Can Hypnotherapy Stop Me Picking My Fingers?8 min read
Have you got a bad habit that’s been stuck with you as long as you can remember?
I have, one that I can see my kids starting to copy, as they see me do this every-day.
I pick my fingers and have done for over 30 years now. If you have spent more than 10 minutes with my, you’ll probably notice me doing it.
When I started, I can’t remember, but it’s a habit that’s so much entrenched only a few occasions have I managed to temporarily stop.
It’s a horrible habit and one that a few of my close friends share too. I have joked in the past that the common denominator is my wife – I am kidding of course and am sure my wife isn’t the cause 😉
A chance encounter with a hypnotherapist (Nick Ong) one-day at my co-working space in Malaysia, made me think of trying this approach. So, after reaching the ripe old age of 45 I decided to take action as clearly will power alone wasn’t having much effect.
Why Do I Pick My Fingers?
Great question, I am not sure!
There is no one particular trigger for why I pick my fingers. It can be stress, boredom or simply finishing off a loose piece of skin from a previous picking session.
The classic reason many people bite their nails is stress. I am sure this is partly the reason for me picking my fingers, sometimes without me realising that I am anxious.
I do go through periods when it’s not so bad. But most days I shed skin from my fingers, much to the disgust of my family.
Even my daughter tells me off for doing this. To be fair, despite my annoyance at being “told off” by a six-year old she is right.
I try and use nail clippers more now as this helps a little to stop picking my nails. But the real problem is the skin around the finger nails. As soon as I start picking a little then I am off. Most of the rest of the skin around that nail has to go too!
Horrible eh? Not to mention it’s not very hygienic.
Especially as often I can pick my fingers until they actually bleed.
Sometimes I attack my toes too and rather ridiculously I have had to wedge toilet paper between my toes to stem the blood flow.
You can see why this habit needs to go!
Living in Malaysia I see that it’s common for Chinese guys to have incredibly well manicured hands. Going for a manicure or pedicure is not just for woman here and you can often see guys in the nail saloons – a few of my friends are often there!
Is Picking your Fingers a Medical Condition?
It seems so.
The medical term to describe “skin picking disorder” and that’s called Excoriation although its more commonly referred to as dermatillomania, is a compulsive habit associated with anxiety where the sufferer repeatedly picks at their skin.
This condition is similar to skin biting (dermatophagia) and has the same triggers.
First Hypnotherapy Session
When I first thought about writing a lifestyle blog the focus was to be on self-improvement. So, stopping those bad habits and making new and improved ones.
I booked my first hypnotherapy session one-day this month and was really intrigued how this would go.
Would it work? If so, what else can I try changing?
When I first arrived, I sat down and discussed the issue and background to when I believe it first started. My childhood memories are very poor, not that I had a particularly traumatic period, but for some reason I remember little from when I was under 11/12 years old.
All I know for sure is my finger picking habit started when I was a teenager and has been with me ever since – so over 30 years now!
I was a little sceptical that one two-hour hypnotherapy session would unravel this 30-year habit, but hey it was worth a go.
After discussing my emotions around why I pick my fingers and how this affects those close to me, we moved to the treatment room.
As you can see in the picture above, I laid down in a very comfortable chair and began focussing on the light fixture above.
Dreamland and Down the Rabbit Hole
The most accurate description of being hypnotised is the state you experience when having an incredibly relaxing massage and feeling half asleep, half awake.
To say it’s incredibly relaxing is an understatement.
You lose concept of time, and the hour I was hypnotised for felt more like 20 or so minutes!
This is why I describe it as dreamland as you’re in a dreamlike state and yet fully aware of your surroundings. It’s an enlightening experience that I would recommend anyone trying.
The treatment is in three stages.
The first stage is called the “induction phase” and is the process of hypnosis involves deep mind and body relaxation, this is where you go into complete relaxation.
The second stage is the “receptive phase” is where the most post hypnotic suggestions are made as this is when you’re likely to be most receptive.
The last stage is when you bought out of your hypnotic state and you’re taken back up to your fully awake state.
Speaking afterwards with Nick Ong, the first stage is incredibly important to ensure you’re in the hypnotic state to be receptive to the post hypnotic suggestions in the second stage.
So, the first stage takes you on a journey where you focus on your body, how comfortable you feel, gradually focusing on your breathing and sense of well-being, and in a safe environment.
I liken this stage to going down the rabbit hole, as it feels like a journey with you increasingly feeling more relaxed.
It was interesting to hear feedback from Nick afterwards when he highlighted different physical movements that went completely unnoticed by me.
At times during the hour my fingers moved and I twitched several times – I didn’t remember these happening at all!
How Hypnotherapy Works?
The science behind hypnotherapy is a bit beyond this article but nevertheless this is the quick version.
Despite being tried by more and more people each year, hypnosis is still one of the most understood and in many ways’ controversial treatments.
As my hypnotherapist Nick Ong explained, most of this is due to the popularisation of stage hypnotism. This is far removed from the clinical hypnotism practiced in the treatment room, which has been shown to have real results.
So, what is hypnotism and what actually happens?
The idea is simple, whilst in a complete relaxation and focussed state you can become very receptive to suggestions, more so when fully awake.
These are referred to as “post hypnotic suggestions” and have been shown to have lasting effects way beyond the hypnotic state.
I found that during my experience, it was very easy to listen to Nick and visualise what he was saying. Even to the point of physically experiencing suggestions he made, such as my body feeling heavier and sinking into my chair.
Interestingly whilst in this state I felt I could get up at any point and be in full control again – certainly not what stage hypnotism gives the impression of.
Have I Stopped Picking My Fingers?
It was a good experience trying hypnotherapy for the first time. Even with a degree of scepticism I could feel the calming benefits immediately after the treatment.
I could see the ability to put yourself in this state regularly would help anyone suffering anxiety.
So, the question on your mind must be, “have I stopped picking my fingers?”.
The evening after the treatment I was a lot more aware of the trigger of picking my fingers, such that I found it easier not to pick them. This continued for the following days too. Is it greater awareness coupled with greater will power?
I know that I really want this to work, so it could be.
Or is it my sub-conscious giving me a helping hand (literally). Either way, so far I haven’t picked my fingers.
Time will tell how long this goes on for, but hopefully this is the start of breaking a 30-year plus bad habit, and the journey of having presentable fingers without the need for plasters and toilet paper between the toes!
A few days after my first hypnotherapy session to stop picking my fingers and I am happy to report it’s still working. I notice that I am a LOT MORE aware of starting to pick, this reminds me I shouldn’t be doing it and then stop without breaking any skin – so far, it’s working.
My interest in hypnotherapy has been piqued to be honest. I am going to look at this a little more. At the very least it’s a great tool in the mental armoury and could go hand in hand with goal setting and visualisation.