By Emily Young, Contributing Writer
Hypnotist Paul Ramsay made his annual visit to his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, last week to perform shows for residents of Stoke Hall on March 24, and Lord Hall the following night.
Paul Ramsay, a self-described “full-service hypnotist,” performs for over 12,000 people every year, hypnotizes 1,500 people a year, holds private consultations and trains prospective hypnotists. He tours nationally at colleges, high schools and corporate events.
Ramsay began his show at Stoke Hall on Tuesday explaining to the audience how hypnosis has been misrepresented by television and movies.
“You can benefit from hypnosis,” Ramsay said, going on to list the multiple uses of the practice: to quit bad habits like chewing fingernails and smoking, in meditation, as an anesthesia, to improve deep, restorative sleep with slow-wave brain activity, and even to completely shut off pain, making things like hypnotic childbirth and pulling teeth without Novocain real possibilities.
A two-time graduate of UNH, Ramsay graduated in 1996 and taught high school English for three years before returning to pursue a second education degree, which he obtained in 2002. Ramsay then worked at the university as a residence hall director in Fairchild, where he used to hire a hypnotist, Bob Chase, once a year.
Ramsay said he originally got into hypnotism when Chase offered him informal lessons.
“I thought initially I’d do it just as a hobby, but I just loved it,” Ramsay said.
Paul Ramsay became certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists in 2004, and has now been actively practicing and making an effort to get people more comfortable with hypnosis for 11 years.
Over the course of his show on Tuesday night Ramsay encouraged the hypnotized students to feel positive by focusing on vibrant colors.
“Fill your mind with a beautiful color, and feel heavy, loose, peaceful, and positive all at the same time,” he said. “It’s a good gift to give yourself. You deserve it. You’re worth it.”
Completely absorbed by his persuasive positivity, the hypnotized students gazed at Ramsay with pink eyes.
Freddy Pim, a freshman resident of Stoke Hall, said that Ramsay made him feel completely at ease. Pim said he had been hypnotized once before, but had a terrible experience because the hypnotist was “sketchy,” and made him feel uncomfortable.
“I don’t expect that every person that I’m with is going to feel good around me,” Ramsay said. “I’d like to think I’m a good person, you know, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to feel really good with me. To do hypnotism with someone, it’s important that you feel good about them. We call it rapport.”
It was sophomore Felisha LaPointe’s first time getting hypnotized. She said the experience was intensely relaxing.
“I just let everything happen and I felt so content listening to his voice,” LaPointe said.
Ramsay is hopeful for the future of hypnotism in the medical field.
“Because of FMRI and PET scans, we can show what’s happening in the brain and scientifically validate what we thought we knew all along about hypnosis,” he said.
He cited an example of a recent study done by Stanford’s Dr. David Spiegal. Spiegal gave a presentation on March 16 for the National Institute of Health’s Council on Complementary and Integrative Health, a division of the NIH completely focused on non-traditional healing modalities.
Spiegal’s study showed that hypnotized patients undergoing corrective surgery for Vesicoureteric reflux (VUR), a condition in which urine flows back from the bladder toward the kidneys, experienced significantly less pain, anxiety and discomfort than patients who got the normal treatment.
Unfortunately for Ramsay, hypnotism is not as wide-spread as he and other professional hypnotists would like it to be.
“It really comes down to how much word of mouth can be generated,” Ramsay said. “How much good work can we do that will make people say to their friends, say to their family members, ‘I had this incredible experience and I think you should have it too,’ because it was really that great. And that’s sort of what we’re trying to do. It’s the best we can do right now.
“We know that what we do has value and we know that it helps people.”