If you’re trying to score a promotion or find love, there are a ton of wellness tools to help you get in the mindset to make that happen—like journaling, intention-setting, and prioritizing self-care. (Bath time FTW!)
But there’s another goal-getting strategy that could be a powerful complement to the usual suspects: hypnosis.
Okay, before you start picturing mind control and quacking like a duck, hear me out. Morgan Yakus, a practitioner of integrative hypnosis and past-life regression who sees clients in both New York City and Los Angeles, swears real-deal hypnosis isn’t that far removed from meditation. In fact, if you’ve ever gone to a group sit or tried out a mindfulness app, you’re already halfway there.
“Self-hypnosis is essentially a step beyond a guided [meditation] practice.”
“Self-hypnosis is essentially a step beyond a guided practice,” explains Yakus. “Instead of letting someone else lead you, you’re the driver—and you direct your mind to where it needs to be.” That’s the beauty of hypnosis, she says: Since you’re in charge, you can use the practice to achieve whatever you want.
Clinical studies indicate that the technique is especially effective for decreasing stress and anxiety, which will also help you in pretty much every area of life—whether that’s sleeping more soundly, gaining confidence at work, or getting over a breakup.
So how does it work, exactly? “We can actively override preexisting neural networks [in our] brains to create new ones during hypnosis,” Yakus says. (In layman’s terms, that means it helps create new thought patterns.) “A person can let the subconscious know they no longer need a habit. Then, they can let go of repeating that negative thought and feeling for good.”
So, how do you hypnotize yourself? And does it work? Keep reading for a 4-step guide—and find out what happened when I tried it.
How to hypnotize yourself
“There are so many uses for this technique: balancing the body, calming the mind, finding clarity in your life, or helping you visualize finishing a project,” says Yakus. It might take you a few tries to get the hang of self-hypnosis, but the expert swears there’s really no way to mess it up. “Be patient with yourself…and enjoy the process!”
Step 1: Find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Locate a spot above eye level to rest your eyes upon—this starts the relaxation process. Have a soft focus and take in the whole room without moving your eyes.
Step 2: Mentally state your goal. Why are you going into hypnosis, and what do you intend for your mind to do?
“I am going into this meditative state for the purpose of _____________ .” (Examples: calming the mind, balancing the body, finding clarity, or working towards a goal.)
“During this process my mind will make adjustments so that _____________ occurs naturally and easily.” (Examples: a calm mind, a balanced body, clarity, a goal.)
Step 3: Repeat the following sentences to yourself as many times as needed to feel very relaxed. (At least four times.) The observations are all coming from what’s popping up in your imagination—no matter how weird or random it is, roll with it. Eventually, your eyes will want to close. Let them—that’s the whole idea.
“I am now aware that I see _________.” (Repeat four times, with a different visual observation each time.)
“I am now aware that I hear _________.” (Repeat four times, with a different auditory observation each time.)
“I am now aware that I feel _________.” (Repeat four times, with a different observations of how you feel right this moment each time.)
Step 4: Next, tell yourself how you want to feel when you complete the process and how long you wish to be in meditation. If your mind wanders, be an observer—and come out of the meditation whenever you’re ready.
“In 10 minutes, I’m going to feel __________.” (Examples: calm, grounded, motivated, energized, balanced.)
While it may read like a lot of steps, when you’re in the moment it’s quite easy. It’s simply a tool to control your thoughts and shift your perception of a mood or event—and I should know, because Yakus led me through three rounds of self-hypnosis myself.
What it did for me
Before we began, Yakus had me chat about something that I wanted to work on. In my case? Feeling stressed about an influx of projects at work and letting the pressure affect my performance. As we went through the steps, she told me to imagine myself reacting in my normal way.
On the second round, she told me to envision myself acting the way I wish I would react and playing it out in my mind. On the third round, she told me to play out my “dream scenario” again, but for an extra couple of minutes. By the time we were finished, I had been sitting there for five minutes straight, without getting distracted, and I felt way more calm and ready to tackle the inevitable tension in a manageable way.
I was never “out,” as people in shady, quack-like-a-duck hypnotism sideshows are, so I never had to “come to”.
I was never “out,” as people in shady, quack-like-a-duck hypnotism sideshows are, so I never had to “come to”—in fact, I felt more focused and my mind was super sharp during and after the session. The process gave me an approachable and practical method of try to visualize and manifest my goals. And just like meditation, I can do it just about anywhere. (Translation: I’ll be adding self-hypnosis into my daily routine.)
So, next time you’ve got a major meeting with your boss or a nerve-wracking first date, you might want to try it out in your bedroom, on the subway (with noise-canceling headphones), or even in the office bathroom—no swinging pendulum required.
I Tried Hypnosis to Get Out of My Own Head
When you are suffering, you will do anything to make yourself heal, which is how I launched into an exhausting list of “self-care” practices that include herbal supplement consumption, adrenal testing, yoga, acupuncture, talk therapy, meditation and eating a banana everyday (apparently, it is mood lifting).
The problem with doing all these things when you’re a nervous person is that you’re a nervous person, so you apply the tendencies of your mind to these experiences and they become painstaking chores. You forget to take your herbs and feel like you have failed. You wake up and don’t want to meditate or go to yoga because you’d rather just sit at your computer with a BIG-ASS COFFEE that will definitely impact your adrenals, and you start to think that maybe you just don’t care enough about yourself. That maybe you don’t deserve to feel good.
So you keep working towards betterment, which is how I ultimately cherried my “healing” cake with hypnosis.
At the end of New York Fashion Week — specifically, two hours before the Thom Browne show on a Monday — I met with Morgan Yakus, a former East Coast stylist and shop owner who is now a bi-coastal certified hypnotist and generally compassionate person. I was vulnerable enough to not even consider the archetypal renderings of what it means to be hypnotized. Would she sit me on a sterile chair in front of a black seamless and dangle a yo-yo in front of my face until I genuinely started to believe that I was someone else? Right out of the gate, she explained that I wouldn’t feel like a different person at the end of the treatment. Then she asked why I’d come.
I told her I was sick of being a prisoner of my mind. I’d been holding on to my lost pregnancy like it was the sole defining trait of my identity and I couldn’t let go. That I didn’t want to let go because I feared I would never get pregnant again, that I’d never have another period. A broken loser who at best could muster vile jealousy towards any carrying woman and at worst, regretted waking up in the mornings.
She walked me through my childhood, asked a number of benign questions about how I was raised and where I was raised and how a whole bunch of hypothetical scenarios dealing in pregnancy made me feel. The questions were rudimentary — I felt like a kid learning how to express emotion — but I think their simplicity was precisely the reason I could let it hang out. There’s something about assuming the innocence of your child-self that makes thinking scary thoughts feel a little safer.
Following the inquiry portion of our session, she laid me down on a treatment table. I had a black towel over my head and was instructed to roll my eyes back and let them flutter until they felt the need to close. At this point, the questions progressed. We walked through a ton of shit — everything from my relationship with my mom to my favorite kind of breakfast. Over and over she asked if I was ready to let go; while she asked this question, I had to pay attention to four different sounds coming through the room. “Yes,” I kept telling her, as I heard the fan slow down then pick up, slow down then pick up. “Yes.”
It felt like 20 minutes but by the time she’d concluded our session, it had been close to two hours. I got up, rubbed my eyes, put my shoes back on, left, and felt exactly the same.
Granted, I was slightly tired (I’d definitely fallen into some version of a meditative state), but I was sure that if you’d have asked me to replay the miscarriage — sitting in that chair while my mother-in-law tried to console me — or the announcement of my best friend’s pregnancy, I’d cry. But my mind wouldn’t let me go there, so I didn’t bother trying to make it go there.
I went for dinner that night with a couple of friends. We were talking about life and work and love and food and one of my friends looked over at me in an intimate moment and said, “You know you’re going to be fine, right?” I looked back and said I was fine — like I meant it.
For a good number of weeks, I believed it. I barely thought about kids, I stopped calculating how old I would be by the time they reached their 20s, I had sex just to have sex — can you believe that? For pleasure. It was actually nice to hang out in my head again. I loved being there! People always say that when you stop thinking about it is when you get pregnant (a stupid thing to tell a heartbroken, desperate woman) and when my doctor called me following some blood tests to let me know that I still hadn’t ovulated, it felt like all the work had been reversed. Like the past several weeks were a trick. A joke on me. I was angry and comparative again. I wanted to grasp anything that could give me hope. The acupuncture, the energy healing, the supplements. So I did. When I could. And when I couldn’t?
I simply couldn’t. It didn’t make me a failure or indicate that I deserved to suffer. I just didn’t have time. For me, this has really been the magic of hypnosis. That I could genuinely stop thinking I am the greatest loser of them all, stop beating myself down so profoundly? That’s freeing.
I have since modified my “self-care” routine to the following:
+Anything else when I feel like it.
I don’t think I’m ever going to not want to be a mom, or that I’ll stop fighting either. I anticipate that the vile jealousy will get better but don’t expect that seeing other women effortlessly receive (conceive?) what I still have not will make me happy like everyone says it is supposed to. I know that’s a controversial thing to admit — it might make me sound bitter — but for right now, in this moment, it’s enough to acknowledge and allow that without hating myself. No judgement.
Collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt; images by GraphicaArtis and Fox Photos/Hulton Archive via Getty Images.
ELLE UK, MAGAZINE AUGUST 2016
Morgan's healing work is an extension of her curious, open heart and nurturing demeanor with both psyche and soma.
She is a channel of intuition and wisdom, constantly seeking further education to assist her clients on a personal level, while carrying a sagacious understanding that each person has a unique set of challenges that need tending to. Morgan meets her clients where they are, and offers guidance and insightful questions without an agenda. With a multifaceted array of modalities from Akashic records to hypnosis to past life regressions, a hidden perspective will be revealed from a session with her. She is a true alchemist when it comes to her mouth watering tonics, too! - Dana Kline, Depth Psychotherapist.