How Anyone Can Use Hypnosis to Become Unstuck
We often forget that we’re in charge of our thoughts—even the habitual patterns that drive us nuts and drag us down are ultimately our doing. Hypnosis can help us take back control of our thoughts to break harmful habits and entrenched patterns. (Trying to quit smoking? See this goop piece.) “We spend a lot of time telling our brains what we can’t or shouldn’t do, and in doing so we create a lot of negative scenarios within our thoughts,” hypnosis practitioner Morgan Yakus explains. Yakus’ work focuses her clients on identifying the thoughts that trip them up (whatever they may be, from specific fears to chronic stress), realizing the person they could be if those thoughts/blocks were removed, and then actually knocking down their negative thoughts and images to become that best version of themselves. Staffers who have had sessions with Yakus—where you remain awake the whole time through a period of what feels like guided meditation—say the experience transformed them.
Yakus is no stranger to transformation herself. Her first career was in fashion—as a stylist, and co-founder and owner for nine years of the beloved No.6 Store in NYC—before she became a certified hypnotist and holistic health coach (she puts her herbal wisdom to use in a Mobile Tonic Bar, which you book for events). Here, Yakus explains the power of hypnosis to shift our point of view and give us the confidence to be ourselves—while offering solid, simple tips that anyone can use to get unstuck.
A Q&A with Morgan Yakus
What effect does hypnosis have on the brain? Why does it work?
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to allow us to learn and adapt to our environment. Scientists who have been studying the brain now have a more in-depth understanding of the brain’s neuroplasticity, and how it works: We know that through our cognitive practice, we can shift our thinking.
Research shows we can actively affect how our brains rewire themselves to create new neural networks and override preexisting ones. During hypnosis, we’re able to access our own neural networks and neurons, and let the subconscious know we don’t need a particular habit anymore. We can communicate to ourselves what habit we would like to create instead; neuroplasticity allows us to do this, rewiring the neurons.
When we are experiencing a block in our lives, particular neural networks light up. Neuroplasticity can be created by interrupting those networks with positive new thoughts and visuals. The idea is that the brain reframes the block and begins to create new audio and visuals the next time the trigger for the block appears.
“Research shows we can actively affect how our brains rewire themselves to create new neural networks and override preexisting ones.”
In tandem with hypnosis, I teach my clients neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) tools, interruption techniques, and self-hypnosis so they can navigate their everyday life smoothly after a session. [See examples below.] NLP is a method of influencing brain behavior, through the use of language and other types of communication, to enable a person to recode the way the brain responds to stimuli, and manifest new and better behaviors. NLP often incorporates hypnosis and self-hypnosis to help achieve the change (or “programming”) that is wanted.
It’s work and a process that takes place over time. Eventually, clients find themselves living in a new pattern, which is further strengthened as they consciously work to change their thinking around a particular issue. Through this cognitive work, neural networks change, resulting in a different, healthier response to a particular situation.
What are the tools from your practice that anyone could benefit from incorporating into their lives?
In my experience, if someone is stuck, it’s because they are thinking about the past or writing a story about the future and they are not in the present moment. Interruption can be the best tool, and that can be done with simple techniques such as NLP, breath exercise, visualization, or self hypnosis.
Pattern interruption is the best option in any situation for stopping a negative pattern, loop, or thought. Interrupt yourself right away by creating the opposite positive audio, image, or movie: Take a walk around the block, drink some water, and/or take five deep breaths. While you’re doing that, create the positive version of the image or audio in your mind. Any of the below can be used as a pattern interrupt.
Turn Your Negative Image Into a Funny Cartoon
For example, if there is a person that makes you uncomfortable, turn them into a silly cartoon—this will shrink down and dissolve your discomfort. Just the idea of it can make you laugh/lighten, and your brain will reference the person differently next time.
Create a Positive Outcome in Your Mind
If you’re nervous about a future situation, visualize yourself going through that situation in an optimal state and experiencing a positive outcome. If an activity or task feels daunting, imagine completing that task in a positive state/with a positive outcome. This activity gives your brain a visual to follow.
Stay in the present, and respond from where you are in that moment. Don’t visit negative past situations, as that brings up old neural networks and causes stress. Design only positive future scenarios: You haven’t arrived in the future yet, so you might as well design something positive.
Tell your brain the positive version of what you would like it to do. If you’re feeling negative or stressed, most likely you have been creating negative thoughts. Talk to yourself in the same way in which you would talk to a friend, family member, or a partner.
Turn It Down
If there is a loud or negative audio, imagine it being controlled by a switch in your mind and see yourself turning it down, off, or dissolving it. Sounds silly, but it can work in under 10 seconds.
Ask what you might need in that moment to make a shift into a happier place. Usually your mind will present an answer.
Try an active meditation, like this one, to show the mind what you would like to create.
Dance to Your Favorite Song
Dancing for even five minutes can create a positive shift in body, bringing in a new perspective. Plus, exercise is always good!
What’s a typical hypnosis session like?
Every session is different, depending on the client’s needs. The time together is usually a combination of dialoguing, sharing tips, techniques, and hypnosis. I like to meet the client where they are (mentally and emotionally), hear and see where they would like to shift, asking questions like: “If that thing/block wasn’t there, how would you be as a person?” This helps me to understand where they would like to move toward. Most people haven’t seen the version of themselves (related to their particular issue) they would like to become.
The hypnosis is a dialogue between the client and myself—we focus on changing the blocks into resources. Hypnosis can be compared to an interactive guided meditation. It is a deep state of relaxation and a heightened state of focus (which is a theta state). It is designed as a shortcut to communicate with the subconscious mind using images, sounds, and feelings. The client is always aware and can remember everything. While many are blown away by the experience, clients say it’s not like what they have seen in the movies—most say it’s actually very relaxing. After, clients tend to feel more calm, balanced, free, and open.
A lot of what you do is aimed at changing thinking patterns that underlie our emotions and behaviors. Can you talk about that more?
We spend a lot of time telling our brains what we can’t or shouldn’t do, and we create a lot of negative scenarios. Thoughts create chemicals in the body, which then have physical manifestations. When creating negative thoughts, images, and feelings, we instruct our brain to carry out negative actions.
You can use that same skill for good. You are actually in control, and when you talk to yourself positively, you can create positive outcomes in your mind, and the brain will start to work towards the state you desire. By having positive thoughts, visuals, and feelings, you can show your mind what you would like to create in any situation—and the body can follow.
The first step when you experience a block is to ask yourself: Is this block visual (movie or image), audio, a feeling, or a combination? When you know the source, the block is easier to dissolve. Blocks are layered, like an onion.
“You are actually in control, and when you talk to yourself positively, you can create positive outcomes in your mind, and the brain will start to work towards the state you desire.”
For example, if a client has a phobia or fear, I ask them to walk me through what they see. Most times, they are creating a negative future outcome before it has happened: This negative future outcome has now shown the body a map of what it should be doing and how to be fearful or nervous. When the client thinks about the situation in the future, they will most likely be referencing that projected audio or visual that they’ve created.
Next, I ask them to go through the future experience again, step by step, but this time, turn the negative audio or images they usually see into positive audio/images. If they are referencing experiences from the past, these may have to be resolved first.
Say a client is nervous about a presentation at work, and imagines their colleagues sitting in the conference room, on their phones and not listening. I would ask the client to reverse what he/she had been seeing to create a positive version—to see themselves going through the presentation and feeling good about it after. This lets the brain know it’s safe to give the presentation and shows the body what state it should be in while that’s happening. The idea is that the brain will reference the new visual as opposed to the original, discouraging/demeaning one.
“In my field, we say neurons that wire together fire together, creating a tendency to fire together again, thus forming a habit or a loop.”
The last step is to reference the original issue and notice how it might feel different now.
By showing the brain what we would like to achieve in the future, the body can follow and feel more relaxed. In my field, we say neurons that wire together fire together, creating a tendency to fire together again, thus forming a habit or a loop. Which—thank you, neuroplasticity—means our brains are capable of change. Over time, the brain will change, and you can create the new patterns you want. When you shift your relationship to the environment, positive changes will occur.
What kind of results do your clients typically see (and how many sessions does it take)?
There’s an amazing range. I have seen clients feel more free to be confident in any situation—i.e. at work, dating, social settings—successfully growing or starting their own business; having better relationships with loved ones; losing weight; finishing big projects; changing jobs; becoming happier and being present; experiencing a more positive view of the world. After the session, clients can focus on creating the outcomes they desire, as the “thing” that had been blocking them isn’t there any more.
Results can be very quick; in one to three sessions (in person or via Skype), people can make great strides, as long as they want to make a change and are proactively using the tools offered outside the sessions. Everyone has had a different set of experiences, which has led them to the moment when they enter my office. Talking to a client before helps me get an idea of what they want to work on and how many sessions they’ll likely need; some phobias, weight loss, or certain goals may take three sessions or more.
You also do past-life regression—who is that for, and what should someone expect in a session?
PLR is a technique that uses hypnosis to recover potential memories of past lives or incarnations. A regression can spark creativity from images, story, and allot emotional access that has previously been locked. Anyone interested in past-life regression can enjoy and benefit from the experience. Sometimes, I may ask people to clear their issues via present-life hypnosis before we do the PLR, and examine issues they think were carried over from past lives.
“A regression can spark creativity from images, story, and allot emotional access that has previously been locked.”
I was lucky to study with Dr. Brian Weiss who wrote the book Many Lives Many Masters. Over the years, I have developed my own PLR technique, where we might go through the key moments of several lives, or I may have clients bring questions, which allow them to move around through different lives and get information and resources that they need for this lifetime.
I actually think it’s better if there are no expectations—it makes it easier to relax and have the experience. I always say it’s like an IMAX for your mind because you are using the imaginative part of the brain to create the experience. No one session is alike, and with PLR, I never know where the adventure might lead!
Morgan Yakus is a bicoastal hypnosis practitioner and holistic health coach, who works with clients around the world on active meditation, modern integrative hypnosis, NLP, and past life regression. (Her first career was in fashion—as a stylist, and co-founder and owner for nine years of the beloved No.6 Store in NYC.) She studied past life regression with Dr. Brian Weiss (Many Lives Many Masters), and she also studied with Dragon Herbs founder Ron Teeguarden. Yakus puts her herbal wisdom to use in a Mobile Tonic Bar, which you book for events.
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