Hypnotist Knows The Power of Suggestion
By Tim Dumont
BARRINGTON – John Koenig has an office at the Warwick Medical Center but he’s definitely not a doctor. He’s not a dentist, a psychologist or even a physical therapist. But he is one of a kind: Barrington’s only hypnotherapist.
“I see miracles happen here,” said Mr. Koenig, who has lived in town since 1982.
“People spend all of their lives wandering around, suffering from something. Hypnosis is a useful tool that people don’t take advantage of and could and should much more often to alleviate their pain and help them achieve their goals for success, health and peace of mind.”
But don’t expect a sideshow act when you walk into his office. They are no goofy set-ups or bizarre settings. The entire office is one large simple room. Only a jutting wall separates the waiting area from the rest.
There are no fancy couches or elaborate decor. There are just two chairs, an ottoman, a few assorted plants, a trickling waterfall piece, a disco ball, assorted pictures of moons and suns and a few other think pieces like a gray wolf photomosaic and a free-standing staircase that is seemingly right from a M.C. Escher drawing.
He doesn’t use a pendulum, but he does admit to owning a spiral.
“Someone gave me that, but I keep it at home,” he said.
Mr. Koenig has been a full-time hypnotist for the past three years and has been practicing on and off as a hobby for the past 30. He said the field is infinitely fascinating to him.
“Hypnosis has a very wide scope,” he said. “People don’t realize the benefits of it and there still remain all of these bizarre myths.”
He’s used it to help a middle-aged man prepare for his G.E.Ds, people stop biting their nails, or to help overcome anxiety. He’s even used it to help residents improve their tennis and golf games.
“When somebody is really fanatic about something, they make the effort,” Mr. Koenig said. “If somebody could take a couple of strokes of their game, they would go to Bangkok to see somebody.”
Most of his clients come to him out of desperation, he said. Thirty percent of them want to quit smoking.
“I’ve had grown men, men who you’d be terrified to see in a dark alley, cry because they can’t stop smoking,” he said. “People think that they have to smoke and it’s crazy. It’s demented.”
One of Mr. Koenig’s methods to help smokers quit is to help them forget they were smokers.
“When you wake up *in the morning, the memory of smoking is still there with the person,” he said. “But what if you forgot you were a smoker. You wake up every day and forget that you were a smoker. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s worked.”
Mr. Koenig is not a doctor and he doesn’t give the illusion he can cure anybody from a medical problem through hypnosis. He insists his clients check with the medical community. The only way he can play a role, he said, is to help the client follow a strict regimen, such as a diet.
He has, however, worked with patients at Women and Infants Hospital in Providence. He said there is evidence an attitude determines a person’s recovery chances.
When you’re hypnotized, Mr. Koenig said, you’re more conscious then you would be in a dream but not as conscious as you would be when you’re awake.
“People think when they are hypnotized, they’re zapped, but you’re not,” he said. “You hear exactly what’s going on and you know what’s going on.”
Everybody goes into hypnosis several times a day, Mr. Koenig said. The “zoning out” that takes place before you go to sleep is the beginning of hypnosis. Being engrossed in a book or a movie is also a form of it, he said.
“In my sessions, I take it a little further than that,” he said.
Before the spirals
Before finding a second career as a hypnotherapist, Mr. Koenig owned an advertising agency, Catalyst, in Warwick.
“I loved every bit of it. I loved writing and pitching ideas but then it came time for me to move on and this was something that I always loved. I had been there, done that and there was nothing left I wanted to do.”
But he knew where his passion lay.
“I always thought I was committed to helping people,” he said. “I like watching people change.”
When Mr. Koenig decided practicing hypnotherapy was something he wanted to pursue full time, he simply did it. Although he had to take some courses, he did not have to go back to college. There are no degrees in hypnotherapy and it is not licensed. He is certified by a national organization, though.
Said Mr. Koenig: “It is an art and a craft.”
With over 20 years of advertising experience under his belt, Mr. Koenig had all of the necessary skills to master the craft of hypnosis.
He said it’s all about the language.
“I was so used to condensing information, absorbing it and getting the message out as succinctly as possible,” he said. “You have to be precise with the language in hypnosis. You have to give suggestions that are going to work.”
For every skeptic, there is the believer. And the evidence lies in the countless number of letters Mr. Koenig has received thanking him for his service.
“I get postcards and letters from people that have been on trips, that were terrified before and now they can enjoy their vacation because they are not bound by their terror.”
Mr. Koenig knows, even with the number of success stories, hypnotherapy will never be accepted as a normal form of treatment. People will still be skeptical.
“I wish people would give (hypnotherapy) a chance,” he said. “Sometimes I wish they would come to me first, instead of coming to me as a last-ditch effort. But that’s the problem: It works too well.”
After a chance in the chair, a non-believer opens his eye
As I begin to close my eyes, my heart starts revving in my chest. This is the first time I’ve ever volunteered to be hypnotized and I’m scared out of my silly little mind.
Could I be any more stupid?
For the past 45 minutes during my interview, John Koenig has been telling me the hardest part about hypnotizing someone is overcoming the fear factor, to convince them “There’s nothing to be afraid of. There’s nothing to worry about.”
The office looks pretty normal. It looks, well, like an office.
There’s just two chairs, one has an ottoman. There are a few assorted plants, a trickling waterfall piece, a disco ball, assorted pictures of moons and suns, and a few other think pieces like a gray wolf photomosaic and a free-standing staircase that’s seemingly from a M.C. Escher drawing.
There are no pendulums or creepy spirals. Aside from the emptiness of the space, which is frightening in and of itself, the place seems OK.
And Mr. Koenig, he looks like a normal guy.
He told me he’s married and he has a daughter that I graduated high school with. He’s well dressed, bright and very articulate.
Still, I can’t find it in my heart — that is now been revving for the past 30 seconds and is now starting to red line — to believe him. Too many Stephen King books I guess.
All the lights are dimmed, all the windows are closed and all of the blinds are down. If there was a setting for me to do something I wouldn’t have normally done or to say something incriminating, this was the place to do it.
There is no other sound in the room other than the continuous trickle of a water fountain that is there strictly for mellowing purposes but it reminds my bladder of how much coffee I had before I came to this interview.
There’s nothing else. Just me, him and the trickling of the water fountain.
He starts to speak softly to me. He tells me to simply hold both of my arms out in front of me, like a sleepwalker.
He’s going to lead me right out of this room, out of this building and into on-coming traffic, I just know it, I thought.
Then, he tells me to concentrate only on my left arm. He politely suggests a ton of bricks are weighing down my right arm. That somehow, my arm is not composed of skin, blood and bone, but that it’s composed of lead.
As if almost by magic, by the sound of his monotonic voice, it begins to fall. Not all at once, mind you. It drops like a creaky, old elevator. And not all the way down to my side. It settles below my chin. I guess that’s where this elevator stopped.
Praying this little bit was over, he then suggested my right arm was lighter than air, like a helium balloon. You feel it lifting up into the sky, he says to me.
Like some real-live marionette show, with Mr. Koenig having complete control of this dummy, my left arm begins to rise. This time, my arm settles above my eyes.
“Open your eyes,” he says.
I open my eyes and now that this two-minute puppet show has ended, my heart returns to a normal beat. My arms are staggered in front of me. My eyes widen to the size of pie-plates. I’m speechless and Mr. Koenig begins to smile.
No way this just happened, I think.
“Do you want to do some more?” he asks.