Can Hypnotherapy help with Stage Fright?
Many years ago, a lovely man, who has sadly since passed, came to see me to get support for stage fright. It felt slightly ironic when I asked him for his occupation and he responded, public speaker. Very few people expect those who choose to appear on the stage as a career to struggle with appearing on a stage! Usually, stage fright concerns are for a one-off speech – best man for example. A presentation at work or something similar. I find it reassuring to hear that perceptions are not always as they seem. I feel encouraged when I observe someone else conquer a challenge.
Stage fright is also known as performance anxiety. I know of people that hold back their own career to avoid public speaking. Others that say no to something they feel passionate about due to the requirement to speak publicly. For many it is a hindrance that is easily avoided and does not cause much change to life.
Hypnotherapy helps with stage fright, or performance anxiety as it does with any fear response in the brain and body. To learn more about fear and its symptoms which we describe as anxiety you can read my blog post What is anxiety?
As described in my blog post here your brain sends messages using oscillating electrical voltages known as brain waves. Your brain waves change between five frequency brackets depending on your activity.
|Gamma (γ)||35+ Hz||Concentration|
|Beta (β)||12–35 Hz||Anxious, active, external attention, relaxed|
|Alpha (α)||8–12 Hz||Very relaxed, passive attention|
|Theta (θ)||4–8 Hz||Deeply relaxed, inward focused|
|Delta (δ)||0.5–4 Hz||Sleep|
Research tells us that in a hypnotic state of mind your brain is in the theta state with inconsistent changes in gamma activity. I like to define this as an inwardly focused state of concentration. As far away from the anxious state of mind as you can be without sleep. So, hypnosis itself will take you out of stage fright. Many people will tell you that hypnosis is a state of relaxation, this is slightly misleading as it gives the impression you must be laying down with little movement. You will be of relaxed state of mind and your body will function optimally as a result. When people, often those in sport, speak of ‘being in the zone’ we link this to a hypnotic state of mind. The body, primed to perform, and the mind focused and alert.
As described in my blog post Why Hypnosis isn’t The Therapy, when you have a course of hypnotherapy to eradicate stage fright one thing you might learn is self-hypnosis. Before you perform you will know how to take your brain into the theta state of mind. When you perform it is important to be aware of but not affected by your audience. The theta state of mind allows you to achieve this. The inward focus enables you to perform as you intend and relieves you of the symptoms of anxiety which are at the very least frustrating and the worst debilitating.
There are many other benefits of hypnotherapy sessions, during which your hypnotherapist will use hypnotherapy techniques personalised to you. Some techniques will help you with the specifics of your anxiety, designed to help you and set to last indefinitely. Others are tools that your hypnotherapists will teach you, that with practise can become lifelong additions to your performance warm up.
You can also try these simple tricks to change your mindset from one of fear to comfort.
- Use thought stopping techniques to stop any negative or fearful thoughts.
- Remind yourself that your performance will bring joy or benefit to others.
- Use abdominal breathing to calm your body.
- Use visualisation prior to the event. Your brain does not differentiate between reality and imaginary, so it is brilliant preparation.
- Be authentic – you are worthy.
Once past the initial fear barrier many people go on to thoroughly enjoy performing.
Mark P. Jensen, Tomonori Adachi & Shahin Hakimian (2015) Brain Oscillations, Hypnosis, and Hypnotizability, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 57:3, 230-253, DOI: 10.1080/00029157.2014.976786 Brain Oscillations, Hypnosis, and Hypnotizability (nih.gov)