When I agreed to get hypnotised by Mohit Rao, I had expected more drama. He’d joked he wouldn’t get me to bark or sing. But I expected him to snap his fingers to wake me up at least. The dramatics were less, true. But the result, brilliant! When I meet Rao, who calls himself a mind reader, at a coffee shop, he asks me to imagine a waterfall and climb down a series of imaginary footsteps— seven at a time. This is part of his seven-step technique.
If you are wondering what happens next, here’s what: Follow his instructions and you’re put into a state of complete relaxation while remaining aware of your surroundings. “If I had asked you to jump out of the window, I assure you, you would have snapped your eyes open and refused to follow my command,” Rao assures me later.
During his stage performances, Rao takes the audience through three states of hypnosis—the beta state (what we know as day dreaming), alpha state (where a deeper state of hypnosis is experienced), and the theta state (the deepest state, closest to meditation). “It is possible for a person to snap out of the theta state too. But it’s unlikely that you’ll want to,” says Rao, adding: “You may wake up in a state of confusion, but you will find your bearings soon after.”
His first experience of being under hypnosis, Rao tells me, was anti-climactic. “About three or four years ago, when I first became interested in studying human behaviour and how the mind works, I attended a few workshops. During one session, I was put under hypnosis and all the while I kept thinking to myself, ‘is this it’? I refused to believe I’d been hypnotised at all,” he says with a laugh. That’s when Rao realised the importance of busting myths around hypnosis.
But people are still scared and have misgivings about hypnosis. For instance, last week when Rao sent out invitations to Mumbaiites to participate for a mass hypnosis session, very few showed up. “Several people had responded positively before the event. But on the day itself, they called in with various excuses before finally confessing that they were terrified of being hypnotised,” he says.
Mass hypnosis has controversial connotations and is commonly considered dangerous. “These are the misconceptions I was keen on dismissing. I see hypnosis as an ideal way to relax and de-stress. It is a more structured form of meditation,” he says. “While meditation requires you to clear your mind completely, in hypnosis you merely have to follow instructions and let yourself relax.”
Several practitioners believe that visions during hypnosis are memories of a past life—terming the technique ‘past life regression’. Although Rao is wary of this particular claim, he believes hypnotherapy can help people face their fears and shortcomings. Heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud, Rao believes what people see while they are hypnotised, discloses their suppressed feelings. “Even if the person has created or imagined a vision, it will still reveal something about his or her behaviour and thought pattern,” he explains.
Rao never does one-on-one
sessions, referring people to professional therapists instead. But he does claim to have helped a few of his friends and family members get over addictions and other behavioural issues through hypnosis and an analysis of what they see during their sessions. “One of my cousins was a heavy smoker and she asked me to help her get over it.
Through my sessions with her I found that she was afraid she couldn’t live up to her father’s reputation. They were both doctors, but she felt she wasn’t good enough,” reveals Rao. After a series of sessions, his cousin has managed to kick the butt. Rao is now encouraging her to indulge in self-hypnosis sessions.