For our first #MindOverMatter feature, we dive into the world of hypnotherapy to explore who it’s for, how it works and what happens.
“Lay in this chair, I’m going to talk a bit then I’m going to tell you to go to sleep. Although it’s not quite sleep, it’s that space where your subconscious lies,” the hypnotherapist said to me.
“But it’s 5pm, I’m not tired,” I replied. Five minutes later, I was in a deep meditative state. I woke up apologising for having fallen asleep, thinking only two minutes had gone by.
“It’s been 20 minutes and I have been speaking to your subconscious this entire time. I recorded the session, please listen to it every night before you go to bed.”
Every night for seven days straight I listened to that recording. Except I was never able to actually hear what he was telling me, because as soon as he told me to close my eyes and sleep, I did, and the moment he told me to wake up, I did.
It wasn’t until the eighth day, when I listened to it on a long plane ride and external sensory factors were heightened, that I was able to hear what he had said. I was able to feel how my subconscious had responded to his guidance and by the end of the trip, all the answers to my questions that had been left unanswered all year, suddenly became clear.
Hypnotherapy has always been a misunderstood practice. As society starts to normalise talking about mental health, more and more people are willing to share their experience with therapy and other alternative treatments such as hypnotherapy. Being more open about what was once an extremely taboo topic has led people to realise that we are all human, we all have our own issues, and that it is okay to talk about it and it is even more okay to do something about it.
Just like it is normal to go to a doctor to treat your physical health, it is also normal to go to a doctor to treat your mental health.
For decades hypnotherapy has wrongly been associated with stage hypnosis, where people are put into a trance and made to do things either against their will or without being aware of what is going on. A form of mind control. During hypnotherapy, on the other hand, you are actually hyper alert and the hypnotherapist is merely a facilitator in helping you move from your conscious mind into your subconscious mind, in order to make a change.
A NEED FOR CHANGE
Most people come in to change a behaviour, or a way of thinking. “The typical issue is: I want an outcome that is specific and I can’t get there by myself. I am not behaving the way I want to behave,” says Sonia Samtani, hypnotherapist and founder of All About You Centre. “It could be to curb an addiction, like smoking, or to get past a fear, like socialising in big groups or flying. Some also come with a more spiritual goal: Why am I here? What is my purpose? I have two paths and I don’t know which to take.” Some come in to change a behaviour that developed due to their upbringing. Trauma is trauma, whether it is big or small, and hypnotherapy can help.
Think of your mind as three parts: your conscious mind (about 10%), your subconscious mind (about 90%) and the filter that is in between. The filter is the rational and judgemental part, where your belief system lies, so no matter how great pep talks can be, they are often not enough to actually change something in you as we have been moulded by our environment and society to think of things a certain way or to judge things as good or bad.
That is when the hypnotherapist comes in, to help you get past that filter and make that change you are looking for.
THE HYPNOTIC STATE
We naturally go into a hypnotic state at least twice a day: before we go to sleep and before we wake up. We actually can find ourselves going into the first level of hypnosis—the hypnoidal state—when our brain is overstimulated. Imagine yourself in a crowded place, dodging people, hearing the sound of cars next to you, while simultaneously thinking about work.
The path to a deeper hypnotic state starts with a bombardment of messages, so many that your mind is confused and cannot process them—and that’s where the real work starts. Having a hypnotherapist bombard you with message units will initially create anxiety in the mind until things are blurred and anxiety will turn into deep relaxation which is how the hypnotherapist will take you into the second level of trance—the cataleptic state—or even the tertiary level—somnambulism.
“Hypnotherapy and meditation get you to very similar states. Hypnotherapy is like diving into the pool from a diving board—the jolt upwards is the increase of message units—and then you plunge deep into the levels of trance. Meditation is going into the same pool straight from the shore,” says Sonia.
The deeper you go, the less you will remember, but you are conscious the entire time, just further in the background. That is why the hypnotherapist often records the session for you to listen to as homework, to reinforce what is being said during the session.
So what happens in that state? Usually one or two of the three options: suggestion placement, regression work and release.
Suggestion placement, the most basic approach, is often used when dealing with a fear or unwanted behaviour. It is a sort of reprogramming. The hypnotherapist changes the context or the memories associated with that behaviour in the subconscious mind by making new suggestions that would benefit you.
In regression work, the hypnotherapist asks questions that will help you trace back the root of a feeling or a behaviour. You, in your normal state, may not be aware of the root, but your subconscious may. It is through a series of questions and your answers that the hypnotherapist is able to find the answer to your problem.
Release is about facing a painful memory and breathing it out. “We use breathwork to release the emotional toxicity that is trapped inside. The fear is triggered then released. People will wake up and feel different,” claims Sonia.
Most people will see a difference within one session but it can take up to five sessions or more to see a shift in perspective.
Sonia concludes, “Very few things can change the texture of your experience and rescript your life. Facts are facts but you can change what they mean to you. Changing that from the subconscious mind is changing the texture of your life experience. This will shift your belief system which will in turn change your filter and make you see life through a different lens.”
All About You Centre, 10A, Wing Cheong Commercial Building, 19-25 Jervois St, Sheung Wan, allaboutyoucentre.com