In one respect, the demands made of military personnel of all ranks are not all that different than the demands made of Olympic athletes. In another respect they are far, far, far greater. Just like Olympic athletes, military personnel have to deal with:
- The stress of not performing well enough
- The anxiety of making a mistake, even a small one, which could have far reaching consequences
- The nervousness and worry of entering into intimidating situations
- The ability to maintain focus and concentration when surrounded by distractions
- The need for a solid inner self-belief to carry out their tasks
- The ability to overcome poor past performance and mistakes
- The need to constantly raise the bar on their performance
- The need to be thorough, and not overlook the tiniest detail, which could derail their challenge
Add to the list, for military personnel, the ability to deal with all of this while fearing for their lives, and the lives of their subordinates, and the need for soldiers, sailors and airmen of all ranks to cultivate strong mental resilience and self-esteem to protect them against Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries.
Just as top sportsmen train themselves to be ‘on top of their game’ every time they step into a competition, military personnel have to be totally prepared and fully confident of success every time they perform on exercise, or enter a combat theatre, or assume a new role.
Both sets of individuals must always be clear in their objective, and what they will achieve, to be assured of success.
Visualisation tools, provided by clinical hypnotherapy, allow military personnel to imagine every aspect of their future challenge, in minute detail, before it ever happens. It allows for step-by-step battleplay within one’s own mind. This acute, concentrated, focus provides for a thorough assessment and understanding of even the smallest, often overlooked, elements.
‘The Theatre Of The Mind’
The subconscious mind can often see what the conscious mind can’t, and is able to rationalise problems far more clearly and expediently than the conscious mind ever can, even when the conscious mind isn’t aware the subconcious is doing it. A combination of visualisation and self-hypnosis can provide military personnel with unique abilities, to ensure they can excel, whatever is demanded of them.
Visualisation is all about goal setting. Once a goal is identified and adopted, the subconscious brain becomes a self-guided missile. When a self-guided missile is fired, it starts moving towards its programmed target. As it moves towards its target it assesses its coordinates in relation to the target, and makes mini adjustments to correct its path. The subconscious brain works in the same way. It identifies the chosen ‘coordinates’ and naturally moves us towards our target. Sometimes military personnel do not have the time to constantly, consciously, assess the latest state of play, but by practising visualisation through clinical hypnotherapy, they can ensure their own mind is working beneath the surface to bring them assistance when it is needed most.
The problem with many people is that they program their subconscious mind with negative coordinates. They ‘visualize’ images of failure; they replay mistakes; they think about negative scenarios that might happen, and picture the negative consequences that may arise. Sometimes military procedures demand this focus on the negative.
Unfortunately, the subconscious mind is not able to say: “Those coordinates are negative so I’ll just ignore them”. It’s very similar to the GPS system in a car. It simply leads the person to the programmed destination, which may be one of failure and negativity. So one needs to guard very carefully what goes on in “the theatre of the mind”.
In “the theatre of the mind” one must always execute skills flawlessly; attempt to dominate the competition, and ensure victory by constantly visualizing success. Contrary to most military training, visualisations need to concentrate on emotions too, to be really successful.
Visualising in 5D
The most important thing about visualisation is the feeling that it creates inside of a person. Emotion is the fuel of the performance. By creating powerful emotions, one creates powerful performance states. Clinical hypnotherapy can help a person visualise in 5D – using all their available senses to build a true picture of realistic success.
Without harnessing all five senses, a visualisation is hollow, and lacks depth and is less convincing to the subconscious.
However outwardly constrained one may be, in the course of their tasks, or by the characters of their colleagues, inside one’s own subconscious mind, with the help of a clinical hypnotherapist, a person can be as honest with all their feelings and inhibitions, and by doing so, strengthen their resolve at every step.
Visualisation is an invaluable tool for privates to generals alike; from the first days of basic training to top level battle strategy, and marks the turnaround in military thinking: building resilience from the ground up, and acknowledging the importance of emotions and feelings in feeding that resilience.
Anything one mentally rehearses in an altered state of consciousness is available when needed in a normal state of consciousness. Each time a person acts out a scenario in their mind, it helps train the subconscious to adopt it as default behaviour.
Clinical Hypnotherapy For The Military
Not many people know that modern day clinical hypnotherapy techniques are a military invention – they were founded by US psychiatrists in World War Two. They can be used today to help and enable military personnel in numerous different ways.
Visualisation through clinical hypnotherapy creates a state of deep relaxation which is a direct counter measure to stress and tension. By teaching military personnel basic self-hypnosis and visualisation techniques, they can be equipped with the means to release their own stress whenever they need to; banish harmful tension in the body, and restore resilience within their own minds; reduce the need to turn to alcohol or narcotics to “switch off”; and find an inner peace and happiness which will rub off on their colleagues and their families.
The more relaxed an active military member is, the greater he or she is able to perform their military obligations. He or she is also going to be much healthier, as deep relaxation allows the body to start repairing itself in situations where medical treatment is not easy to access.
Clinical hypnotherapy is an excellent counter to the sleep deprivation of so many ‘nights out of bed’. Staying alert on exercise, or in theatre, can be a major challenge to many military personnel – and a dangerous one. Losing concentration, even for a moment, in some circumstances, can be the difference between life and death. But thirty minutes of self-hypnosis is equal to four hours of REM sleep in terms of restorative energy. Teaching military personnel self hypnosis visualisation techniques to counter insomnia and fall asleep quickly, and briefly, when required could have major health benefits throughout the forces.
Clinical hypnotherapy can eliminate any phobias in as little as one session. Fears of everyday things may seem absurd to those who don’t suffer from a particular phobia, but a fear of heights, or of water, or even bridges and cockroaches can be debilitating to those who experience them, and it can be a significant obstacle to an otherwise successful military career. Using clinical hypnotherapy techniques, a person is shown how to confront and control their irrational fears, and restore equilibrium to their life, in a very short space of time, even if the phobia has been entrenched for years.
Combat medics and team medics can easily be taught basic visualisation techniques of clinical hypnotherapy for emergency hypnosis, where the power of suggestion and imagery can stop life-threatening blood flow as effectively as a tourniquet; lower a person’s heart and respiration rate to stop them from going into shock, and reduce or eliminate any sensation of pain; enough to perform field amputations if necessary. Emergency hypnosis was being used in field hospitals during the Vietnam War, and was even used for pain control during the US Civil War, when Army surgeons hypnotized injured soldiers before amputations.
Post- Trauma Management
Clinical hypnotherapy visualisation has proven highly effective at helping sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in numerous medical and military studies. It was pioneered by American military psychologists during World War Two to heal soldiers suffering from the most serious psychiatric combat reactions. It can help to alleviate the most troublesome symptoms, without the need for any chemical medications, and can be started before there is even a diagnosis of PTSD. Teaching military chaplains the basic techniques of clinical hypnotherapy would be an effective way of reducing the incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress injuries degenerating into PTSD. The VA hospital in the United States started using clinical hypnotherapy to treat PTSD sufferers in 2014. At first it was done on an experimental basis using volunteer clinical hypnotherapists, but when it proved so successful, the VA employed full time clinical hypnotherapists to work at the hospital. For more details on clinical hypnotherapy and PTSD you can read PTSD and Hypnosis: A Bulletproof Vest For The Mind which has contributions from this therapist.
Resilience After Capture
Teaching military personnel how to use self-hypnosis techniques to eliminate all pain in their body temporarily, or even on a permanent basis, or induce a state of dissociation to distance themselves from their physical surroundings, and seek out a safe haven in their own mind, could be very useful to help them resist the pain and degradation of capture and torture. In just a few sessions, all service personnel could be given the ability to make part or all of their body completely numb and to be able to enter a state of deep relaxation at will, whatever their surroundings, to help heal any pain or injury inflicted on them.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction
As we know, drug and alcohol addiction are very common among military personnel and veterans, and extremely detrimental to military careers, but these habits are also very difficult to eliminate when the physical and emotional repercussions of conflict and trauma are screaming for relief. Fortunately, clinical hypnotherapy has proven enormously successful at reframing these habits in the subconscious mind. Turning lives around can take just a few sessions but be of enormous benefit to colleagues and families as well.
If you would like to discuss any of the above military visualisation applications, please do contact me. I spent one year participating in pre-deployment training alongside British troops, and two years with combat troops in Afghanistan, on the front lines, as a combat photographer/videographer, so although I am not ex-military, I do intimately understand the enormous strains military personnel endure, and I specifically trained in clinical hypnotherapy to help active military personnel and veterans.