Self Hypnosis using the Staircase Technique

The first thing you need to understand about doing self-hypnosis is exactly what is happening to you when you are in a hypnotic trance. You are in a highly relaxed and deeply creative state of mind. Have you ever gone to sleep thinking about a problem and woken up knowing the answer? Studies have shown that we use our dreams to solve problems. You can tap into this same creative state by entering deep relaxation. What’s more, with hypnosis the process is guided and controlled.

Once you’re in the trance what you want to do is entirely up to you. The best thing is to give your unconscious mind suggestions that plan the seed for change. A powerful way to do this is through affirmations. Repeating to yourself over and over the things that you would like to change as though you have already experienced that change.

For example, suppose you are trying to improve your confidence. You might use the affirmation “I am a strong and confident person”. This affirmation may include visualizing yourself standing tall and proud, and seeing yourself confidently doing a task you would otherwise find intimidating.

In order to reach a mental state where this is possible we use the visual imagery of a staircase and the auditory use of a countdown. The reason this works is because of several things that are ingrained in our minds. First we have the idea of something covert and subtle being “underground”. We have the idea of travelling “into the depths” as something profound. And we have an association of a countdown as the end point of a goal. These visualisations lead us to travel deep into our unconscious mind, they allow us to relax and enter a hypnotic state.

Step 1

The first step is to plan what you are going to do when you are in the trance. You may want write it down or rehearse it a few times while wide awake. Practice both the affirmations and the order you will do them in. Practice the visualizations and the order you will do them in. Perhaps you will use this time to analyse a problem, use this prep time to consider everything about the problem that makes it something that needs to be overcome.

Step 2

Find a comfortable place to relax and be quiet. You want no distractions from the outside world and you want to be sitting or lying down. You want to relax your body and take deep slow breaths. Close your eyes and recognise that you are about to enter a trance, during which time you will be looking to achieve your goal. This is VITAL. Knowing that this is your goal already gets your unconscious mind working on the problem. By the time you enter the trance your mind will already have things in motion to get you where you need to go.

Step 3

Imagine that you are at the top of a very large staircase. It extends infinitely down into the darkness. Think about all of the details of the staircase. What is it made of? What colour is it? Does it have a railing? Does it go straight down? Make 90-degree turns? Zigzag? Spiral?

Step 4

Begin a very slow countdown. If this is your first time doing self hypnosis maybe do 20 or 30. If you have been doing this frequently do 5. Say the first number in your mind as though it were resonating throughout your entire imaginary world. Take a deep breath and take your first step down the stairs. Let the number echo throughout your mind as you take a few more steps down.

Step 5

Say the next number as you continue descending down the staircase. It is important to imagine feeling the motion of going downwards. Between numbers say to yourself “with each breath and each step down the stairs I feel myself becoming more and more relaxed”. Work your way slowly down the stairs until you reach 0. When you reach 0 imagine that you step off the staircase into your unconscious mind.

Step 6

From here you need to go through and make the suggestions to your unconscious mind that will lead to the changes you want to make in your life. Recognize that real change takes time and that you may have to do this several times to see tangible results. But also recognize that this is a powerful tool and that each time you do it re-enforces the idea to yourself that you want to improve your life. Make those suggestions and feel the changes happening in your mind.

Step 7

When you are done simply say to yourself “3, 2, 1 awake”. Counting upwards quickly suggests to your mind that you would like to return to a state in which you are wide awake. You should instantly open your eyes, feel refreshed and be ready to action the change that has started taking place


This is by far the most basic technique for a self-hypnosis induction. However it is also the most useful. I still find myself using it from time to time on myself and I even use it to guide clients into a hypnotic trance.