Amid my professional transition from a creative agency job to the nonprofit sector, I couldn’t help but feel haunted by a nagging sense of inadequacy. I was reminded that we are not born feeling inadequate; life experiences coagulate and compound within us, molding us into the person we become.
On that note, I recently received a friendly message on my LinkedIn page congratulating me on my new job. The man behind the comment was from Charlotte Hypnosis Services, so of course I did a little online sleuthing. I have been considering hypnosis as a possible stress reliever for some time and this gentleman’s impeccably timed comment could be the catalyst. I made a hypnotherapy appointment for the next afternoon.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by Mark Bell, a licensed massage and bodywork therapist, certified professional life coach and certified hypnotist with the International Certification Board of Clinical Hypnotherapy.
I stepped into a modest office with a couch (because what’s a hypnotherapy session without the legendary couch?) and filled out some forms. I later found that Mark wasn’t just reading about my medical history and session goals. He was performing a graphology exercise, gauging my personality type based on my handwriting. Interestingly, because I oscillate between all caps and cursive, my lettering reveals that I am trying to figure out the person I want to become. Considering this column is called The Seeker, I’d say his initial analysis was applicable.
Mark walked me through a few “suggestibility tests” to see how susceptible I am to suggestion and hypnosis. He had me extend my hands in front of me, palms up. He invited me to close my eyes and pretend his fingers, which were lightly touching my right hand, were a heavy book weighing my arm down. I was skeptical, but sure enough, I opened my eyes and my right hand was almost in my lap.
The next techniques he introduced were ones I could take with me and keep in my “toolbelt” for when felt anxious or discouraged. These included a mindfulness meditation, which Mark later texted to me for referential listening, and a spirit animal meditation during which I was prompted to invoke admirable qualities of my chosen totem. I envisioned a lioness, naturally, as she represents courage to overcome difficulties.
A third technique is a simple-yet-powerful neurolinguistic programming method called Circle of Excellence. According to a Huffington Post article by James Clear, “Positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.” This means your mind will be able to absorb new information and learn new skills if you can learn to harness a positive mental state.
To perform the Circle of Excellence, start by mentally drawing a circle on the ground in front of you and step into it. Imagine good things about yourself — goals achieved, strengths and how you feel when you’re at your best. Take a deep breath and live in those positive vibes.
Lastly, we embarked on the hypnotherapy portion of the journey. According to an article by Dr. Katharina Star published in the Verywell Mind blog, “hypnotherapy is a technique used to assist a person in an altered state of consciousness, known as a trance. While in a hypnotic state, a person is deeply relaxed, keenly focused, and highly open to suggestibility.
Also referred to as hypnosis, hypnotherapy is used to help manage a variety of health issues, including stress, skin conditions, weight loss, addiction, grief, sleep disorders, and smoking cessation.” Stress, be gone!
Laying on the couch under a warm blanket, I closed my eyes as instructed and the soft tone of Mark’s voice lulled me into relaxed mental state, which happened much quicker than I’d expected. He invited me to imagine a calming color washing over me. Sage came to mind. The color green supposedly has healing powers and is the most relaxing color for the human eye to view. As I drifted off into a meditative state, I was reminded to let my mind wander, not to fight it.
After being guided through an approximated 15-minute confidence journey I felt calm, both physically and mentally. I was invited to gently awaken as he counted backwards, becoming more aware of my surroundings. Because hypnotherapy involves deep mind and body relaxation, an altered state of consciousness leads to a heightened focus. This increased focus results in a higher susceptibility to suggestion. It was during this window that he reiterated the techniques he previously shared to help me evoke confidence and release negative thought patterns.
Because the hypnosis process is so subjective, it’s really only the person who has been hypnotized who can assess the outcome. Plus, memory is impaired during the hypnotic process which adds to the difficulty of assessing whether or not the treatment worked. I would consider trying it again, but at $160 per session, it’s a steep ask for a technique that doesn’t provide tangible results.