Be your own best critic.” Self-honesty is always the best policy. When we are not honest with ourselves, we pile up so many untruths that we lose who we truly are. It is not easy to be honest with oneself but it is essential to good mental wellness.
As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Michael Mezmer.
Michael Mezmer received his initial Hypnotherapy training at the Hypnotism Training Institute in Glendale CA, under the direct instruction of his mentor, the legendary hypnotherapist Gil Boyne. He also participated in an internship, achieving the Clinical Hypnotherapist level with the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners, as well as specialized certifications as an A.C.H.E. stress management consultant. In addition to his training at the Institute, Michael holds a Degree in psychology from California Coast University. For the past 8 years Michael has exclusively been hypnotherapist consultant to the Unger Concierge Medical Group in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Michael has been an invited guest lecturer on the subject of hypnotherapy to the departments of psychology at major universities including the highly respected Claremont Colleges in California. Michael has also presented special workshops for the LGBTQ community, including the Los Angeles LGBT Community Trans Lounge.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I grew up in a middle class family in southern California. My pathway to becoming a hypnotherapist was not a traditional one. I was lucky to have known from a very early age that I wanted to be in front of people and make a difference in the world. As a youth I was always fascinated by show-business and in particular the worlds of magic and hypnosis, so growing up I was focused on becoming an entertainer and dreaming of one day performing around the world. One of my early inspirations was the famous mentalist and hypnotist, The Amazing Kreskin. His work opened my imagination to the possibilities of the power of the mind. I started following my dream early, as my first professional paid performance in theater was at the age of seven when I was cast in a stage production of The Wizard of Oz. From that time on, my entire life’s focus has been on honing my talents and bringing mystery and joy to people around the world. It was in my early adult life during my travels performing throughout Asia, I witnessed the various exotic hypnotic rituals. These demonstrations of trance were presented by exotic tribes and religious leaders, the demonstrations included the Kin Jay in Thailand, and the horse ceremonies in Indonesia. Those amazing experiences opened my mind to the power and possibilities of trance and hypnosis. Upon returning to the states I made the decision to make a serious study of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Throughout my entertainment career I found that through my stage work I developed a deep passion for helping people, and that passion ultimately has expanded my horizons into my career as a hypnotherapist.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?
A pandemic of a different kind is on the horizon. The physical symptoms of Covid-19 have been well-reported, but now it’s the psychological factors that are becoming of serious concern. Suicide and other mental issues are becoming more pressing needs as the pandemic continues, creating longer-term effects on people’s lives. There’s evidence that suicides increased both after the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2003 SARS outbreak. A report by The Well Being Trust found that 75,000 additional people could die from “deaths of despair.” JAMA Psychiatry stated the combination of physical distancing, economic stress, barriers to mental health treatment, and national anxiety, as “a perfect storm.” My CovidNosis Hypnotherapy, “The Ultimate Pandemic Relief” program, is specifically designed to support helping people in finding powerful and rapid solutions to the mental challenges of the pandemic. Via Zoom hypnotherapy sessions, I help clients with the major residual pandemic issues: stress, sleep, confidence building, and weight control.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
As I mentioned I had been an entertainer for decades and many of my friends and some family members are entertainers. Literally overnight, because of the Pandemic, they lost everything they worked at for their entire lives; all the venues they performed at were locked shut with no possible opening in sight. Many people, in a very short time, lost their way of making a living, their homes, and the core of what made them productive and happy as a human being. As I listened to and experienced their challenges, I discovered that it was not just the initial tremendous financial loss they had incurred, but in a much larger sense the mental challenges that were absolutely devastating them daily. Having to address feelings of being seemingly not of value as person, the subsequent loss of confidence in themselves, and many other issues, have led to an emotional instability that for some people is quickly becoming the worst downside of the Pandemic. As the pandemic continued other issues began eating away at the happiness and well-being of my friends, including lack of sleep and anxiety. Experiencing the sense of loss and sadness of those I care for has touched me on a very deep and emotional personal level. In feeling their pain and anguish I ultimately realized that the psychological impact from Covid-19 may be a much bigger issue than the virus itself. I also realized that the psychological effects will be long lasting, creating challenges not just for my friends in the entertainment industry, but for my neighbors, community, and the world. As a Clinical Hypnotherapist I knew I had a skill set that is uniquely positioned to help people with many of the main issues of this immensely challenging and unpleasant situation. I knew I had to do whatever was in my power to help heal the damage that was and will continue to be done by the Pandemic.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
As I mentioned earlier I had a very young start on my pathway to become an entertainer and that ultimately led to me wanting to help others through my hypnotherapy practice. But in answering your question in regard to my current focus, it literally was the Pandemic itself that gave me the urgency to create my Covidnosis Hypnotherapy Program. Although I had been practicing as a hypnotherapist for decades in the general sense, the Pandemic was the game changer in inspiring me to make the decision to go in this specific direction. I have learned in my life that when faced with traumatic challenges, we as human beings naturally revert to a state of “fight or flight.” Do we learn to live with, turn a deaf ear to, and simply walk away from an emotionally damaging issue? Or do we face the issue head on and find solutions to make a difference in both our own and other people’s lives? For me personally I have always had a hard time running from an issue. I am a person who has always seen “the glass half full, instead of half empty,” and always attempt to make “lemons into lemonade.” I do not feel that hiding from an issue is an option, nor is ignoring “the elephant in the room.” I truly have always striven to be part of the solution and not the problem. Getting back to answering your question, the Pandemic and its devastating effects on the lives of so many was the trigger that ignited and amplified my natural way of responding to challenging situations in my life and created that “aha moment.”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
There have been many interesting stories both personal and professional that I have experienced in my long career. For me personally, after having been in the hypnotherapy industry for decades, I find the concept and global acceptance of using Zoom and other online methods as absolutely fascinating. I had always remembered my mentors talking about how in the past they would do hypnotherapy sessions over the phone, although I personally had never fully embraced it or felt comfortable doing it myself. Now, not only have I embraced the concept, but it has become one of my strongest weapons in my international fight against the Pandemic. Last week in just three days I worked with clients in South Africa, Germany, Florida, Georgia, Great Britain, and Korea. To me being able to reach so many people in so many places through modern technology is not just interesting, it is truly amazing. To answer your question on a more personal level, I will share a story about an interesting experience that happened to me a few years ago on a flight out of Dallas, Texas. During certain times of the year there are tremendous lightning storms in Dallas, and of course flying through a lightning storm can be, at the very least, unsettling to even the most ardent traveler, and at the most extremely frightening for some others. On this particular day, Dallas was having one of the worst lightning storms in recent years. In fact after boarding the plane and heading down the tarmac, we had several false starts and they almost turned the aircraft around several times. Finally the decision was made to take off. Of course anxiety levels were high, and as expected it was one of the roughest take offs I had ever experienced. Once in the air as we headed into the blackness of the thunder clouds, we could see immense lighting strikes all around us. The aircraft itself was shaking and the wings were flopping up and down almost like the wings of a bird. As the flight continued and we ascended into the sky the movement actually got worse — the aircraft was moving up and down fifty or more feet at a time. After the flight leveled off I noticed that a lady sitting at the bulkhead on the aisle in the front row was in deep emotional stress. The flight attendant had given the lady a wet towel to place around her neck; she was bent over and holding an air sickness bag in front of her mouth. I asked the flight attendant to let her know that I would be happy to help her using hypnosis. She requested my help and I proceeded to rapidly place her into a trance state. I gave her suggestions that every time the aircraft moved it was doing exactly what it was supposed to do and she would know those movements were keeping her safe. It took only six or so minutes to re-frame her thinking and in doing so, for the rest of the flight she was laughing and having a great time. The other people in the seats around her asked if I could hypnotize them. I told them only one customer per flight.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
In my life, as in all lives, there are too many people to mention all of them in this short interview who have been inspirational and pivotal in making me the person I am today. Of course there are those that supported me on a personal level and others that were my mentors in business pursuits. Some of the people were passive mentors — people who I may have only met briefly or not at all, but through their works continued to flame my inner fire and passions. On a personal level as with many, my mom Freda and my dad Clarence were a major influence in so many ways. My Dad taught me how to be an excellent sales person, the secret of “selling without selling,” and how to develop relationships with clients. Those lessons have benefited me throughout my professional life. My Mom was my greatest cheerleader — nothing I could do was wrong and she was always there to applaud me on. They are both gone now, but those lessons and love continue to guide and influence me to this day. Next was my first wife Kay. She was the person who pushed me to be more than I had envisioned I could be. She believed in me, and that is sometimes all it takes for you to become what you dream of being. For that I will always be grateful. My son Wesley and daughter Ilia keep me grounded and focused. This is important because sometimes we can lose the critical view of what we do, and my adult daughter and son are always honest in their viewpoints and advice, and that keeps me on an even keel. Most importantly, my wife Susie is continually my greatest cheerleader, mentor, and creative partner in all that I do. Her love and support in both my personal and business worlds makes me feel anything is possible and that is truly a priceless gift. As I mentioned earlier I had a non-traditional journey to being a hypnotherapist, so in my business life I have had a variety of mentors and cheerleaders. The two main inspirations and mentors have been Marion Chavez of the “Chavez College of Magic.” Marion helped me to not only learn the mysteries of stage magic, but also inspired me to be unique and different from others in what I do. The major inspiration in my trajectory to becoming a hypnotherapist was the legendary hypnotherapist Gil Boyne of the “Hypnotism Training Institute.” Gil was on a level all his own, but in addition he respected that I was an entertainer and accepted me as a serious student of hypnotherapy. Although Marion and Gil are no longer with us, their brilliant teachings and the skills they gave me continue to mentor me in my mind a spirit.
According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
As a hypnotherapist I have spent a great deal of time studying and mastering the art of suggestion, the combination of words and the way they are said. By opening the imagination, then achieving the uncritical acceptance of an idea, and adding the power of suggestion, people’s minds can be molded to a concept both negatively and positively. Films, television, novels, the media, and even comic books have continually depicted mental illness as something to be avoided, feared, and in some cases even depict it as pure evil. As a historian of film, I have found there is a lineage going back to the earliest silent films beginning with the 1919 German Expressionist film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and continuing up to current television productions like the popular “American Horror Story” TV series and their season titled “Asylum” that have dramatically put negative suggestions in peoples’ subconscious and conscious minds. Vivid negative images of mental health facilities and patients are constantly being deeply embedded into the public’s minds on an almost daily basis. Recent big screen mega hits like “The Joker,” starring Academy Award winning actor Joaquin Phoenix, continue to perpetuate the fear of those struggling with mental health issues, by depicting them as uncontrollable psychotic murders. These negative concepts become deep-seated into the subconscious mind and are extremely hard to overcome in the short term. It is an uphill battle to change the public perception of the mental health industry and those that are challenged by mental health issues, but more and more, the tide seems to be turning and there are films, novels, and positive media that are now depicting the positive side of treatments. Regardless, on a whole, the negative stories are those that to date have made the larger and negative psychological impact on the public and it is up to all of us to do what we can to continue to change that perception.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
That is a very big question that could take up this whole interview, but I will do my best to answer it as succinctly and focused as possible. In regard to the individual, we must each do our best to be “our brother’s keeper.” Each of us as individuals, who have family members, friends, and acquaintances that are dealing with mental challenges are literally the first line of defense and most immediate support system when it comes to mental health issues. Many friends and family members “fall through the cracks” of the mental health resources that are available in our communities. In many situations when we are close to those who need help, it can become a difficult challenge and sometimes may cost relationships. With love, patience, and some courage there is always hope, and sometimes hope is everything. When looking at Society as a whole and its responsibility to better support people with mental health issues, as mentioned in my answer to your last question, it is the media — the film and television industry, and the entertainment industry in general — that needs to make a greater effort to do a much better job of informing and supporting the public in a positive way. More focus on positive depictions of those with mental health challenges and realistic stories on the benefits and sources of professional assistance to help educate the population can, and will, dramatically change the perception of the general public in a positive way. Both fiction and non-fiction stories need to be better researched and written to help heighten the public awareness that there are solutions and that those that receive help can have a very good chance of returning to a normal life. In regard to the government and its responsibilities to those who are suffering, this country is a very big place. In addition mental health is a vast and complex issue. From the post-traumatic stress syndrome of many of our military, to drug abuse related issues of many of the homeless on the streets and so many more mental health issues, no one group or method of treatment will be the complete solution. Ultimately it will not be the government or the media that will make the most impactful changes with those facing mental health challenges, but rather we as Individuals working in concert with mental health professionals that will make the difference. We must all keep a watchful eye those around us and make the effort and sometimes personal sacrifice to do all that we can to support and love our fellow human beings, and in doing this, we all will make the most personal and important differences in bettering the mental health in all people’s lives.
What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
Mental wellness is a continuing journey and so the strategies we all use must be modified and added to on a regular basis. As I mentioned the Pandemic has been a major game changer in exposing a whole new list of challenges. In answering you question directly there are constants we can address regardless of the specific challenges.
1. “Live every day like it is your last.” Often we are so absorbed in surviving and the daily grind that we don’t fully appreciate or value the importance of each moment in time. Of course all moments are not happy ones, but they are all important to our mental growth.
2. “Yesterday is gone, today is fleeting, and tomorrow is almost here.” Although we should learn from the past, we should not live in the past, tomorrow is always a fresh start and a new beginning.
3. As Rod Serling the creator of the “Twilight Zone” said, “Being like everybody is the same as Being Nobody.” If you are always trying to be like everyone else you will never discover the uniqueness within you and achieve your full potential.
4. As the fictional character Rocky Balboa said, “One step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time, that’s how winning is done.” Sometimes when we look at the big picture it can be emotionally and mentally overwhelming, set a long term goal and then keep focused on the now. Life is about the journey not the destination.
5. “You are your only competition.” When running the race of life do not worry about others who are running the race too, focus on your race and be the best you that you can be.
6. “Be your own best critic.” Self-honesty is always the best policy. When we are not honest with ourselves, we pile up so many untruths that we lose who we truly are. It is not easy to be honest with oneself but it is essential to good mental wellness.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
I have been inspired by many books throughout my life. One book that immediately comes to mind is “Tough Times Never Last, Tough People Do,” by Dr. Robert H. Schuller. His style of writing and the power of positive thinking that frames all of his books has been a guide to my entire life’s thinking process on mental wellness. Another favorite when it comes to the definitive study on medical hypnosis has been all the writings of Milton H. Erickson. One particular book that comes to mind is “Hypnotic Alteration of Sensory Perceptual and Psychophysical Processes.” It collects much of his work into one volume. Erickson was truly a master of hypnosis and psychology, his vast understanding of the human mind was second to none. “Transforming Therapy: A New Approach to Hypnotherapy” by my mentor and legendary lay hypnotherapist Gil Boyne continues to be a major inspiration to me in a very personal and direct way. Gil did groundbreaking work in the field of hypnotherapy that was a game changer in so many ways, in particular the rapid speed that emotional change can take place through his technique. Finally the works of the “Dean of American Hypnotists,” Ormand McGill, were inspirations. Through Ormond’s books my imagination was opened to other cultures and their belief systems. Two of Ormand’s books in particular “Religious Mysteries of the Orient” and “Hypnotism and Mysticism of India,” are my favorites.
If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I have always felt that part of the true value to one’s life is to leave a legacy of positivity, and through that legacy, to be remembered on some level by those our life has touched. Making a positive difference in even one person’s life is a wonderful gift that we can give, but making a positive difference in many people’s lives creates an immense legacy of good that can ultimately help change the world in important ways. In my personal life I have always been a good listener and cared about people and their lives, and that in fact, is what led me to a career in hypnotherapy. Caring about people and listening to their thoughts is a simple practice we can all do to make the world a better place. People who are in the healing arts intrinsically understand that when we help others through our skills and deeds, we ultimately also help ourselves live a much more fulfilling and satisfying life. In a direct answer to your question about why people should consider making a positive impact on the world it is this: in helping others succeed in life, we ultimately help ourselves succeed, and that is a gift that keeps on giving to ourselves and the people around us for our entire lifetimes.
How can our readers follow you online?
The best way to learn more about my work and get all my contact information is to go to my website: www.covidnosis.weebly.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!