There are the traditionally celebrated professions that everyone recognise, like lawyers, doctors, and teachers. Then, there are those off the beaten path. Lesser-known professions that make most of us frown and wonder: legit or not?
In this new Legit Or Not? series, we will be exploring unorthodox professions in Singapore and where we seek answers to the questions that most of us have: what the heck do they actually do?
Kicking off our first Legit Or Not? Series; Meet Professional Hypnotist, Lee McKing.
It’s All In Our Mind
“Look at the watch, now, you are feeling very sleepy, and you are going to fall asleep…”
We’ve all heard these instructions and seen those swinging pocket watches and the swirly eyes of the hypnotised in shows or cartoons. And because of how it has been portrayed to us since young, we tend to view hypnosis negatively. Like something that one should avoid being under. But are what we know of hypnosis real or are they really just uninformed stereotypes?
That was what I sought to find out when I met McKing, who’s a Certified Hypnotist specialising in Conversational Hypnosis and also Certified Member of the International Association of Professional Conversational Hypnotists.
Though it is probably nothing compared to professional hypnotherapy, I had already gotten a taste of hypnosis at a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) course my previous company sent me to. I learnt how our mind works and how hypnosis is based upon an understanding of that. But as much as I could rationalise the theory of hypnosis, I was still a sceptic and wasn’t convinced about the effectiveness of it.
Nonetheless, I kept an open mind as I chatted with McKing. At least, I tried to as much as I could. For the sake of journalism.
First impression counts and it was clear from McKing’s ensemble of a tailored vest, bow-tie, and a vintage pocket watch neatly tucked into his vest pocket that he wasn’t the conventional corporate slave.
“I like the overall professional look as it builds trust in my clients. It’s good for branding,” McKing explained.
Unlike what’s typically portrayed in shows however, McKing’s pocket watch is a lot more more aesthetics than it is for therapy. Though it is one of the tools that traditional hypnotherapists do use to induce trance.
“Hypnosis happens when you are in a trance. It’s all about focus and imagination, and getting someone to look at something, like swinging pocket watch, helps them focus and ease them into a trance-like state.”
In fact, on McKing’s website, he elaborates that we already experience trance in our everyday lives, like when we brush our teeth and later on forgetting whether we had brushed it. Or when we are staring into the distance as we daydream.
I’m glad that it’s not the age that is making me forget if I had brushed my teeth these days.
No, It’s Not Black Magic
Coming from a staunch Catholic family, McKing’s family and relatives used to think hypnosis is ‘Devil’s Black Magic’. He didn’t believe in hypnosis either, but his interest was piqued after experiencing it firsthand during an NLP course. He then went on to a specialised course to further study hypnosis.
McKing practiced hypnosis on a casual basis for awhile. It was only after successfully using hypnosis to relieve the ache his mother felt in her arm and seeing her swollen arm heal that he began thinking about using hypnosis to help people. In 2015, he officially registered his practice.
McKing goes on to explain why hypnosis isn’t magic as much as it is tapping into the unconscious mind.
“You have your conscious mind which acts as the gatekeeper, and the unconscious mind, where all your internal beliefs, personal ethics, and core values that have developed since young are stored.”
“Our conscious mind filters information and because we will believe what we want to believe, it’s more effective to foster positive change when someone is in a trance (hypnosis). This way, you’re able to speak to the unconscious mind.”
Made sense, I thought, despite my scepticism.
Traditional VS. Modern Conversational Hypnotherapy
Like the impression most of us have of a hypnotist’s pocket watch, I asked McKing about the need to put someone to sleep for hypnotherapy.
“No need. I’ve even done open-eye trance before!”
While traditional hypnotherapists tend to rely on scripts and take very long to bring a person deeper and deeper into hypnosis before planting a suggested solution, McKing explains that his modern conversational style focuses on targeting the problem directly without putting the person to sleep. He also claimed that most issues can be resolved within one session. Spending time to first understand his clients history and background is one of his ways in achieving that.
Then, I asked if it’s possible to be stuck in hypnosis.
McKing laughed as he said no. I was relieved, as I was going to be hypnotised by him.
How Hypnosis Felt Like
McKing first let me experience what is supposedly a common technique used in stage hypnosis (performances): arm levitation. I was asked to imagine a helium balloon tied to my left wrist. As he gently described the scenario further, it did start to feel like my left wrist was lighter than the other. My left arm started to rise slowly. I wasn’t sure if it was truly psycho semantic or whether I just did it because I felt like it was expected of me to do so.
Next, we worked on my procrastination problem – something that was worked on when I did NLP but to little success.
As I relaxed, McKing brought me back into trance again. This time round, I was asked to imagine a safe place and describe it to him as specific as I can, I eventually ‘travelled’ to my room, got in bed and under the blankets. By then, I was in that calm and peaceful state that felt like when you’re about to fall asleep but your mind is still, maybe 50% conscious.
With McKing’s verbal guidance, I went on an entire imaginative journey in my mind where I was to find the solutions to my problem. Although not the best way to describe how that whole hypnosis felt like, it was a bit like I was daydreaming, but with a soft voice giving me instructions on what to daydream about.
Before McKing brought me out of my trance back to reality, I did identify the reasons behind my procrastination (laziness, lack of inspiration), and how I can solve them (do things that I like and that makes me happy). Though it also seems like a reminder of something I already knew but didn’t want to think about.
Perhaps, though, this is what hypnosis does? Directing your mind to fully concentrate on something so you can find solutions. I wasn’t sure if it had resolved my problem with procrastination.
Hypnosis As A Profession
While I still wasn’t a convert, it’s evident that hypnotherapy isn’t exactly a fad either.
As McKing shared success story after success story of the 493 individuals he has treated over the past three-and-a-half years, I could sense the passion and belief he has in his trade. And I believe that there is a reason that he’s still able to do this full-time after more than three years.
Studies have also proven that hypnotherapy has been effective in treating various issues from mental and behaviour issues to illnesses. In a thoroughly researched article written about hypnosis, there are even case studies that prove the success of hypnotherapy beyond just mental issues.
As for McKing, he’s treated many clients for mental health-related issues like anxiety and depression. Fears, which to him, are the easiest to treat, and other interesting issues like unusual soreness in the cheeks are also issues clients ask to be treated for from time to time.
Judgment is inevitable as a professional in this field, and the 29-year-old admit that he had lost friends for his choice of career, “I had friends who didn’t want to meet me anymore after finding out what I do.”
However, it’s the joy and satisfaction of being able to solve problems for clients that conventional treatments or medicines aren’t able to treat that push him on. Being his own boss is an additional perk, as that meant that work is ‘own time, own target’.
McKing meets an average of six to ten clients weekly, half of which are chit-chat sessions to find out more about his clients’ problem and history to determine a suitable solution. This is also when he explains to them what hypnotherapy is.
“They have to be willing to accept hypnosis for the therapy to work, so I always let clients deliberate at home and call me back when they have decided to proceed with it.”
McKing doesn’t charge for the chit-chat session, so his only income comes from the actual hypnotherapy sessions, which he charges for $350 per one hour hypnotherapy session. Occasionally, he draws more when he gets engaged for corporate or event jobs.
Legit Or Not?
I better understood the rationale behind hypnosis and got an insight into the possibilities of using it for therapy. And I believe that there are people who have benefitted from hypnotherapy.
If it was to get me to relax, hypnosis easily put me in to a state of zen. But whether it works in solving mental health issues or even medical illnesses, I remain unconvinced.
Though perhaps that is the very reason that is deterring me from fully accepting hypnosis in the first place.
Whichever it is, one thing’s for sure: hypnosis definitely isn’t Get Out or Inception.