Introducing The Residencies, our brand new service which brings the experts to you both virtually and in-person, offering private appointments with some of the world’s leading authorities in style, health, wellbeing and more. Here we meet Michele Occelli, Browns’ Resident hypnotherapist, whose powerful therapeutic techniques will win over even the most skeptical of subjects.
Can you tell us about your journey into hypnotherapy?
While completing my PHD, I was researching the relationship between the mind and senses, and began training in the Mevlevi whirling dervish. Dervish training is an intense mind-body practice that involves a state of focused attention that allows the dervishes to whirl around one another for the hour-long ceremony. Through this training, I learned to listen and connect with my body rather than drown in the mind’s monologue.
In this same period, a friend invited me to join a plant medicine ceremony. Here, as in the Dervish ceremony, sound and voice set the mind-body connection on a precise route. Through my hypnosis practice, I have found a way to explore how to use my voice and healing to facilitate transformation.
What does hypnotherapy mean to you and what makes it such a powerful tool?
To me, hypnotherapy is an encounter between two people in which transformation happens through a therapeutic relationship. A way of utilising the voice to generate a highly-focused, relaxed inner state of attention. Such a state enables access to unrealised self-knowledge from the unconscious.
Hypnosis is a way to learn different ways of relating to ourselves and others. As the therapist helps the person tune in, an alignment of mind and body arises. Trust is established, and embodied wisdom catalyses self-healing. This renews our curiosity towards the world and our role within it, deepening our sense of connection, meaning and purpose.
Who can benefit from hypnotherapy? What can people expect when they come to you?
Anyone can benefit from hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is a profoundly natural and rewarding state, like spending time in nature, being immersed in a creative project, playing music, sports, and so on. When people come to see me, their journey depends on their needs and resources. It might be peaceful, calm and grounded, or intense, trippy, and soul-revealing. Or a mix of it all.
What would you say are the most common misconceptions people have around hypnotherapy?
People have lots of misconceptions because of film and TV. Think of Get Out (2017) where the main character is hypnotised against his will. A great horror film, not a good advert for hypnosis! In hypnosis, no one can be made to act or think against their will. As a hypnotherapist, I am a guide that walks you through the galleries of your inner self. At any point, you can opt-out of the tour or simply turn a different corner.
The other misconception is that you will be unconscious during hypnosis. On the contrary, you will remember most of the experience, just like you would remember most of what you did yesterday. Another misconception is that some people cannot be hypnotised. Hypnosis is naturally occurring all the time. We all go into a light hypnotic state in the cinema watching a film. This is called ‘environmental hypnosis’; it happens when you read a good novel, driving on a highway, and watching TV.
How does hypnotherapy work and how quickly can you feel the benefits?
In a hypnotherapy session, two people sit down, have a conversation, and naturally establish a human and therapeutic connection. Then I will use my voice to induce hypnosis, which is a temporary state of inner focus.
Hypnotherapy is not a magic wand nor a miracle cure, it is a naturally unfolding process, much like a journey, in which the individual with their unique requirements and pace are honoured.
What are you most excited about for your Residency at Browns?
This residency involves a collaborative engagement which asks me to bring my work into a new context by engaging in a platform that exists in the world of fashion and communication. It is asking me to step into a new space, and that is always exciting.
Because of lockdown limitations, you’ve been conducting a lot of your work remotely. Can you talk us through how you’ve adapted your practice?
I have been seeing clients online around the world for the past five years. The great thing about hypnotherapy is that it works as well online as it does in person. I might have to deal with unforeseen events, (like a cat stepping on the laptop of my client and switching off the Zoom!) but there are always ways to integrate the unexpected in a session without losing the focus and energy needed for the work.
What practices do you have to remain balanced and bring calm into your everyday?
I have a lot of different tools and practices that I mix and match. I usually swim, I meditate twice daily, and I chant and practice throat singing. I read, I eat well and cook a lot. I am currently trying to learn how to skip a rope and failing miserably - much to the amusement of the kids in the outdoor gym in front of my house. I practice Feldenkrais and Qi Gong, and have acupuncture when it is available.
When the world is not locked down, I go on long walks in nature and spend quality time with the people I love. I also have sex, which is an ancient and effective practice to regulate our nervous system and connect beyond our individual experience of the self.
What are some easy tips for people that might not have access to hypnotherapy with you?
Move your body! Dance in your living room, go on a walk, do 10 minutes of yoga… anything is better than nothing. Also, connect with people. Like all mammals we are social animals, so pick up the phone. Go on a safe distant walk with another breathing living human. If you have the energy, help someone else out. Being of service and including others helps widening your focus, making life more spacious and less isolating. And curb scrolling on your phone. Being bored is much healthier than being over-stimulated; it helps clearing out stress and invites creative thinking.
How do you want your clients to come away from your sessions feeling?
I hope my clients feel a reconnection to their lives, to their meaning and purpose.