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Hypnotist helps with confidence

Lindsay Sena | Wednesday, November 7, 2007

So you want to quit smoking, conquer stage fright, improve your athletic performance and gain self-confidence? Notre Dame MBA student Dale “Doc” Dougherty might be able to help with a few sessions of hypnosis.

A certified hypnotist, Dougherty said he became interested in the practice after seeing a stage show in 1990 and has practiced it for seven years. He has hosted numerous hypnosis workshops at Notre Dame, working with both individuals and sports teams.

He held one such workshop, the last beginner’s session of the semester, Tuesday in the Mendoza College of Business to help students improve their study habits and test-taking and memorization skills.

Dougherty kicked off the session with a few brief meditations, asking participants to visualize relaxing settings. Contrary to stereotypes created by hypnosis stage shows, Dougherty said that your mind still has a moral code under a hypnotic trance.

“You totally have control over yourself,” he said. “You can’t be made to rob a bank unless you rob banks in your everyday life.”

Hypnosis produces a temporary condition of attuned responsiveness at the subconscious level, giving Dougherty an opportunity to present positive thoughts and values to the hypnotized mind.

“Ideally, the positive suggestions will replace the negative suggestions that are keeping you from reaching goals of self-improvement,” Dougherty said.

The best way to view hypnosis, he said, is as a state of “intense relaxation and concentration, in which the mind becomes remote and detached from everyday cares and concerns.”

“You aren’t asleep or unconscious,” he said. “You are in an alternative state of consciousness in which you let things happen through your subconscious mind, rather than trying to make them happen with your conscious and critical mind.”

Sophomore Malia Makowski said she was hesitant to try Dougherty’s methods.

“I was skeptical at first about trying hypnosis after everything I’ve heard about it,” she said at Tuesday’s sessions.

But she was pleasantly surprised by the level of relaxation and harmony she reached with Dougherty’s exercises.

“Even if it doesn’t help my studies, it really helped me relax. I’m definitely going to try and make another one of [Dougherty’s] sessions,” she said.

And stressed students aren’t the only ones taking advantage of Dougherty’s services.

Dougherty sent letters to all Notre Dame sports teams encouraging them to try hypnosis, but he said he has only received a response from the women’s golf team.

“Sports are 90 percent mental. You spend four hours a day working physically but do nothing to help the mental game,” he said. “Tiger Woods has a hypnosis coach.”

Sports hypnosis can assist with pain management, the ability to eliminate outside distractions and anxiety control, Dougherty’s Web site says.

“You change your mind, you change your perception, you change your entire life,” he said.