During times of trouble, we all need healing from our present and past trauma that we left unresolved.
You’ve likely heard about certain common forms of healing — from yoga to therapy to mindfulness and meditation. Perhaps exercise is your chosen weapon and your way to release bad energy.
However, if you haven’t already considered it, you might want to learn about the power of hypnosis. And who better to educate us on this transformative healing source than Latina entrepreneur, powerhouse, inspiration, and Resident Healer at the Four Seasons Hotel Downtown New York, Nicole Hernandez.
Also known as The Traveling Hypnotist, Hernandez is a renowned wellness expert with a personal story that makes her expertise as inspirational as it is effective. And after just 30 minutes of speaking with her, it’s clear — the power of hypnosis is real.
What exactly is hypnosis?
According to the American Psychological Association, “hypnosis is a therapeutic technique in which clinicians make suggestions to individuals who have undergone a procedure designed to relax them and focus their minds.” We know what you’re probably thinking: hypnosis isn’t a real thing; it’s just some old guy in a sweater vest holding a pocket watch, lulling you to a state of sleep and then making you dance like a chicken. Although this is what popular culture seems to have taught us to believe, it is not an accurate picture of what this powerful form of healing is all about.
Hypnosis is actually quite similar to mindfulness and meditation. According to Hernández, this practice is under the umbrella of mindfulness, but the main difference is that there is an ultimate goal of creating change with hypnosis. Meditation is more about consciousness and becoming more aware. With hypnosis, there is a solid plan in place. The goal is to create change at the end of each session — whether in behavior, a change in your response pattern, a change in how you think or see the world, a shift in your relationships, overcoming a phobia, or just a change in how you feel.
During a year when so many people struggle to make sense of what is happening, and when people are isolated and suffering in ways they never imagined, we all could use healing that actually delivers the personal progress we need.
Hypnosis is becoming far more mainstream than it once was, and it’s a good thing because it has the potential to improve personal development and offer holistic healing to people who are struggling mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
We sat down to chat with The Traveling Hypnotist to learn more about this practice, who can benefit from these transformative sessions, and hear about her own experiences as a Latina embracing and sharing this healing method.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did your life and your family experiences lead you to hypnosis?
My mother was diagnosed with bipolar (disorder) when I was pretty young. She was in and out of mental hospitals for most of my childhood. I think that has always been in the back of my mind; I had always wanted to help my mom have a better outlook on life and help her through those episodes of depression and certainly those moments when she was suicidal. I think that has always been a driving, underlying goal for me.
I also realized that we weren’t allowed to talk about that as a child. We never spoke about her mental condition. That’s something that I see that comes up a lot in Latino culture — don’t talk about any mental illness in your family, and in general, don’t talk about your family’s problems.
I find that the shame that comes with mental illness really holds many people back, and they can’t get the help they need. And then, their children cannot properly express themselves, creating this whole cycle of isolation. That pattern really hits home for me.
I went to college from those experiences and studied undergraduate psychology, and it was just so heavy for me. I knew I didn’t want to work as a therapist on more abnormal psychology. I knew that wasn’t my calling. I wanted to help people create change and be more focused on reducing stress and helping people navigate their better stories. I’ve always been really focused on mindset.
My next step from there was journalism and the stories we tell. I wanted to use my voice to tell stories, help people identify, and let them know they’re not alone. I ended up going into marketing and PR and worked with a high profile agency in Dallas focusing on travel — I really love the idea of travel because it works similarly to hypnosis in that it allows us to move outside our small experience and get away from our daily lives to have an expanded sense of the world.
At the same time, I went into fitness as a side hustle, and during that role, I realized the power of my words and the way my words impacted how I felt. After realizing that, I left a very toxic relationship, and it all developed from there; all the pieces started coming together. I started studying yoga, visualization, and meditation. I always wanted to learn more, and I realized that it was partially because I was trying to deal with my inner critic and the feeling that I was never enough.
I then launched my own business, and the stress of that venture really caused my anxiety to kick up in ways that it never had before. I certainly had bouts of chronic anxiety that led to gastritis, but it had never been quite like this. I developed stress-induced alopecia, and that really woke me up. I had to know what was going on with my body. That’s when I found hypnosis. Hypnosis seemed to work when meditation and other things didn’t.
I took hypnosis courses, and it became such a healing time in my life that there was no turning back. It was like having a puzzle and finding that final piece and realizing that I can finally see how this all fits together. The healing part of hypnosis helped me heal the pain that I felt from being a child with a mom who was suicidal.
There was a lot of sense of responsibility that was unconsciously being re-triggered as I became an entrepreneur, and it made me ill. And once hypnosis helped me change my mind about that, it changed my life when nothing else had worked for me. That is why I’m so passionate about it because it can be so powerful, and it can create changes so quickly.
What does a typical session look like? I’m sure many people have preconceived notions based on movies or TV shows, but what is it really like for you and your clients?
The easiest explanation is to think of it as meditating with your eyes either opened or closed. Meaning that you can be in a trance state and still have your eyes open — you’re actually in a trance every time you daydream or watch a movie even. Your attention is on your thoughts or the mental images in your mind. You are not asleep. That’s probably the biggest misconception: that you’re sleeping or you walk into some wormhole world. No, it’s more that you’re in a deeply meditative state, and you can focus deeply on the thoughts, words, and memories in your mind.
Memories are the biggest thing I work with during a typical session. We no longer use pocket watches; it’s really not necessary. Then, through that process of moving into a meditative state of change, it’s really about helping people work with their sensations. We are continually moving through our world by understanding our feelings. And then how does our brain process all of that. We work with those modalities to change them and change how they make you feel.
If certain sensations are stressful, and there doesn’t need to be a stressful response, we can change that response pattern. It’s all about neural plasticity — you are learning a new way of being in the world, and we repeat it over and over until it sticks. I’ve been able to knock out phobias in a couple of one-on-one sessions — I was able to work with someone who had a mask phobia. We were able to work through her stress response in our first session, and then after her second session, she had no problem and could wear her mask without having a panic attack. The change can happen quickly in personalized sessions.
Who should consider trying hypnosis? Is there anyone who might not benefit from these sessions?
I would say the people it would benefit the most are people who can get really sucked into movies. For example, someone who gets very emotionally tied to movies and intensely feels all the feelings as you are watching a movie you’re a perfect candidate for hypnosis.
If you are a chronic worrier, you are actually great at visualizing. You’re just using your visualization skills in a way that doesn’t serve you, but you’re a perfect candidate for hypnosis. ,
People who wouldn’t benefit from hypnosis are those who are having a psychotic episode. Sometimes people with depression might be in a psychotic state and hypnosis should not be a place for help. Someone who has schizophrenia uses his or her visualizations and sensations differently, so they’re not a good candidate.
Similarly, people with autism who might have a hard time genuinely understanding sensory concepts might not be good candidates for hypnosis. For most people, as long as you’re open to the experience and as long as you are willing to make a change, then hypnosis would be a good option for you.
It’s essential to also think about what your expectations are. If you are using guided hypnosis on YouTube, then it will take longer for change to occur. That’s because it is not specialized for you. It’s a more generic experience that will put you through a relaxation process, but it’s going to take longer than if you work one-on-one with someone working specifically on your problems and can guide you to change your pattern. I offer a free guided hypnosis recording on my website. It’s an excellent way for people to sample the experience, but keep in mind that a 1:1 Hypnotic Journey session is quite different as it is inclusive of many customized tools to help you (and only you based on your needs). You can also access the free hypnosis audio by texting RELAXNOW now to 44222.
How do you see hypnosis fitting into the larger wellness picture? What are the key differences between hypnosis, meditation, and mindfulness?
Categorically, hypnosis falls under mindfulness; it’s just a different tool. The difference between hypnosis and meditation is that hypnosis aims explicitly to create a change during a session. There are also specific language patterns used to guide a change process that aren’t used in meditation. The goal of meditation is to become more aware of your thoughts. The purpose of hypnosis is to create change.
There are a lot of mindfulness tools that we can incorporate into our hypnotic journeys. For example, I bring in stuff like movement, sound, coaching, and bilateral stimulation into each session. I think all of those things work together really well, and my ultimate goal is to be really efficient in each session so that someone can have the breakthrough change they are desiring. The aim is to be efficient and create change. And I do think there has been some confusion in meditation. People have been using hypnosis and calling it meditation in many instances.
As a healer, why do you think it’s so important now that more than ever, for there to be more representation of women and, more specifically, Latinas in this industry? What message do you have for Latinas who might benefit from hypnosis personally or professionally?
I think it’s crucial that Latinos in general step up and become more aggressive in getting their name out there and spreading their message, especially in the mindfulness arena. There are very few women in this field and even fewer minorities. And when we are there when we are seen, it makes it accessible for people to know that 1) it’s safe, and 2) that it’s possible for them. I think it removes a lot of the stigma and the barriers around getting help, and it lets people who need it have access to these tools that are affordable if not free, and that can radically change their lives.