotherapist not "lead" the client, by for example, asking the client to name the fetus. Such a request to Jackie would have been devastating. Her rationale was precisely that what was aborted was simply a mass of cells, not a baby.
Sometimes a single hypotherapy session is enough to rid a person of guilt. Like Maureen who had condemned herself for not being the person who saved her daughter when their house burned down.
Maureen spent so much energy in self-condemnation that she had difficulty going to sleep. She worried that, if there were ever again a similar emergency, she would not have the wherewithal to rescue her daughter.
In a single session of hypnotherapy, Maureen was asked to picture herself confident, strong, decisive -- and quickly bringing her child to safety.
The hypnotherapist also gave Maureen firm suggestions of forgiveness. That is, she could forgive herself even though she had done nothing wrong. She could sleep soundly at night, secure in the knowledge that, should her daughter need her, she would immediately awaken and do whatever would be necessary.
Maureen's face lost its strained look. Her posture, too, reflected the relief she now felt. She later reported that her sleep was restful and refreshing, that she had had no recurrence of her worries.
Low self-esteem often reveals itself as a fear of success. Or as negative attitudes towards one's appearance. Like Walter.
Walter was shy and self-conscious. His work record was spotty because he would often show up late, or not at all. The reason? Walter could spend hours trying to decide what to wear. He could also spend a lot of time adjusting his hair so that it did not stick out.
Since he tried to avoid seeing his face in the mirror, it was very difficult for Walter to satisfactorily adjust his hair.
High school had been a nightmare for Walter. Although he had done passably well academically, the social aspects had been horrendous.
When he joined the workforce Walter's preoccupation with the defects in his looks and how he dressed held him back. He was continually passed over for promotions and shunned by his fellow workers. By the time Walter sought therapy he was accustomed to feeling lonely and unworthy.
His Low Self-Esteem had its roots not in active abuse from his parents but in their disinterest in him. Walter told the hypnotherapist that he grew up with the feeling that he was of no more importance to his parents than a piece of furniture.
Walter was slight of build and unathletic. Schoolmates and teachers aggravated his Low Self-Esteem by either ignoring him or expecting little achievement. He had no friends and no mentors.
Probably because he had spent a lot of time daydreaming throughout his youth Walter proved to be adept at hypnosis.
Acting on a hunch, the hypnotherapist asked the hypnotized Walter if there was ever a time when he felt good, a time before the feelings of loneliness and Low Self-Worth.
There had indeed been such a time. Walter reported that he had several friends and enjoyed himself in the early grades of elementary school.
The hypnotherapist suggested Walter imagine going back to a particularly happy day and describe what was happening.
Walter's customary dull monotone vanished, to be replaced with a giggly enthusiasm, as he recounted a birthday celebration at his elementary school.
"Me and Doris Slicovitch -- I love that name, it kinda slided around my mouth -- had the same birthday. All the kids wore party hats and stood in a circle with me and Doris in the middle. We played some games. Doris and me, we always won. I guess the teacher, Mrs Lewis, fixed it so's we'd win. We got presents and a big chocolate cake.
"Mrs Lewis liked me. She'd give me a hug and I'd smell this lovely fresh smell she had. She was so soft, and so nice to me. I did so well in her classes. But one day she wasn't there and she never came back."
The hypnotherapist quickly took Walter back to the happy party -- he did not want to reinforce Walter's troubles by allowing him in hypnosis to focus on the loss of what might have been the only positive force in his young life.
"Okay. Go back to the party. Let me know when you're there, when you once again feel the softness of Mrs Lewis' hug, and the smell of her perfume or soap or whatever it was that made the teacher smell so good."
[Walter nods gently and says softly, "Okay."]
"Now, when you come out of hypnosis you will recognise the wonderful, reassuring scent of Mrs Lewis. From now on, whenever you smell that same perfume or whatever it was, you will immediately be flooded with the same warm feelings you had as a child being hugged by Mrs Lewis. It will be as if Mrs Lewis is once again with you, comforting, inspiring, loving. It will be as if Mrs Lewis is here beside you, ready to protect you, ready to love you, ready to help you care deeply about yourself."
Out of hypnosis, Walter named the scent as lavender. Whether Mrs Lewis wore a sprig of lavender , or kept her clothes in a lavender-sacheted cupboard, or washed with lavender-scented soap, was unimportant (as indeed was whether her scent was, in actuality, really lavender!).
What counted was that Walter now had an anchor to a positive experience of his youth. One in which he'd been unconditionally accepted, one might even say, loved. As the hypnotherapist suggested, from now on Walter was able to use this scent to feel better about himself.
He took to wearing a sprig of lavender so the scent was ever-present. This constant reminder that he had been approved of and cared for, that he had experienced being social and happy, enabled him to face people and places that previously were unthinkable.
The anchor to positive moments also made it possible for Walter to gain the most from further supportive hypnotherapy. He gradually changed his life: he improved his work habits, let go of his fear of mirrors, learned to dress better and to socialize. He plans to become better educated. He is convinced that he will earn a promotion -- and find a girfriend.
Hypnotherapy had rejuvenated Walter's Low Self-Esteem into High Self-Esteem.