Developing Skills through Mental Rehearsal and Trance Identification
“There is no need to reach high for the stars. They are already within you – just reach deep into yourself!”
Mental rehearsal of performances is an excellent way to support skill development at all levels of interacting with your chosen field. Mental rehearsal allows us to experiment, to imagine pushing ourselves beyond our beliefs about our current capacity. Try the following experiment to see just how much mental rehearsal can assist in erasing self-imposed limitations placed upon us by our own beliefs.
1. Stand up with enough space that you can rotate freely in both directions with arms outstretched.
2. Point ahead with your dominant hand (the hand you write with) and arm fully outstretched.
3. Now, keeping your feet still and rotating from the waist, rotate your upper body to the direction of your dominant side… so, if you are right handed, rotate clockwise, if you are left handed, rotate anticlockwise. Your arm will sweep with you as your pointing finger traces an arc in the air.
4. Keep looking down your arm to where your finger is pointing and continue rotating as far is comfortable. When you stop, just make a mental note of where your finger is pointing.
5. Now, return to face forward. Close your eyes and imagine you’re pointing ahead with your dominant hand.
6. In imagination, rotate your upper body just as before, looking down your arm. Feel the movement with your imagination but keep your body still at this stage of the exercise. As you imagine rotating your upper body, see the finger pointing in your mind’s eye BUT THIS TIME just allow yourself to continue to rotate easily and comfortably past the point that your stopped in the previous turn. Notice how easy that was.
7. Now, again, repeat the exercise from stage 2, and note this time just how much further you can comfortably go past the point you noted the first time round!
Now that in itself is pretty darned amazing for most people. But what if I were to tell you that, if you had ever said to yourself “Gosh, I wish I could do (XYZ) just like (so-and-so)”, you already have the full potential for that capability, that behaviour, encoded into your neurology?
With Trance Identification we can go one stage further than mental rehearsal. We can take the observed behaviour of someone skilled in the behaviour we wish to emulate (our ‘exemplar’), or someone whose characteristics we wished to acquire, and we can mentally rehearse those skills based upon the huge amount of information we have already encoded into our nervous system at an unconscious level. In this way we can incorporate the observed abilities into our own behaviour.
I’m not claiming that we can fly a plane just by observing a pilot. I’m not so dense that I would knowingly climb into a jet with a pilot with zero practice time! But I do claim that a trainee pilot can learn to fly more elegantly and more skilfully by accessing the internal representations he/she already has from observing skilled pilots in action.
The principles of Trance Identification are in fact profoundly simple. I suggest that you use a simple self-hypnosis technique such as the Betty Erickson Self Hypnosis Induction described in an earlier newsletter. Once you are relaxed and awareness is focussed inwards, you can start by
a.Observing, in your mind’s eye, your chosen exemplar carrying out the task you have chosen to acquire improved skills for. Run this as a movie from the start of the sequence of skills required through to the end, just observing what it is about the performance that you admire.
b.Bring the sequence back to the beginning and now step closer to the exemplar, and step into the experience of the exemplar, seeing through their eyes, hearing through their ears, feeling from within their body. Notice what you would see hear and feel at the start of the performance of the skills you are about to experience, and now run the whole sequence through again.
c.Notice what is needed to be true to be able to perform at this level, become aware of the beliefs, the thoughts, the values, the sense of identity all coming together in the demonstration of these skills.
d.Take your self through in this way to the end of the sequence and experience the satisfaction that comes with the accomplished execution of these skills.
e.Repeat steps b to d several times before bringing your self back to normal waking consciousness in whatever way makes most sense to you. Smile and feel good!
It really is that simple. And with practice and experiment we can go one stage further and discover that we are no longer limited even by the availability of exemplars, that the limits of capability are the limits only of our imagination.