Fact: One of the differences between a good and an elite athlete is not the power they put into their active muscles but how relaxed the antagonist muscles are. Hypnosis has been shown to help with this. It is interesting that visualizing doing an activity such as bending a finger or elbow has been shown to strengthen the relevant muscles even though no physical activity has taken place (Ranganathan et al., 2004). In Sweden, Unestahl et al. (1975) reported an interesting study which showed that PE students ‘shooting’ 30 hypnotic basket penalty shots a day made a significant improvement (compared with a control group) and improved as much as those making 30 physical training shots a day. This is of importance if an athlete is injured or unable to train as training in hypnosis rather than in reality may mean that muscles can maintain their strength.
The term ‘performance’ can also be used generically to cover any important presentation activity required of us, for example a university lecturer delivering a series of lectures to say 150 undergraduates, a surgeon performing a delicate operation or a job applicant attending a selection interview or assessment centre, will all be included in this ‘performance’ category. So, performance is defined as the ‘action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task or function’.
This is a template for a hypnosis protocol, though by no means is it set in stone, but only one of a dozen different approaches. The
1)Progressive muscle relaxation
Preparation for hypnosis involves the exercise of Progressive Muscle Relaxation. The purpose of this exercise is to experience and train the body and mind to be able to relax at will, fully and deeply. This exercise for an actress can be practiced as a starting point before learning lines or rehearsing. It should not be used, however, before performance as it is too relaxing.
2) Breathing control
This exercise is an important crisis management exercise in order to prevent ‘choking’ and help bring the body back under control after a possible stressful moment. It is practiced by breathing in, holding the breath for a few seconds and then breathing out slowly, under control, to a self talk word such as “Easy, easy …”
3) Concentration and focus
In the pre-performance hubbub of a stage play, in a large theatre, in front of an audience of hundreds, it is quite normal for negative self talk to intrude and concentration to wane. Levels of concentration are discussed; at level 3, normal everyday interaction with colleagues, level 2, sitting in the dressing room being made up, and level 1, just about to go on stage.
The immediate pre-performance level of concentration is level 1 and accompanied by a self talk word.
4) Imagery or mental rehearsal
Mental rehearsal is the practice of rehearsing the actions prior to going on to the stage (or surgical arena or ball field) so that at that important time, the mind is perfectly happy that everything had been learned, is in order, is known, is rehearsed and can be conducted faultlessly. Mental rehearsal can be practiced over and over again at any time in order to reinforce the actual start of the performance.