Jenny Hewett sits down with British hypnotherapist Paul McKenna to find out the secrets to self-improvement.
Fast-talking British hypnotherapist and former DJ Paul McKenna may not have a face for radio, but he certainly has a voice for hypnotherapy. Soothing in the same way that most hypnotists are, his speech comes out at one hundred miles an hour. The former radio presenter and self-help author will land on Dubai’s shores on Friday October 31 to hold two separate events, ‘Change Your Life in 2 Days’ and the one-day ‘Persuasion, Influence and Presentation Skills’. McKenna has hypnotised everyone from Russell Brand to Ellen DeGeneres and he even once made a TV presenter believe he was Pablo Picasso, creating several impressionist pieces of art while ‘under’. Now selling 7,000 books a week worldwide, his self-improvement know-how is a roaring success. Here, we find out what he has in store for his Dubai audience.
Why does the field of hypnosis resonate with you?
I used to be radio broadcaster and I went one day to interview the local hypnotist. I was very stressed that day and he relaxed me with hypnosis, but I felt so good afterwards that I borrowed a book from him by a guy called Richard Bandler who created Neuro Linguistic Programming. I read this book and started practising on my friends. It was something that I really felt very comfortable doing, so I began writing books about self-improvement.
What can people expect from your courses in Dubai?
The ethos of the ‘Change Your Life in 2 Days’ event that I’m holding in Dubai is very much along the lines of success and happiness. They’re not accidents that just randomly happen to some people and not others. They’re created by certain ways of thinking and acting. ‘Persuasion, Influence and Presentation Skills’ is not a course on manipulating people; it’s very much a course about being authentic and putting your message across in the way that you want to.
Why do you think so many people struggle with important life skills such as effective communication?
I think it depends on how you’re brought up. This is not a course on how to cure your fear of public speaking. Very often, reading in front of the class as a child and having someone pointing out all your mistakes might make you feel that way about speaking in public, because no-one wants to feel foolish. But, this is really more about how you can best present what it is that you want to get across to somebody, whether you’re a salesman, a teacher or a parent.
What are the most common questions you’re asked? And what are some of the more bizarre requests you’ve had?
[Laughs] The bizarre ones are in therapy, and this isn’t a therapy seminar, it’s educational. But what people often want is to feel more control over their thoughts and feelings, they want to be able to get confident and get into what athletes call ‘the zone’. People want to be happier and they want to know the strategic way of achieving things. Many people don’t know how to do that and might spend more time making shopping lists for the supermarket than they do planning the next ten years of their life. Research is overwhelming, people who have very detailed plans about what they want to achieve are twice as likely to achieve them.
Personal development is big business these days. What’s shifted in the human psyche when it comes to society’s perception of self-help?
A number of things. Clearly traditional psychoanalysis doesn’t really work, just sitting there for hours talking to someone about your problems, if anything, makes them worse. But in the same way that there have been developments in technology, the same has happened in psychological technology. We can now cure phobias in 60 minutes. Not everyone, every time, but most people. Those who genuinely buy my books are looking for solutions, they’re not necessarily interested in psychology or science, they just want to lose weight or quit smoking.
Why do some people get overwhelmed by emotions and others seem to disassociate from them?
Well it really depends on the sort of person you are. Some people, just by virtually the nature of their job, are desensitised to things that other people would find traumatic. If you’re a solider or a policeman, you’re used to seeing dead bodies. Other people are very good at overcoming things like heartbreak, because the mechanism within them to move on works faster than someone else’s, so there are a number of reasons.
You once helped British actor David Walliams swim across the English Channel. Have you had any private requests from people, to perform while you’re in Dubai?
[Laughs] No I haven’t had anything like that. David Walliams is a comedian, but he’s also a passionate swimmer. For him, it was basically overcoming pain and boredom, because you’re in the water for 11 hours. So I hypnotised him to remember all his favourite movies and to keep playing them and the bits that made him laugh. The endorphins negated the pain and the movies entertained him while negating the boredom.
Will the events you hold in Dubai involve hypnotism?
Yes, but they are educational events, not hypnotism shows. We’ll be doing thought or visualisation experiments and I’ll hypnotise everyone and demonstrate with someone on stage before doing it on the whole audience.
Change Your Life In 2 Days: from Dhs2,600, VIP from Dhs6,000 (includes buffet lunch and a private book signing). 8.15am-6pm. Friday October 31 to Saturday November 1. Persuasion, Influence and Presentation Skills: from Dhs2,600, VIP from Dhs6,000 (includes buffet lunch and a private book signing). 8.15am-6pm. Monday November 3. Dubai World Trade Centre Hall 3, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.timeouttickets.com