Remember the hypnotherapy scene in Good Will Hunting? Although the movie is a serious conduit for many of man’s emotions, Will can’t take the idea of hypnosis seriously and supplies his therapist with bullshit responses to the scenarios he proposes instead of letting him in.
IRL, though — or at least IRL in 2018, admittedly 20-plus years since Will Hunting essentially told his hypnotherapist to go fuck himself — the male embrace of hynotherapy is growing (if only with a certain type of male). “My male clients are the sensitive boys of the world, usually in their 30s and 40s,” says Andrea Iya Young, a Canadian hypnotherapist who conducts sessions both in person and on FaceTime, Skype, etc. (She describes her practice as a mix of hypnosis, hypnotherapy and career coaching.) “They’re band boys, painters and healers who are open and curious about self-work. A lot of them are sick of complying with certain stories about how men should act and what roles they should serve in the world. I’m getting more and more men who want to focus their sessions on how to take up space in a gentler way, how to not take up as much space and how to better respect their partners.”
Moreover: “I have patients who come in for erectile dysfunction, and we end up talking about the real nature of their intentions within that relationship, which they may have never done before with their partner. I have patients who practice polyamory but are struggling to integrate their ideological values into their own emotional lives and feel destabilized,” Young continues. “A lot of times in hypnosis, we go back to the traumas at the root of what they’re currently experiencing. Maybe they were humiliated for not being man enough as a tween, or had an emotionally challenging sexual experience as a child or teen. We go back and re-experience those memories through regression therapy and try to restore the innocence that was bruised by a traumatic experience.”
To hear it from men themselves, I spoke to two guys Young has treated about their experiences under hypnosis, and whether or not they fall on the Will Hunting or “sensitive boy” side of the spectrum when it comes to believing that hypnotherapy can help heal what ails them.
Eric Digras, Massage Therapist
Some people are more resistant to the process than I was because they’re worried a hypnotist will get in their brain, scramble things up and make them do things against their will. But I find hypnosis very interesting. I’d done behavior therapy, like normal shrink stuff and found it helpful. Typically, when you go see a psychologist or behavioral therapist, you intellectualize your problems, which is great — you get to see yourself in a bigger picture.
However, that remains an intellectualization of who you are. If the intellectual realm is the surface of the water, then with hypnosis, you go diving into it — straight into the subconscious. During hypnosis, you’re dealing with more of a mythological landscape within yourself rather than that literal, intellectual layer. You go deep right away. You’re changing things more directly rather than letting those things trickle down and slowly change your consciousness via the intellectual route. And so, when you come out of it, you feel like something has switched right away.
Some people come in with objectives as specific as quitting smoking, but for me, it wasn’t like that. It was more about dealing with some aspect of myself that was bothering me. At the start of a session, you’re talking, trying to figure out exactly why you’re there and what you want to do before you get into the hypnotism process. I mean, she doesn’t dangle a watch in front of your face or anything — you become hypnotized just through listening to her voice. You’re usually sitting in a chair, because if you’re laying down, you’re likely to fall asleep. You kind of just succumb. You go off on your journey — whatever that may be.
If someone is feeling frustrated and can’t seem to find a solution to their problem or a type of therapy that resonates with them, I’d definitely recommend hypnotherapy. I know a lot of people think it’s bullshit, because we’re used to people making people bark like dogs on stage and stuff, but it’s actually a viable healing modality that’s been around for a long time.
Sam Walker, New Media and VR Artist
I’ve only had one hypnosis session so far, but I really enjoyed it. I’d done therapy before. I studied psychology at university and had access to some free psychotherapy. I thought it was constructive and interesting, but just sort of stopped doing it.
Andrea, however, was interested in my work in VR, and I asked her to do some voiceover. I was looking into the whole idea of the voice and the idea of narration being a conduit toward a deeper consciousness. Still, I didn’t necessarily think of hypnotherapy as an example. When I started talking to Andrea, though, naturally I was interested in trying it. I wouldn’t call it depression, but I had some life stuff going on and I wanted to explore my own personal development as a person. Basically, I was curious about looking into what was making me feel sad.
I went into the session as deeply available as possible. I remembered in the past, when a psychotherapist told me, “We’re going to do a little role play.” I was like, “Oh, fuck. This is going to be stupid. I don’t know if I can do this.” But I realized that role play is a powerful thing. Everybody loves to role play for a reason. We just tap into it super quickly as humans. It’s the same reason why we like movies and books and stuff.
More largely, psychotherapy is like a discussion; hypnotherapy feels more like a narrative. At the beginning of a session, a hypnotist will count you down. When I did it with Andrea, she says that you’re going deeper and deeper and deeper as she counts down. In that way, hypnotherapy felt like more of a connection with metaphor. Andrea uses a lot of mythology and imagery. For me, that has a way of helping me approach a subject that might be hurtful in a way that feels safe. There’s a video game aspect to the experience. It’s that whole idea of entering into a situation in third person and seeing it from the outside. It’s a virtual storytelling thing.
I went into the session hoping to address my artist’s block, but there were some underlying issues going on that I was more hesitant to get into. Objectively, my aim was increasing my productivity, but it quickly became about more than that. I meditate when I require it — or at least when I remember to — usually in moments of crisis or mourning. But I took away some tangible exercises involving visualization and breathing from my hypnosis. For example, whenever I feel like I have a creative blockage because of my own doubt or fear, I visualize something that I went through in the therapy session that allowed me to reframe the way I look at that doubt and/or fear — especially in regards to regressing to an earlier childhood.
She made me feel like I was a child watching myself in the third person and now I can act like a guardian to my child self. She told me to tell my eight-year-old self things were going to be okay and not to freak out. In that moment, I felt like I was encountering my own essential self. It was really powerful.