“What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve.” —Napoleon Hill
Lying in the grass on an idyllic summer day, I soak in the sun’s warmth as it shines upon me. From this knoll amid a magical forest, I can hear the current of a nearby stream burbling across stones. Birds falsetto while rainbows komorebi through towering branches.
Suddenly, I am a mighty oak tree—tall, strong and rooted firmly in the earth. With every breath, my roots descend as my crown stretches high among the stars. Along this journey, I notice how I am connected to everything—a refuge or nourishment for wildlife, a dance partner for the wind—and so comes a more profound sense of belonging. From my view in outer space, I gain a new perspective, and this bigger picture reveals new realities about life.
You’re probably guessing I picked a wrong mushroom along this wilderness trip.
Actually, I’m embarking on the adventure from the comfort of a hypnotherapist’s chaise, where Marshal Manlove employs the Ericksonian method (named after Arizona psychiatrist Milton Erickson, M.D.) to remind me that I’m a force of nature whose abilities have no limits.
If I hope to achieve anything from this experience, it’s to manage stress in healthier ways. I’m not a drinker or smoker, but if I were, Manlove would rely on a less esoteric and more direct method to help release me from those vices.
As the founder and director of First State Hypnosis in Newark, he sees hundreds of clients a year who battle such habits as smoking or substance abuse, as well as stress, performance, eating or sleep disorders. His treatment depends on the type of person he’s hypnotizing, which he gleans from a suggestibility test. (When he learns that I lived in California for a time, Manlove presumes I’m less analytical than creative, and opts for the aforementioned Ericksonian frolic in the forest; curious, I don’t challenge his journey of choice.)
“There is a stigma about hypnotherapy created by stage hypnosis. But this isn’t theater—it’s a widely accepted form of therapy,” he explains.
“We dig up rainforests, dig up roots of rare trees to grind into a pill for some sort of magical fix. But if we learned how to properly manage our stress and emotions, then we would find that the number of times we need to take a pill are far less.”
So how does hypnotherapy work? “Essentially, hypnosis is a deep state of relaxation and concentration,” Manlove explains.
Hypnotherapy refers to how and why hypnosis is used. He believes “positive linguistic association” is the most effective technique for changing behavior.
For example, if you’re a smoker who desires to quit, he might have you recall a moment that made you feel proud while also having you visualize yourself reaching your goal. Over time, you begin to connect those positive feelings with doing what’s necessary to achieve your goal.
It takes 21 days to break old habits, Manlove says, so he records his sessions so patients can listen to it for three weeks. “Each time it’s like having a new ‘live’ session that reinforces the new behavior,” he explains.
For food disorders, like overeating, it takes 42 days. “Food is tricky, because we have to eat,” Manlove says. “So, it’s easier to get people to quit smoking than to lose weight.”
Harmful habits often manifest from deeper issues. “Some I can handle; others—like PTSD or more serious substance abuse—I’ll refer off,” he says. For those clients he can help, Manlove guides them to better manage underlying stress, advising them to “take a walk, squeeze a ball, scream bloody murder,” he says. “It’s all healthier than what you’re doing right now.”
Manlove’s father introduced him to hypnosis when he was a kid. “My mother taught me how to play sports and my dad taught me how to do all this weird stuff,” he jokes. As a part-time comedy hypnotist, he’s seen just how powerful the technique can be.
“Everybody’s afraid you’re going to make them quack like a duck or cluck like a chicken—I don’t do anything like that,” he laughs. Rather, he’ll have his audience react to basic things. “For instance, it might be 90 degrees and humid on stage, but I’ll get people to believe it’s 10 degrees. They’ll think they’ve got goose bumps and they’re snuggling up with each other. It’s hilarious.
“But think about how powerful the human mind is,” he points out, “that someone can physically manifest a suggestion in that way. Seeing how my words can affect 20 or 30 strangers at the same time helps me tailor my hypnotherapy approach.”
Manlove doesn’t believe in using negative associations for hypnotherapy or for entertainment. “You won’t ever see me telling someone a grizzly bear is about to eat them or that the cable of the roller coaster they’re on just snapped,” he says. “I don’t ever want people to feel frightened or demeaned.”
Back to the chaise.
“Now sleep, sleep a little deeper,” Manlove says.
I’m farther along in the journey and this time watching myself on a large movie screen.
“See yourself after having reached your goal,” he guides. “What does this scene look like? What is different in this new life? What new freedoms do you have?”
As I tiptoe back into the present, Manlove has me draw in a deep breath, tell myself to relax, and then exhale. From this moment forward, there is no disorder, only order. So long as I take the journey again tomorrow.
First appointment is $150; subsequent sessions are $100. For more information, visit firststatehypnosis.com.