On Feb. 7, Jeffrey Richards ’88 put most of the small crowd gathered in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater to sleep. For a hypnotist like Richards, making people drowsy is a full-time job. His talk, entitled “Achieving Better Self-Care through Self-Hypnosis,” was sponsored by the Cox Health and Counseling Center as part of their “Eat Well, Sleep Well, Be Well” initiative.
Richards talked mainly about his 19 years of experience in the field. His business, Peak Performance Hypnosis, uses hypnotherapy to help individual clients with challenges in their lives, from public speaking to academic performance to weight loss. He also travels around Ohio to teach about hypnosis, often implementing audience participation and comedy in his presentations.
“Stress is bad. Lack of sleep is bad,” said Richards. “That’s as much of that stuff as we’re going to talk about today, because you already know that.”
Richards moved on to discuss the technical aspect of his work. According to his presentation, the conscious and unconscious mind are separated by a filter called the “critical faculty.” Hypnosis occurs when the critical faculty is relaxed, allowing information to enter the unconscious mind.
Twice during the talk, Richards demonstrated his hypnosis technique for the audience, asking them to close their eyes and follow his instructions. He advised the crowd to try using this relaxation technique later on their own. “Think about all the different places and times where you can do that,” he said. “A person could, and I’m not recommending this — although, full disclosure, I’ve done it — you could do it at a traffic light.”
Richards attempted hypnosis for the first time while he was a student at Kenyon, when he helped his roommate fall asleep the night before an economics exam. Now, he is returning to Knox County to open a new office.
Mark Lang ’22 believes that a majority of Richards’ clients in Gambier will be athletes. He was inspired to attend Thursday’s presentation after a training trip in Florida, where a hypnotherapist talked to him and other members of the Lords’ swim team.
He has not yet tried hypnosis on his own. “I feel like it’s very difficult for the individual, sometimes, to get themselves into that state of mind,” he said.
For people with similar difficulties, there is a recording available on Richards’ website that is meant to induce a hypnotic state.
At the end of his talk, he asked the audience not to complain if they fall asleep while listening to the tape — that means his technique is working.