This week in our career-advice column, we dispel the hocus pocus surrounding the art of hypnosis.
Name: UJ Ramdas
Job: Certified hypnotist at The Morpheus Clinic for Hypnosis
In 30 seconds or less, tell me what you do all day at work.
I help people understand and change their unconscious patterns. Here we help identify the key points that relate to those patterns, whether it’s smoking or nail-biting or trying to lose weight, and we use mental training to help people move past them. When people hear the word “hypnosis,” half the time they think it doesn’t work, or they are scared of it. But here at the clinic, we take the mysticism out of it, and show the practical results of what we’re able to do. A lot of time, people come to the clinic with anxieties or trouble focussing, and we provide brief, strategic psychological interventions. Hypnosis has been going on for years; there’ a prominent hypnotist by the name of James Esdaile who, in the 1800s, performed thousands of surgeries in Calcutta with hypnosis, because there wasn’t anesthesia at the time. There are tons of other examples throughout time of people using hypnosis.
How did you first become exposed to hypnosis?
When I was 10 or 11, my best friend gave me a book—The Beginner’s Guide to Hypnosis—which, looking back now, was pretty terrible [laughs]. But it opened my mind to the idea of the conscious and the unconscious mind, and how they work. A lot of our unconscious thoughts and beliefs are what predicates our behaviour. The fact that you could tap into that, and allow yourself to shift your behaviour, was fascinating to me; I had, and still have, a curious obsession with the human mind. There were exercises in the book, so I decided to create a tape and record them and play them back to myself. I would play the tape, and I would do something called regression, which is where your mind will take you back to certain places in time. It’s not like an LSD trip or anything—it’s just that you get a sense that you’re there. I realized that I could remember things from the past fairly clearly, and I could start to interface with that unconscious mind. The first thing I remember thinking was that this could be legitimate cheating—I could improve my memory through these methods and use them to help my performance in school, which is what I did. So, in a short amount of time, I was able to do extremely well in school through mental training. The experience was eye-opening in a way that words can’t capture; nobody had ever told me before that this kind of thing was possible.
When did you start thinking about pursuing hypnosis professionally?
It wasn’t until after high school that I realized that hypnosis was a legitimate profession. I studied cognitive science at York, but I found that the program wasn’t really focussed on changing human behaviours. So I switched to marketing, which was more about influencing human behaviour. During my BA, I decided I wanted to begin helping people through interventions, so I got certified. There are several places in Toronto that you can get certified in hypnosis, and you really have to pick the school that works best for you and has instructors that you connect with, so you’ll get something out of it. I like instructors who emphasize logic and focus on results. The standard is about 200 hours of training. I did my certification at the Society of Experiential Trance and the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in California, because I like the hands-on approach of the teachers there. So I did that, and then I just trained and worked on technique. For a year or two, I would meet up with two or three colleagues and we would just do drills over and over each week. It was very intense, but it was amazing. I’m also a member of the Association of Registered Clinical Hypnotherapists, which has fairly stringent standards in Canada for membership.
How do you think that most people perceive your work?
In my opinion, the problems with this industry is that there are people who say they do hypnosis but also do crystal readings and chakra work, and that has nothing to do with anything [laughs]. Just like how there are incompetent accountants and hedge-fund managers, there’s a percentage of incompetence in every vocation, I guess. That stuff isn’t about changing behaviour or performance in any way, and because of this mismatch, people look at hypnosis as the same thing [as crystal readings and chakra work], when really hypnosis is more psychologically based that anything else. If you go to PubMed, you can find several peer-reviewed journals talking about hypnosis just in the past few months. It’s a clinically based practice that actually got popularized by legendary therapist Milton H. Erickson, who came to prominence in the 1960s. People who were in the therapy for decades would go to him for a month or two and walk out having resolved what they wanted to. A lot of people who come in to the clinic for the first time are scared, and are wondering if they are going to visit another dimension or if I am going to control their mind or make them do things they don’t want to do, but it’s nothing of that sort. It’s just a place where you allow yourself to relax so deeply that the part of you that is subconscious emerges.
What are some of the main issues that people come to you hoping to resolve?
Anxiety is common, as is people looking to build their confidence. The kind of people that come into the clinic are average people with jobs who are looking to overcome a certain habit or phobia, or change their behaviour in some way or have more self-esteem, and they’d like to move through that process without medication or spending years in therapy. When someone comes in for something like difficulty with public speaking or procrastination issues at work or at school, I try to look at the complete person and see what’s going on with them. A lot of what I do in the initial consultation is just to dispel a lot of misconceptions about the practice. Because we don’t work with people for the same length of time as traditional practitioners do, I give my clients work to do outside of appointments so they can start implementing those changes right away. It’s a fairly rigorous process. I find people’s inflection points, and change them to a positive state. That’s just Pavolvian conditioning; there’s nothing hypnotic about it. But that can be very useful in certain situations. I also use “tracking”— observing human behaviour is a powerful way to measure unconscious behaviour. I use mental training in conjunction with proven psychological methods to actually get results.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your job?
Someone asked me this a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t come up with anything that I didn’t like about it! Pretty much all of it is great. The one thing that can be somewhat annoying is when people come in and expect me to wave a magic wand and have their problems go away immediately, and I have to explain to them that that’s just not how this works. I understand that they’re going through something and are looking for instant results, but I have to be very careful and point out that hypnosis isn’t magic. But, other than that, it’s incredibly fun—I can’t believe I get to do this for a living. I keep myself up to date with recent psychological findings and work on the mind, and it’s really cool to use that to help people right here, right now. I research methods on a consistent basis, because I love learning more about how to help clients move forward with what they want to change. They are looking to move through their life in the most elegant way, and getting to help them with that is just an honour.