Hypnotist Elena Mosaner: How To Thrive Despite Experiencing Impostor Syndrome
You can shake it off. Mindfulness is one way. So is training your mental muscle to dismiss negative and faulty mind chatter. This means meditating regularly at least 10 minutes day. Once you get into it, you would want to do longer sessions. I like the neuroscientist Sam Harris’s app called Waking Up. It’s great to start practicing short daily mindfulness based meditations. Self-hypnosis is another way, which is what I did in my early 20’s with tapes. I still make my own customized sessions today with hypnotic inductions and positive affirmations. Today, I either use voice memos or the AlphaMind self-hypnosis app.
I had the pleasure interviewing Elena Mosaner.
Elena is a certified hypnotherapist by the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH), book author and International Coach Federation (ICF) certified professional coach. She holds a bachelor of science degree in creative writing and film as well as a master of science degree in executive coaching and organizational behavior. Throughout the last 15 years, she has worked with professional athletes, celebrities and high-level executives such as UFC Champion Fighter Lyman Good, Oscar Nominee and filmmaker Josh Fox, children of famous pop singers, and she has helped more than 1,000 people transform into their best version using hypnosis therapy and coaching. In this interview, she will use real life examples from some of the results she has had working with athletes to help optimize their performance. In response to the stressful Coronavirus pandemic, she is offering the public free downloads of her Stress Reduction Audio SET, which includes three recordings. The set is available on www.elenamosaner.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Thank you for your interest in my work and back story.
I was born in Russia and came to the US to study. I lived with an American family for a year in Pennsylvania where I went to high school. I then lived in New York City for 20 years, where I studied in college and built my hypnotherapy and coaching practice, helping New Yorkers with confidence, high performance, and new habit building. Now I split my time between New York, where I have many clients, and California, where I also have many clients and where I live with my family.
I originally discovered hypnosis when I was five years old, when my mom took me to see a stage hypnosis show. To this day, I remember the awe I felt seeing a female hypnotist take the stage making the adult participants do unusual things: they were unable to unlock their hands and suddenly acted like kids playing with imaginary toys, speaking in kids’ voices. It was a mystery to me for many years afterward.
In my early 20’s, I remember the pressure of trying to figure out who I wanted to be, what career path to choose and school to attend. I was doubting myself and my ability to succeed. I randomly, came across an ad for a hypnotherapy course. Immediately, I wanted to take it not only to decipher the magic of that hypnosis show I saw at a young age, but I also knew in my intuition that this somehow could help me understand myself better in the search for who I wanted to be and my direction in life.
After I took the course, I began to make self-hypnosis tapes back when people still used actual cassette tapes. I made them to help my accent not sound so pronounced and to speak slower and more clearly. I also used the tapes to help me become more confident in my public speaking classes and overcome my old fear of driving. As I saw the positive results of reprogramming the mind, I began to use hypnosis to help me see my desired outcomes and it motivated me to move forward with more confidence. Hypnosis is a great modality for reprogramming cognitions and rationalizing fears, which in turn helps with confidence and self-esteem.
At that time, I enrolled at the New School University to study filmmaking, which was one of my dreams — to make films. I wanted to learn to use visuals, sounds and stories to move people’s hearts. In the meantime, I started working with people on the side helping them with hypnosis to build better habits and conquer fears. This slowly grew into a private practice. I would get referrals from former clients and other hypnotherapists. I began using the subconscious stories, visuals and sounds to change people’s minds. Hypnosis is a lot like filmmaking: metaphors, visuals and transformative narratives are like an entry way into the healing and mind-bending imagination that can cause change to happen in as quickly as one session.
I took more hypnotherapy courses and studied NLP (Neuro-Linguistic programming) and went for a Master’s in Science Degree in executive coaching and became an ICF (International Coach Federation) Certified Professional Coach. Getting proper and legitimate education and certifications was important to me because I wanted to work with people’s minds. Truth is, it is easy to become a hypnotherapist because it is not a government regulated profession in the US. Some just take a weekend course and open their practice right away. I believe it is very important to learn and be able to think critically, abide by the science practitioner model and evidence-based approaches when working with people’s psychology. Universities are one way to provide the base for that knowledge and experience. By no means, one can learn it without going to college. However, I took a more traditional route.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I’ve worked with many accomplished, high-powered executives and am often surprised they suffer from imposter syndrome. It’s so much more common than people realize, and during my work with numerous clients, I learned that it results from the stories we tell and come to believe of ourselves in our subconscious. This is also how hypnosis is so powerful and why it works so well to correct and eliminate imposter syndrome.
Most people have misconceptions about hypnosis. And quite often people come and tell me that they don’t believe in hypnosis or that they are skeptics and are not hypnotizable. There are two completely opposing stereotypes of hypnosis, one of a mind control, another of a complete poppycock nonsense. These stereotypes are based on reality, like stage shows which are misleading, movies and TV shows that perpetuate the old stereotypes and some unprofessional practitioners of hypnosis that claim to possess super powers over their subjects.
First, stage hypnosis and clinical hypnosis are vastly different. Clinical hypnosis is much more real and plays a valuable role in mental health. Stage hypnosis, on the other hand, is more like a play. When I finally understood how stage hypnosis worked, I was blown away. It took me a few times being hypnotized by a stage hypnotist and finally practicing it myself just to get a sense of how it worked. I learned it has nothing to do with mind control. The people you see on stage who look like they are sleeping, are actually not sleeping. They just close their eyes as directed by the hypnotist and wait for the next instruction. They have agreed to follow these instructions and have fun on stage. So, for the outsider it may look like they are “out” or that they don’t know what they are doing. They know exactly what they are doing. Just think of how out of 100 people in the audience only about 10 end up on stage. So, about 10% of these people really want to have fun and be a bit of a star of the show, act free, like a kid — it is very freeing, especially when someone else is giving you permission to behave that way. It’s like acting on stage, playing different parts. And these people have agreed to it. Some, even long before they come to a show, have it in their minds that they will be the ones to go on stage and be hypnotized. So, stage hypnosis is not that mysterious or fascinating. Clinical hypnosis, on the other hand is where magic lies and real transformation happens.
Working with hundreds of clients over the years, I have come to learn that almost anyone with normal intelligence or above can be hypnotized, as long as they are willing to follow the instructions of a hypnotist. Hypnosis can happen even if your eyes are open, simply through a logical thought producing conversation where there is active listening, mirroring, both hypnotist and client having a good rapport, conversation pacing and leading are natural, and there is asking of open-ended questions to challenge assumptions. That alone creates a shift in thinking.
Hypnosis is a about transferring and securing a new idea in one’s mind. The idea that stays and later affects your belief and behavior. I enjoy inducing a more formal state of deep relaxation with a reduced neural activity in the brain, characterized by alpha or theta waves. In such relaxing physical and mental state you are more open to secure these news ideas and use imagination to visualize them. When you see your desired outcome in the mind, you begin to believe it more and feel more excited and motivated to fulfil it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I produce rapid results. Smokers stop smoking after one single session. Most hypnosis sessions, like overcoming a bad habit or building a new one, or conquering a specific fear may require an average of two sessions. There is something I do which I think is a bit unique. When my client is in hypnosis, which is close to deep meditative state, I recite their unique suggestion to them. Then, I ask them to repeat some of these suggestions silently with their inner voice, in their own mind. This becomes a change producing self-talk. There are a few studies in education and cognitive behavior therapy that have shown the power of self-instruction to enhance learning and behavior change.
For example in one study where two groups of first grade kids were compared in solving a puzzle for three-year-olds, they found that normal achieving kids would speak out loud their next step and had a system developed in their heads in the form of step by step instruction. On the other hand, kids with delayed abilities would have no system or self-instruction, and instead approached the same puzzle with trial and error and very little focus. Similarly, adult learning happens when you begin to think systematically, almost like a researcher. For example, if you deal with a problem or obstacle, you may approach it using an adult learning model, by asking the following set of questions: “This is what happened, how do I describe it, what did I learn from it and how do implement new knowledge into the next step to improve my life?” It is very simple. That’s how you grow and learn from mistakes instead of repeating them. You develop a manual of sorts and use self-hypnosis to install it into your mind to make change in your thinking and behavior. Hypnosis therapy is about relearning a new way of thinking and behavior. It is educating the mind for behavior change.
I also record hypnosis sessions for my clients and send it to them after the session. This way they can reinforce the new mindset, their belief system and vision around a new behavior. Repetition helps secure this “upgrade” of one’s mental software for a more lasting change.
Imposter syndrome can be emotionally debilitating, and having the session recording to reinforce the new belief system is paramount to hypnosis success in quickly overcoming this syndrome. Clients who have used hypnosis for imposter syndrome have achieved fast results with this method.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There were a few people. I have been blessed to meet good people along my way in New York City while building my career. New Yorkers are very generous people. Now living in San Diego, I am discovering the same. Maybe I am just more open and choose to see these kind people, as there are plenty of them around, you just have to believe you’ll find them and be more proactive.
My friend and colleague John Zakour, a science fiction writer who found me online 15 years ago. He was looking for a consultant for a movie script that included a hypnotist as one of the characters in the film. We became friends. I would often run my ideas for books and blog posts by him for proof reading and suggestions. He has coached me to become a better writer. We even ended up writing a science fiction book together for young adults called Quantum Voyeur (2014). This was one of the most creative and happy experiences that taught me self-discipline and how baby steps in writing produce big results.
There is also a great organization called Woman Within that includes transformative workshops for women led by women. There are so many amazing women I met through the organization, who understand the power of vulnerability and integrity. The founder of Woman Within Char Tosi, put the whole empire together and has become a mentor to so many women who chose to participate in workshops, circles or become volunteers for the organization. The circles are completely free and are available in most cities in the US. This organization and the women leaders of this organization have been a great source of support for me. I have learned about archetypes that drive our life and how to balance, heal and learn from them.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?
I am so glad you are doing this interview, as Impostor Syndrome has surfaced as a big problem lately, even with my clients. I have had a number of established and new clients who have come to me specifically referring to this phenomenon and the feelings associated with Impostor Syndrome, which they want to resolve and overcome. Impostor Syndrome is generally defined as a psychological condition in which one doubts their abilities and accomplishments and they fear they will be exposed as a fraud.
In the past people would come to me with issues of insecurities and low self-esteem, now people have a name for it: Impostor Syndrome. It affects both men and women regardless of age. Generally, at least from my experience with clients, I found that people with impostor syndrome feel a sense of not belonging to a group or community, being different, not being enough or feeling low self-worth. They do not feel they deserve the accolades or success they have achieved, as if inherently they are not that good, and one day people would finally see it. So, there is shame and fear associated with this condition too.
What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?
It really triggers anxiety. Imagine believing that you don’t deserve the attention of your followers or the success you have built and having the fear of being exposed one day as a fraud or being worthless. It can be quite daunting and unsettling for someone. It is ultimately the fear of shame and not knowing how to deal with it. The downside is one’s frequent feeling of anxiety, nervousness and not living in the moment, avoiding connecting with people, not enjoying life fully. It can be limiting in a way that one would not use their talents or skills fully to share with their community or society. I have had a few clients who are successful company executives, and due to their struggle with Impostor Syndrome, they would experience a high anxiety with public speaking, while a part of them really wanted to engage with the audience and share their experiences and knowledge.
How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?
It really varies from person to person. From my experience with clients who have exhibited the symptoms of Impostor Syndrome, I find they tend to have decent family ties and friendships, but generally fear public opinion of large groups, people they don’t know well or even the society at large. This includes the workplace, employees, classmates in university, people in the audience or social setting and so on. It is possible that one may experience social anxiety and inability to relate authentically to others. To the outside it may appear rude or disconnected or just a little different. However, usually nobody really cares or notices anything. It’s the person with Imposter Syndrome who cares the most and stays in their head ruminating and thinking of being exposed or looking bad. It is quite unfortunate and can be emotionally painful and energy draining.
We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?
Personally, I never experienced Imposter Syndrome, except for some doubts in my early 20’s, as I mentioned earlier, which I overcame with self-hypnosis. I feel quite confident in all that I am, my past, present and future. And I teach my clients to feel the same. Confidence is about self-acceptance and learning to embrace all parts of yourself. As an example, one of my clients I’ll call Jack (not his real name) grew up in a very religious home but eventually became an atheist. According to him, his parents were very strict and especially his mother who was highly critical of him and unloving. He has built a very successful technology company, sold it and now often speaks publicly teaching people about the industry’s ins and outs. When he came to me he said: “Here I am, just spoke to 500 people in the audience, they all seem moved and applauding, and I leave the stage, drive home and feel like I fooled everyone and I am not who they see me as.”
As I spoke with Jack more, we learned that deep within, Jack still feels like a little boy who was criticized and even physically punished by his parents for some minor misbehavior in school. He felt unseen. He began to believe there was something wrong with him. He keeps carrying that old feeling into his adult life. There are many other examples, how and why one would experience Impostor Syndrome. I recently began to work with a young woman who has developed feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem and as a result gained quite a bit of weight. She is a woman of color who was lucky to attend a private school in New York with “all white kids from rich families.” She felt different, alienated and experienced a bit of a struggle and culture shock trying to fit in. Once again, it can be emotionally painful and draining. When someone is in a situation like this, they have trouble enjoying the experience of going to school for many years. This builds up over time and can develops into Impostor Syndrome.
Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?
You can shake it off. Mindfulness is one way. So is training your mental muscle to dismiss negative and faulty mind chatter. This means meditating regularly at least 10 minutes day. Once you get into it, you would want to do longer sessions. I like the neuroscientist Sam Harris’s app called Waking Up. It’s great to start practicing short daily mindfulness based meditations.
Self-hypnosis is another way, which is what I did in my early 20’s with tapes. I still make my own customized sessions today with hypnotic inductions and positive affirmations. Today, I either use voice memos or the AlphaMind self-hypnosis app.
In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.
First ask yourself what do you believe in? What thoughts exactly go through your mind?
Second, write these thoughts down. Do not be ashamed, it is only for you to read.
Third, reframe these thoughts into new positive statements. Be bold.
Next step, you should speak your new positive statements out loud about ten times. Do so for a week or two, every day.
Final step, learn some self-hypnosis techniques to help you elicit a natural relaxation response. Use your positive statements again in the form of self- instruction while in the relaxing state of hypnosis.
Here are some examples. I will refer to a former client who I will call Anna. Anna graduated with bachelors and masters degrees and is now working for a large marketing company. On paper she has what her parents wanted for her: her degrees and a well-paying job in Manhattan. She is independent. But unhappy. She feels her degrees are worthless and that she doesn’t deserve to work for the company. What goes through her mind? “I feel stupid, and I feel I don’t belong in this organization. I did it for my parents. I am not that smart anyway, just got lucky.”
How can Anna reframe this? Here is an example: “I am smart. I choose to integrate and learn from this organization. I do it for myself, even though my parents wanted this too. I am intelligent and will continue to learn and grow and eventually move on and find a position that suits me better. I create my own luck.”
This is an example of new inner story-telling.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe that one day there would need to be a license to have children. It’s a bit of a radical idea right now, but I see it coming. Perhaps, it can start with a certification of some kind that future parents would need to earn prior to having children. Raising children is a big responsibility. We bring humans into this world to experience and enjoy life and grow up into healthy individuals. Childhood needs to be happy and joyous and serve as a great learning platform.
There is so much business around therapy and psychology to help people heal their childhood wounds and forgive their past. Why can’t we have a better start for people, from day one? It should start with healthy, more conscious parenting. This could reduce crime, addiction and depression in adults. This could end a cycle of generational pain. Of course, you can never be a perfect parent, but you can be better, more conscious and aware.
As a person of influence, I would team up with talented professionals and make a film about a futuristic society in 2050, where such a license would be the norm. I think through film you can plant a seed for a new thought in people’s minds. Film is like hypnosis.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
I have always liked Oprah. She is really one of the most amazing women in the US. I love her confidence, authenticity, kindness and her ability to connect with people. She is full of insight and is like a good mother to so many Americans. She is the one I would love to meet one day and have breakfast with. I would love to discuss with her the idea of building a free coaching and hypnotherapy platform for the kids who come from orphanages, foster homes and low income homes. This platform should be free, just like parenting is free. I want these kids to heal and feel privileged and later learn to give back.
Also, I have been watching Angelina Jolie do great charitable work with kids and helping women find their voice. She has some great ideas that come from her heart. I also sense she has been dealing with quite a bit of personal challenges and professional changes. I would love to show her and teach her some ways to heal with hypnotherapy and help shine her light into the world that could be seen and recognized by many, in ways that it deserves.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My web site:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for your great questions and the opportunity to speak with you.