Interview with Pro Golf Instructor

Craig Sigl, www.break80golf.com,  Hypnotist to Pro Golfers, asked for information from me that would help his audience. He gave me permission to share this interview, so here is the transcript.

How did you get into the field?
My original interests were in the study of consciousness and personal development. Through my studies leading to my degree in psychology, along with my personal pursuits of philosophy, spirituality, and self-improvement, it became obvious the importance of thought and perception in the way people live their lives. Then I became aware of the power of hypnosis to bring the mind into control as a positive tool to achieve one’s greatest goals. At that point I realized that my clients would be best served if hypnosis was the basis of my practice.

How long have you been doing it and who has influenced your style?
I have been informally using hypnosis since 1986. Then, in 1997, I went through formal and extensive training. My original certification came from the Ohio Academy of Holistic Health, studying directly under Dr. Patti McCormick. The academy was one of the first schools to achieve regional accreditation in the US. Since then I have studied with countless professionals including Dr. Richard Bandler, the father of NLP, Dr. Kevin Hogan, who I went on to write two books with, Dr. David Fredericks, and so forth. While all those teachers have had a positive influence on my work, I believe that my clients have really helped me to polish my style. Through all these years of private practice I have learned to be sensitive to the needs of an individual, to address the session as uniquely as the client is unique. In improvising techniques to best fit their needs, I have learned and grown in many ways beyond my formalized training.

What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is simply focused attention. Individuals achieve it quite readily whenever they are concentrating, using their imaginations, planning their future, in a state of anger, emotionally upset. We are in a state of hypnosis or trance when we pass our exit on the freeway. It is an example of being focused – however, in general, we are just not focused on the present moment. That said, in a clinical setting, hypnosis is a deliberate process of inducing the trance state in order to bring clarity to the inner thoughts and feelings, the motivations and fears, the issues at hand, so that specific goals can easily and readily be achieved.

What is trance?
Trance is the state of mind that the person experiences. Again, we are in constant trances. Our morning routine is done in trance. Anything that we do habitually is done in trance. When we find ourselves standing in front of the refrigerator and suddenly become aware that we are not hungry and aren’t really sure how we even got there – that is trance. When we respond to a situation out of habit, and not out of a rational assessment of the present moment and conditions, we are in trance. And in the same way, we can develop trance states that are completely useful to our lives, such as the perfect golf swing, mastering dance steps, playing the piano – even typing on the keyboard.

What are some of the best ways you teach your students how to do self hypnosis? I think it is easiest to learn self-hypnosis if the person has experienced some of the techniques. Many of my clients who struggle with self-hypnosis find that after they have had a professional hypnosis session, self-hypnosis is much easier. That is because sometime there is doubt whether they have actually achieved the state of hypnosis. There is a misconception that if you are in hypnosis you won’t know anything that is going on around you. On the contrary, you may be more highly sensitive to everything that is going on around you. Or perhaps you are so focused that you don’t notice noises and so forth. So that cannot be used as a determinant for trance levels.

I also think that self-hypnosis requires a goal. If you are meditating you are opening up to receiving information or guidance, or a sense of peace. However, with self-hypnosis, the goal is to go from point A to point B – to create movement and change, to achieve a stated goal. And with that in mind, there are specific tools that can be implemented during a self-hypnosis session that will bring that movement around a lot faster.

Are there any exercises people can do to enhance their ability to access the state?
The first thing is to just practice. It may take a bit of time and patience. Just sit with it, and if you think it isn’t working give it another 5 or 10 minutes.

I have recently been using a visualization with my clients involving a stairway of ten steps. With each step they are to relax deeper. At the third step I typically ask them to put down any baggage they may be carrying – such as self-doubt or disbelief. At the fourth, I ask them to recall the imagination of a child with the attitude of wonder and exploration. At the fifth and sixth steps they are encouraged to continue going deeper. At the seventh step I ask the subconscious mind to begin opening communication with the conscious mind, and begin preparing information and experiences that will be most helpful for the achievement of the stated goals. At the eighth step, I have the client begin to describe their experiences – whether visual, emotional, or physical sensations. At the ninth, again describing what they experience at that level. And then all the way down to ten, the deepest level.

I use this same visualization in my own meditations and self-hypnosis sessions. That in itself can be a relaxing and revealing experience. Or you can go on with your self-hypnosis, and use the steps to monitor your levels of trance. For example, if you think you are coming back out of trance, you can check what step you feel you are on. If it is, say, step five, you can count yourself back down. At the tenth step, you can allow your imagination to take you on an adventure, and allow the metaphors and symbols encountered in the adventure to bring you information or create resolution to any problems you are working on.

How do you answer the concern from clients: “I don’t know if I can be hypnotized”?
I usually chuckle with an evil voice and rub my hands together – and tell them to let me give it a try.

But all joking aside, we know that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, and when clients are resistant it is because they have concerns of letting go or giving up control, or maybe fear of what they might discover. If we are just having a conversation I will tell them that they will always know where they are and be able to open their eyes, ask for whatever they need or take care of themselves in whatever way they makes them comfortable. If we are starting a session, and this comes up, we address it right away, uncovering their particular concerns.

I use a technique called Secondary Gains to discover the resistance – what is the pay off of resisting and what would be the pay off if they just went through the experience. Then we would do something called Parts Therapy, where we separate the part that wants to resist from the part that brought them to my office that has reason to go into trance. Once they are separated, each part can express itself fully, and we can find ways to support the needs of the resistant part. It usually takes less than five minutes and all parts are on board to go into trance. And it all runs smoothly after that.

What are the roadblocks to accessing the unconscious mind?
Fear is a big one. Fear of discovering something they don’t want to find out about themselves. Fear that the information they discover will require they make a change in their life.

You’ve worked with a number of golfers, what is some advice you would give to golfers wanting to learn how to use self hypnosis?
Golfers already use self-hypnosis every time they address the ball. It is a matter of using self-hypnosis in a way that serves them well. I would suggest they start at home. Sit in a comfortable chair and practice the perfect swing over and over in their mind. Studies have shown that athletes who practice the perfect moves in their imagination are much more successful than those who practiced only on the course or on the court.

When you physically practice, you can make a lot of mistakes. And those are continually being reinforced to the subconscious mind. When you practice the perfect shot over and over in your mind, that is what the subconscious is learning as the habit.

Golfers can also use self-hypnosis to review their bad shots. They can remember the movement of that bad shot, and become sensitive to the mind chatter, the emotions, the doubts or other distractions that may have factored in. These will give the athlete information about issues that may have to be addressed – in self-hypnosis or in a private hypnotherapy session.

How can golfers get in the zone?
There are several ways to use self-hypnosis to get into the zone. One easy way is to recall a time when you were very much in the zone. Enhance all the feelings and thoughts around that, and then ask the subconscious mind to provide an image of an object that would represent that feeling. This may be anything – a stone, a golf ball, a star – it will be personal to the person. Then, each time you want to connect with the feeling of being in the zone, you can simply imagine that object in your hand.

Another way to get in the zone is what we call role modeling. This has been a very successful strategy. Think about your favorite golfer – the athlete you would most like to golf like. See that person clearly in your mind standing right in front of you. Counting from 3 to 1, imagine stepping right into that person, with your feet in their feet, your hands in their hands, and looking out at the world through their eyes and their perceptions. Now, let them step up to the ball and take that shot. Then see what happens. I get great reports back about this technique.

How would you help a golfer find a resourceful state that works for them on the course?
It would be the same really. However, you could also connect that zone feeling or that sense of being in your golfing hero’s energy field and then mark your ball with a specific symbol – a circle or cross or some pattern. Then when you step up to the ball, you see the mark on the ball and it brings that feeling of the zone back into your state of being.