A hypnotherapy service that promises to instil calm and banish emotional decision-making is being used by traders to fine-tune their decisions – Luxury London puts it to the test
“I’ve had clients literally write down on paper that they want to be transformed into an ‘emotionless robot’” says hypnotist Aaron Surtees, with a surely misplaced dose of nonchalance.
Sixteen years ago Surtees founded City Hypnosis, a clinic specialising in therapeutic interventions for young professionals. Having plied his trade on Harley Street, he admits the long hours and high pressures of London’s financial district meant his client base was soon populated by corporate types travelling from consultancies, hedge funds and investment banks for weekly sessions, and he moved the business eastwards. Generally, their issues were well-known – stress, anxiety and addictive personality traits fuelled by the City’s drinking culture. But then, in 2004, came that piece of paper and a request to help traders manipulate the markets without flinching.
Hypnotism involves planting positive suggestions in the client’s subconscious once they are in a relaxed state of awareness, to promote feelings and behaviours that are desired. Surtees asserts that the wording of any of these suggestions is always explicitly agreed beforehand and the outcome can be strengthened by using psychological techniques – such as repetition, visualisation and linking positive emotions with an action like tapping the forefinger – that can then trigger those feelings in an alternative, and usually more challenging, situation.
But what qualities does a young man want to share with an emotionless robot? “It was [a way of being] cold, clinical, calculating and super confident,” replies Surtees, who now directly markets hypnotherapy as an answer to emotional behaviour on the trading floor. “Some traders are losing focus and letting emotions such as greed, fear or anger get on top of clear decision-making. If you’re making rash decisions or being swayed by emotions, you’re not performing to your best ability. Traders want to trust their systems and its algorithms, and trust themselves.”
If you’re making rash decisions or being swayed by emotions, you’re not performing to your best ability
Surtees insists hypnotherapy can work for anyone, as long as the person desires change. To his credit, he says he regularly sees employees from the likes of Credit Suisse in Canary Wharf, and says he’s told that they feel ‘calmer’, ‘more confident’ and are ‘making more trades’. The cost for a session is £190 plus VAT and clients regularly attend around four 50-minute appointments over time.
“People are much more open to hypnotherapy [in this era],” explains Surtees. “In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, I’ve had bankers speak to me about stress, and the importance of holistic health. Initially there can be some scepticism, but then clients realise it’s based on a practice of suggestion and neuro-linguistic programming that’s worked for hundreds of years.”
We sent one of those sceptics along to try out the City Hypnosis service.
The Review: Man Versus Mind
Could you be persuaded to put your state of consciousness into the hands of a stranger, in search of relaxation – or even professional development? I did, with surprising results
The modern man lives in perplexing times. We are at once expected to know how to rewire the lights in the living room and fix the leak in the toilet under the stairs. At the same time, we've been emasculated to the point where it is now acceptable to chase Pokémon in public.
We can drink protein shakes at our desks, take selfies in the gym, even ask other men where they get their hair cut. We promote pseudo-scientific self-help tomes to the top of book charts. We propel meditation apps to the top of Apple's App Store. I bought a magazine once, upon the promise that I could get Arnold Schwarzenegger arms in just three days. I'm still waiting for the gains.
Still, for all of that, to most of us possessing a Y chromosome, the thought of letting someone extricate our deepest-hidden anxieties while reclined in a chair, eyes closed, our minds vulnerable to who-knows-what level of insecurity-laden introspection, sends shivers down our recently-waxed backs. I’d rather be caught capturing Pokémon.
To most of us possessing a Y chromosome, the thought of letting someone extricate our deepest-hidden anxieties sends shivers down our recently-waxed backs
Alas, following no insignificant amount of strong-arming by this website’s editor, I found myself in the basement-bunker-office of City Hypnosis, just off Chancery Lane.
When entering a darkened room that’s been neutralised with whale music and the sort of landscape shots that Microsoft Windows uses as screensavers, I’ve always thought it a good idea to employ a certain degree of cynicism. The lair of the charlatan often looks like this.
Aaron Surtees didn’t take on the appearance of a charlatan. Indeed, his dulcet tone of voice suggested that he’d be perfectly up for the job at hand. He could help me with a range of miseries, he said, including anxiety and impotence. Suffering the burdens of neither of these afflictions – well, every man has the occasional off day – he offered to perform a type of meditative therapy which would render my mind clear and my body calm.
During the next 40 minutes, as water trickled over stones in the headphones on my ears, Aaron’s melodious voice took me on a voyage that went deep underground, through many doors and into many rooms. To be honest, that’s about all I can remember – a lift, some doors and lots of rooms – until we were back in the metaphorical elevator in my mind and Aaron was bringing me back into the real world with a ‘5-4-3-2-1-and-open-your-eyes’.
Woah. What sort of quasi-state of consciousness was that? A place just before sleep, where you’re not fully capable of grappling the thoughts that are leapfrogging into your mind before they disappear into the darkness just as speedily. Had I been hypnotised? Apparently not. But it was a deeper state of relaxation than I can remember. Like that place a really good massage sends you to, only better.
I can’t attest to Aaron's ability to rationalise decision-making, but if you’re looking for a quick-fix stress-busting session, then 50 minutes with him will straighten you out. As for those of us too macho to have ever considered seeing a shrink, perhaps it’s time to man up.