Hypnosis can be easier than meditation for worriers who struggle to clear their minds.

Whenever a friend tells me they’re considering undergoing hypnosis to quit X bad habit. I think about the hypnotist my college hired at the beginning of every year to humiliate my classmates. It was the high point of every homecoming: A guy wearing a Britney Spears–style hands-free microphone would invite a few of the bravest and most annoying students onstage, put them to “sleep,” and ask them to do something embarrassing, like gyrating along to a recording of a nursery rhyme, or shouting the name of the person they had a crush on. Obviously, I never volunteered—both because I was sure hypnosis wouldn’t work on me, and also because I was afraid of what my subconscious might do if it did.

So when I was offered the opportunity to receive hypnosis from a woman named Grace Smith (who goes by Grace Space Hypnosis on her website and app), I was both skeptical and afraid. Smith specializes in “virtual hypnotherapy”—she conducts sessions over video chat, and offers recordings that subscribers can listen to on their phones or computers. Even though I’d be in my own home, being hypnotized over Skype instead of onstage, and even though Smith would be aiming to help me rather than embarrass me, I still felt defensive about the prospect. Something about having to close my eyes made it feel so much more vulnerable than a regular therapy session.

Smith, too, started off as a skeptic. She got her bachelor’s degree in human rights. But in her desperation to quit smoking in her 20s, she decided to try hypnosis. Much to her surprise, she says she was able to quit after just one session. Smith was so moved by her experience that she decided to quit her corporate job and become a hypnotherapist herself. “From a human-rights perspective,” she says she thought at the time, “if there’s a tool that’s this effective in ending suffering, why is this not mainstream, and why is it so misunderstood?”

 

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