Sacha Lajer is a searcher. Since moving to Paris from Los Angeles over 25 years ago, she has never stopped exploring, both the city and her place in it. Her career path took some twists and turns before she found her true calling: hypnotherapy. Now with a thriving practice, Sacha spoke with INSPIRELLE about what led her to this sometimes-misunderstood therapy, the power of suggestion, and how hypnotherapy is perfectly suited to the times we’re living in.
How did you first get interested in hypnotherapy?
At first glance, happenstance may seem behind my discovery of hypnotherapy. But a combination of synchronicity, timing, inspiration, and a sense of magic is how I would describe it.
Several years ago, I was invited to attend a course in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). I was already working as an educator, and learning new ways of communication and connecting on a deeper level are what I value. This experience led to my own journey into the dynamic field of psychology and further research and discovery of enhanced therapy techniques, including NLP and hypnotherapy. It turns out many of these originated in Santa Cruz, also home to my Alma Mater. It took me moving to Paris to discover what was in my own backyard!
I became fascinated by the possibilities of hypnosis, of the power of the subconscious mind and metaphoric language employed to bypass the conscious, logical and analytical part of our brains in order to access the emotional, creative part that is then open to suggestion and transformation. As a professor and lover of literature, I became very interested in the healing power of story… and began to write my own story with hypnosis.
What kinds of issues respond particularly well to hypnotherapy? How is it different than other forms of therapy?
Hypnotherapy is what we call “suggestion therapy”. We often try to rely on will power alone to make the changes we desire for ourselves. But we all know how long New Year resolutions last! However, the subconscious mind controls the majority of our behaviors and habits. When in a deeply relaxed state, the hypnotherapist, after having determined the client’s objective with them beforehand, accesses the imaginative, creative part of the mind through suggestion, “opening the door” to a shift in perspective and planting the seeds of lasting transformation.
Hypnotherapy is a brief therapy with change often seen within four to six sessions, though sometimes more. I must also add that there are no magic wands and everyone evolves in their own time, when they are ready. The following are some examples of the many issues which can be treated with hypnotherapy: boosting self-confidence and self-esteem, creative breakthroughs, exam preparation, weight loss, smoking cessation, insomnia, anxiety, stress management, phobias, unhealthy habits and patterns of behavior, chronic pain, and psoriasis.
Can you describe a typical session? What are some of the myths or misunderstandings around hypnotherapy you’d like to dispel?
Stage hypnosis hasn’t done justice to the field. The people seen on stage have been tested for their level of suggestibility and agree to what they are asked to do and always retain their free will. I’d like to highlight that hypnosis is a natural state which occurs many times a day. In fact, this natural state is the same one you are in when you are completely absorbed in the creative process, painting, writing, even a hobby you enjoy, or are engaged in a film or a good book. Or when you are driving and so focused on a specific thought that you almost miss your turn, you arrive at your destination not remembering how you got there because your mind was somewhere else. When you are in this daydream-like state, your subconscious mind is suggestible and open to ideas, concepts and lifestyle transformations. You always have your free will and can choose to integrate or transform any suggestions.
Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is not a sleeping state. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the client’s senses are heightened and they remain an active participant in the process.
A typical session begins with a focus on breathing which allows for a deep relaxation of the body and mind. When this calm, peaceful state sets in, the suggestion therapy is carried out through metaphors, story and visualization. Once this process is finished, the client comes back to the here and now and may feel an immediate change in perspective, a gain in insight, or be free of their phobia or desire to smoke, for example. The therapist plants the seeds that over the following days and weeks germinate if the client is ready and motivated.
Do you have any “at home” tips to help with the stress or anxiety so many of us are dealing with right now?
Having a regular breathing practice is key to calming the nervous system which is often in fight or flight mode. I recommend the Cardiac Coherence breathing technique which has immediate benefits—you’ll feel the difference right away. The most common exercise is the 365 method: 3 times a day, 6 breaths per minute for 5 minutes. You inhale to the count of 5 and exhale to the count of 5. This practice brings the body and mind into balance.
As a longtime expat, what are some of your favorite places or activities in Paris to enjoy?
I so enjoy reading, writing and relaxing in the lovely gardens at the Musée de Montmartre and the Musée de la Vie Romantique. In nature, away from the bustling cityscape and connected to the vitality of the inner creative lives of artists and writers. I also love exploring different neighborhoods — there’s always a discovery to be made. Some of my favorites are the rue Montorgueil area, the rue des Martyrs, and the Batignolles quartier, which has a great organic market on Saturdays. I’ve lived in Paris for over 25 years — it’s part of my DNA now. I love it, with its idiosyncrasies and all!