Break State! An essential mental health technique.


For today's article, I am explaining a very useful neurolinguistic programming (NLP) technique and how to use it in your day-to-day experience. It is something I learned in hypnotherapy school, and although it took no more than a minute to master, it is one of the most effective instruments to carry in your mental alchemy medicine pouch.

The break state brings you back to baseline.

A break state is any action which serves to bring your mind to a neutral mode, compared to how it was a moment before. The action can be thought-based, body-based, or a combination of each. In school, for example, we would spend many hours practicing new hypnosis protocols, and this involved hypnotizing each other. A lot. Many of the protocols involve asking the co-hypnotist (the client) to tune into a certain emotion or imagine a certain experience, and then move onto something else. In between those two tasks is where we use the break state. If I am imagining how much I love walking through a forest, to the degree at which I can smell the dirt and hear the leaves rustling and truly feel the happy peace I feel when I am actually there — and then I am supposed to imagine something completely different, with different sensations and emotions, the break state neutralizes the mental landscape, so that I can start from a solid baseline before moving on to the next task.

Of course, it is useful outside of a therapeutic environment as well. Indeed, daily life is where it really shines, as we are often facing new situations which challenge our mental integrity. Imagine the next time something happens which would usually elicit in you a near-automatic response of anger. This time, however, instead of becoming angry, you have a flash of clarity the instant before the emotion fully arises (thanks to your daily mindfulness practice, no doubt!) and you do a break state. ZAP! No more anger! Total reset to neutral. Now, you can approach the situation in a way that is more supportive for everyone involved, and most likely see better results from it.

Emotions are habits too.

A little note here on emotional habits. Sometimes, even though we may want to behave differently, and express different emotions, we feel very compelled to act in a similar way to the way we usually act. And I mean more than just reacting without thinking. Yes, we do that too, often, though here I am referring to those moments when we are fully aware of what just happened, how we feel about it, and perhaps a few different ways we could respond... (this all happens in no more than two seconds)... and yet still respond in an emotionally non-ideal way. We still go with the anger or the sadness or the frantic worry or whatever upset it may be, even though we are aware of other ways. This is a pattern which can be changed.

A useful metaphor.

Imagine your emotions like one big river, and all the different ways of expressing your emotions are branches and tributaries of this river. Some of those streams are wider and deeper than others, only because the water has been flowing there longer. It is the same with your emotions. We are quick to react using the path of least resistance, the wider path. By becoming more conscious of this, and intentionally taking other paths, we can lead the water to flow there. And the more we do this, the more we carve out a new path of least resistance. I'll write more about this metaphor sometime. It's a very helpful one.

How to break state!

Alright! Are you ready to learn this super powerful technique!?

ARE YOU SURE!?!?!?!?

Okay... But only if you truly believe you are ready.

Here we go...

Close your eyes, and with your eyes closed, look up, down, left, right, and back to center. Open your eyes.

Congratulations! You have mastered the break state! Yes, it really is that simple. To experience its effect more potently, do something that gets you feeling a particular way, like listening to an emotional song or watching an engaging video, then use the break state. Notice the difference in your thought and emotional patterns.

Now, this is the way I learned in school. This is not the only way to break state, however. As I said before, a break state can be any action. For example, say aloud the word "peekalallaborbitingle". This is also a break state, because it's ridiculous. Another break state could be a slap in the face, although I don't personally recommend that one. The eye-look break state is very effective, and the one I use the most, for a few reasons. Three, it's easy and quick. Two, it's inconspicuous, so I can use it in public while maintaining the appearance of someone from whom you wouldn't regret asking the time. One, it's based on other eye-related NLP knowledge which I won't get into right now.

So try it out! It takes only seconds of your time and can save you much, much more than that when used regularly and properly.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, farewell.


Devin Ryback