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Workshop: Breaking Through Creative Blocks with Dr. Clarissa Tu

On October 12th, Nothing But The Arts Incorporated hosted a self-hypnosis event with Occupational Therapist and certified Hypnotherapist Dr. Clarissa Tu.

In the workshop, Dr. Tu explains that creative blocks are the result of our subconscious resorting to the Fight or Flight (or Freeze) reflex in response to fears that our creative work may not meet our expectations. As she puts it:

“Our subconscious tries to keep us safe by keeping us where we’re at”

Self-hypnosis is a tool to circumnavigate that stagnation. By inducing a trance state, we can calm the fight or flight reflex.

Words like “hypnotized” or “trance” seem a bit scary. But this is no side show. The trance is a brain wave pattern between wakefulness and sleep. Everyone experiences this trance state at least twice a day- when we fall asleep and when we awaken. We also enter hypnosis when daydreaming, driving on autopilot, or watching a movie.

Like meditation, hypnosis is a way of training yourself to induce a brain wave pattern. Unlike meditation, hypnosis has a directed goal. It’s not about clearing the mind, it’s about achieving an objective by removing subconscious blocks.

It’s a bit like getting yourself out of the house for a jog every morning, where your objective is health, and the mental block is the cozy bed.

“Turning any limitations we have into new possibilities”

It’s a suggestible state that allows us to overcome limiting beliefs.

The Steps to Trance Success

“What is it going to look like when I can access my creative abilities, what possibilities does that open up?”

Step 1: Define Your Intention

Before you begin the exercise of self-hypnosis (and it is an exercise- a muscle that strengthens with practice) it’s important to define your goal.

Tu lays out a few common roadblocks for creatives.

Once you have identified the limit, the next step is to envision overcoming it.

Create a clear, positive, present-tense statement for a hypothetical version of yourself who is currently engaged in the process that is feared by your subconscious. Essentially you want to describe an experience that the person you strive to be has already had., The Karate Kid montage for your successful future self.

As a painter, you may need to produce more work, or you may need to increase your exposure. So depending on where you are in your career, your statement could be either:

I paint 3 paintings this month.


I hang my work in 3 galleries this month.

Essentially a positive, present tense picture of your goal. Note that it’s not “I will paint 3 paintings this month.” Your intention is an implanted memory, not a desire. Something you do rather than something you want to do.

Step 2: Define your Action Step

Your action step is one action you can do to get started. To use the jogging analogy, getting your shoes on and getting out the door.

For our hypothetical painter, this could be:

I stand at my easel with enough materials and resources to work for 3 hours.

Step 3: Write Down your Intention and Your Action Step

Clarifying your purpose by putting it on paper increases the likelihood that you’ll take action.

Step 4: Say it, Sense it, Feel it.

This is a vision exercise. Picture the obstacles you would like to overcome. Focus on the version of yourself that has achieved the intention: Where are you standing? What do your senses pick up?

Once you have that memory projected, think about what that accomplishment feels like. Do you feel confident? Has your imposter syndrome diminished? Really solidify that place in your mind, and the accompanying emotion.

The Trance State

Now you are ready to engage the trance state.

The process is very simple. Most therapists begin… with a little music.

There are four basic steps.

  1. Find a comfortable space away from distraction.

  2. Use a mindful hypnotic induction. In Dr. Tu’s case, she had us use a “fingers like magnets” technique.

  3. Introduce your suggestion.

  4. Slowly walk back to consciousness.

There are plenty of youtube videos that walk you through the process. Dr. Tu is a brilliant guide, and her website is a great way to start.

Tye Moody

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