Sitting in one of the warm, neatly presented rooms of Hong Kong’s All About You Centre, I take in the hypnotherapy posters on the walls. “According to Forbes Magazine, hypnotherapy has a 93% success rate with less sessions required than both behavioral and psychotherapy," says one of them. Sounds promising.
There are healing details everywhere, from the scripts of affirmations printed on a blanket to the crystals displayed on the shelves. All About You founder and hypnotherapist Sonia Samtani joins me shortly. With 17 years of hypnotherapy experience under her belt, she started her journey in alternative wellness, as she describes, “when it was not cool – it was not mainstream, the way that it is right now."
Like many alternative therapists, Samtani initially began by looking within and addressing her own problems. She was naturally a big “why" person – her biggest question being: why did she feel different from other people? At the start of her journey, she believed there was a problem with her appearance. But the more she changed how she looked, the more she found herself dependent on external validation. She started to find that she felt good when people treated her differently, but ultimately, she would fall back into the same negative thought cycle.
Then, she began to research and learn about belief systems. Samtani worked under life and business strategist Tony Robbins for a while.
“That was very fulfilling because it got me to understand that I’m the creator, and I can create the way that I feel and change the way that I feel," recalls Samtani. “The one piece that was missing at the time was I didn’t understand why I felt that way and what triggered me in the first place. And I got the answer to that from hypnotherapy."
The session begins
My hypnotherapy session starts with Samtani explaining how the mind works – with only 10% of our minds dedicated to our conscious and the rest running our subconscious. Then, we delve into questions about my inner journey. My concerns, my repeated patterns, how it started and why I think I do the things I do. Samtani pushes me to answer more and more, in extra detail.
I wonder why she approaches the session in this way. Of course, people would come to a hypnotherapy session to find out the in-depth details of their problem. But, couldn’t they access them easier when asked in a hypnotic trance, without the distractions of the conscious mind?
When I ask about her approach, Samtani replies, “When we ask those questions in the trance state, it can often take them out of trance, especially if it’s the first time. When we are talking cognitively, we would want to work with both the conscious and the subconscious mind."
She goes on, “We’re revealing to the conscious mind what’s behind the issue and allowing them to see that very often their presenting problem, so to speak, is a symptom." She explains that once a person has fully explored their issue consciously, they can go even deeper when they are in a trance state. They are able to explore deeper without the hindering chatter of logical thinking. That’s when the most profound healing and the deepest levels of subconscious analysis happen.
With a series of calming meditative cues, spoken prompts, snaps of her fingers and deepening techniques, Samtani puts me into a deep trance, ready to explore the depths of my subconscious mind.
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Understanding the healing behind hypnosis
“A lot of times, we are living with the choices that the conscious mind makes as well. We want to expand the wisdom of the conscious mind because the subconscious mind is a database, and actually the subconscious mind database doesn’t need healing. Your database doesn’t need healing," explains Samtani. “It’s the critical filter of judgment that we are working on. And if we shift the way that you perceive that database and everything changes."
As we flow through the journey of our lives, we encounter events that may define our inner dialogue. It may skew our self-judgment, meddle with our confidence and make us believe something about ourselves that is far from the truth. This is all stored in our subconscious. Hypnotherapy helps by delving into that part of our minds. By having a dialogue with that side of our mind, we are able to get to the core of the issue and untangle it gently.
With a click of her finger, Samtani regresses me to my childhood – a scene of the first moment I ever felt judged, sowing the seeds of a deep insecurity. This event happened when I was only 6 years old, but at this moment, it seems crystal clear. Samtani leads me through healing the sad inner child that I kept locked up inside. As my adult self, I am able to make my younger self understand that I was always there for her. The healing begins. Samtani then expands this experience to every single time that I ever felt the way I did. And we then heal every single one of those wounds from those times.
Past life regression therapy
Although regression to a past life isn’t required during my session, it is part of the school of thought that Sonia works with. Within the subconscious, there are two parts. One is the modern memory, which is about our life now, from age zero in our mother’s womb to today. The other is a memory of other lives that we’ve experienced in the past.
“A good way to think about this is evolution," says Samtani. “So what is evolution? It is whatever consciousness was before it was in the form of who you are today. So before you were you, your consciousness would be something and somewhere because science has proved to us that energy cannot be created or destroyed." The idea is based on the fact that energy is never lost but simply keeps changing.
Samtani recalls times when people have come into therapy with issues they have never really had apparent reasons for – being terrified of water or other strange unexplainable phobias. There have been times when people’s experiences have been so unexplainable that the idea of past lives, strange as it may be, seems like a plausible explanation.
Throughout the years, there have been several studies on intergenerational trauma. Research suggests these traumas don’t cause a genetic mutation but instead alter the chemical mark of gene expression, which in turn changes the mechanism by which the gene is expressed. This alteration is not genetic but epigenetic. This research has been done and observed in surviving ancestors of the Holocaust or those whose parents lived through the “Dutch Hunger."
So if energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed, coupled with our limited knowledge of how and where our consciousness comes from, who’s to say that past lives don’t exist? “You know when you’re talking about metaphysics, actually there is no proof or disproof. Metaphysics is whatever can’t be qualified, quantified," says Samtani.
“The proof that you have is, let’s say if I do a past life regression with someone and they find out details about a culture. Like, they found out, for example, very recently, that in ancient India, when your husband died, your body was burnt alive. This person is not Indian in this life, has no clue, starts to Google it after the session and finds out that it was true in some cultures. And that then becomes evidence."
Hypnotherapy isn’t about waving a clock in front of the client’s eyes until they become sleepy. It’s about taking the client into a deep, meditative state. Hypnosis is the sleep of the nervous system, allowing the conscious mind to have a break and explore the gentle chatter of the subconscious mind. The therapist can’t get their client to do anything they don’t want.
“It’s how willing is the client, how trusting is the client and then how tuned into the client are you?" says Santani. “We can tell if the person has surrendered fully or hasn’t. And if the person is blocked, it’s not up to us to bulldoze through that block but to address it, to then work with the client to see what’s going on for that client and how we can bring it down."
Santani beams as she talks about her career and helping people. When I ask if she ever gets tired when dealing with her clients’ heavy emotions, she says, “It’s such a beautiful zone, in fact, when I’m doing a session that it doesn’t just heal the client, it heals the therapist as well. And the moment I step out of that session, I feel more energized, more invigorated. I’m in that sensitive space, and I do a lot of prep before and after and boundary setting." In this way, she can put her best foot forward when healing her clients.
I see a gentle improvement after my hypnotherapy session. I am kinder to myself. My inner chatter is quieter and calmer. I notice that I am less harsh, less judgmental of myself and much more forgiving. The transformation comes almost like a hushed whisper, like a light breeze cleansing my subconscious, nudging me gently to be a better person for myself. I change my inner self-talk to more affectionate words – after all, if there is anyone who really understands my inner workings, it should be myself. So why not be more compassionate?