It was an experience easier to drown in than describe – one of Romi Vidmar’s many hypnotherapy sessions in his small office in Northcliff, an affluent suburb in Johannesburg, South Africa.
As we meet, cars drive past on the busy road. Vidmar asks if I want to experience hypnotherapy.
I sit up straight on the black office chair, my hands on the brown armrest, and Vidmar makes suggestions in a calm voice.
“Visualize your wrist on the right arm. Feel it, imagine it and nod your head when you can. Imagine everything I say is happening because it would actually happen,” he says.
He makes some more suggestions and everything he says happens, until I am in a hypnotic state.
As he speaks, there is a sense of calm, vaguely familiar, akin to the countless times I found myself lost in thought, absorbed in a zone, or simply, daydreaming. The session lasts less than 10 minutes but has the effect of two hours of sleep.
“You are of supreme confidence,” he says as he closes the session.
READ MORE: The Mind’s Virtual Reality
Even though I had started the session as a sceptic, I feel more relaxed than I have ever been. As I pen this article, I still remember his soothing instructions. Twenty one days later, I feel more confident and have a brighter outlook on life.
“With hypnosis, the human mind goes into an even more relaxed state than meditation. The physical body becomes completely relaxed but the mind remains active,” says Vidmar, a software programmer who has always been interested in understanding how things work. The human mind is one of his major interests.
“I was very interested in hypnotherapy and started doing some research. It wasn’t easy because there wasn’t enough information and most of what was there was confused with entertainment and spiritualism but I discovered, through reading academic work, there is a solid basis for the hypnotic state which you just experienced now,” he says.
In 2000, Vidmar trained to be a hypnotherapist and started practising.
“With hypnotherapy, I am able to understand the human mind and help people suffering from depression, anxiety, wanting to lose weight, stop smoking, gain confidence and many other things. For example, with people who have been abused, we help them not to forget but bring some degree of comfort so that they can be able to continue with their lives,” he says.
READ MORE: ‘Too Many Suffer In Silence’ – The Sad Story Of Mental Illness
According to Vidmar, hypnotherapy is witnessing a big boom in town. He sees eight patients a day at R800 ($60) for a one-hour session. Most of his clients, he says, just want to be happier, deal with depression and other mental issues, stop smoking or lose weight.
“Prescribing medication may be a lot quicker but the medical industry should explore hypnotherapy as a much more sustainable solution. Eighty to 90 percent of my clients see a change after the first session and they come back five or 10 years later but in that time they refer other people.”
Amanda Hoole (name changed to protect identity) is one of the many who claim hypnotherapy helped.
“I had many issues because I was abused as a child and I had a bit of a rebellious energy. I smoked a lot and was an alcoholic. Over the years, I have had hypnotherapy about six times. Now alcohol and cigarettes smell and I can’t stand them. I am even able to keep a job, which is something I couldn’t do for many years,” she affirms.
READ MORE: Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid
According to Vidmar, this effect is possible because hypnotherapy also comes with suggestibility, so much that it was used instead of anaesthesia more than 200 years ago.
“Some medical doctors even train so they can use hypnotherapy when treating patients, for example if a child is afraid of the needle or for women going through childbirth.”
He says hypnotherapy helps by interacting with the subconscious to address the whole mind rather than just treating the symptoms. Through the words used in the session, Vidmar says hypnotherapy replaces trauma with positivity and suggestions create long-term improvement.
“You are even able to deal with unresolved feelings. With hypnotherapy, we can go down to the deepest level of these traumatic experiences, memories and stored emotions to release them from the mind and body,” says Vidmar.
In fast-moving 21st century Africa, hypnotherapy may hold the answer to mental wellbeing, or could at least be one of the options to relieve trauma and stress.