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Overcoming the myth surrounding willpower

By Joseph Pond

Published 29/11/2016

Joseph Pond
Joseph Pond

A common myth about hypnosis is that it destroys willpower. It's a silly misconception when you think about it because it suggests that willpower is a special elixir which is in limited supply like serotonin or pixie dust.

Let's be clear: there's no such thing as willpower. It's not a thing. The best surgeon on the planet cannot open you up and extract an ounce of willpower juice. To will something into action is something you do, not something you have.

Stage hypnotists have long tried to convince their audiences that they possess mystical skills. Additionally, most of our cultural tropes regarding hypnotherapy date back to the Victorian era of medical authoritarianism. Remember the swinging watch? So, it's not surprising that many people still think of hypnosis as a semi-magical ritual which overpowers one's resistance. This is, after all, how Dracula exercises his hypnotic power and goodness knows Hollywood doesn't lie.

The truth is that all language is hypnotic in nature. Telling you not to think of Elvis will of course make you think of Elvis. In the same way, expanding your potential by inviting you to consider certain possibilities is really what modern hypnosis is all about. It's not magic.

A person's ability to consider themselves thinner (for example) in such a way that's compelling enough to motivate one to lose weight doesn't burn up "willpower juice". On the contrary, being flexible enough to choose your own internal states at will is a sign of emotional maturity and empowerment.

If you do want to strengthen your will, make a decision and keep it. It doesn't have to be a major one at first. Get up 30 minutes earlier to stretch. Eat more vegetables. Practice mindfulness. The key is: honour your promises to yourself.

The next step is to decide what you want in life. Be specific and make your goals measurable. Weigh your choices in the light of that decision. As the Cheshire Cat told Alice: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."

  • Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops with PowerTrance. Reach him at josephpond@yahoo.com or at https://www.facebook.com/Belfast Hypnosis/ ?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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