You’re getting sleepy …

Donna Williams

Photo By Larry Dalton

Donna Williams is only half-joking when she describes what she puts her patients through as hard work. “It’s very hard work,” she says. “You have to come into my office. You have to sit in a very large recliner, recline the chair to your comfort and watch some fish on the screen. And do nothing. And you’re laughing because you’re thinking, ‘Oh I can do that.’” But doing nothing is apparently no small task for patients whose brains have been conditioned to spin like overtaxed hard drives, even in the quietest moments. It was just such a dilemma—and her own breakthrough experience as a hypnotherapy patient—that convinced Williams to abandon her nursing career for private practice as a certified hypnotherapist here in Sacramento.

So, when you hypnotize people, what do you do? Do you take them back in time?

No, actually, I don’t really do regression. You don’t have to go back to the point of the trauma to let go of the trauma. And so mostly it’s about visualizing yourself at your best, which would be visualizing yourself as a nonsmoker, visualizing yourself as a thinner person. Particularly with weight loss. If someone comes in here and they say, “I want to be 40 pounds lighter,” well, that doesn’t really mean anything to your brain. Your brain has no concept of weight, so it’s really the feelings and the attachments that you put on the 40 pounds. People think, “Yes, I’m going to lose 40 pounds, and my life will be better because I’ll be thinner and richer and people will like me better.” And that’s not the case. If you’re in a crummy relationship, or the boss is mean to you, or there’s traffic on Fair Oaks Boulevard, all of those things are going to be there whether you’re 40 pounds lighter or not. And so, again, it’s how does the 40-pounds-thinner person deal with it? Well, the first thing they do is they don’t use food for comfort. So, that’s off the list. So, you have to find another habit. And it’s about substituting out things.

What could possibly be more comforting than food?

What’s more comforting than food? Well, there can be the satisfaction of knowing that you’re in control of your life and that you don’t need food to comfort you, that you can comfort yourself. Or you’re plugged into your life and you’re hooked up with other people and you get some comfort from them.

Most of the people I see, they’re stuck. They have very loud internal dialogues, they fight with themselves all the time, they second-guess themselves all the time, and all they want is just some peace from the dialogue. And so, through hypnosis, you can turn down the internal dialogue, and once you’ve taken that away, then you’re able to focus more clearly. And you would just be amazed at how much easier things look to you, because you’re not having a war with yourself.

Forgive my skepticism, but dealing with that internal dialogue seems to be the goal of Buddhism and countless other practices. Can it really be that simple?

Well, I was actually one of those people that you hear about with a high internal dialogue. I was debating the pros and cons of taking a new position when I decided I should talk to someone first. So, I went to a hypnotherapist, and I ended up telling him, “You know what I really need? I need to have my internal dialogue taken away.” And you’ll notice I said taken away. I didn’t say turn it down, make it more in the background. I said take it away. And they did.

I thought if I could give this gift to just one other person, anywhere on the whole entire planet, I think that you’ve pretty much served humanity. I thought, what a cool thing to be able to give.

So that means, once your internal dialogue is taken away, then you’re actually in the present moment?

Right, you’re in the moment.

But no one’s in the present moment.

Um, well, I mean, as much as one can be in the moment, you are in the moment. Because really that’s all there is.

I would say that it depends on the client and where you are in your life. Most people are always looking for the pill or the person or the thing that’s going to help them change. Because we look at change as such a monumental thing. But if you really look at the changes that you make in your life, they’re not so monumental. They’re just a little bit every day.

It’s just so amazing to me that, once you’ve made up your mind to do something, how quickly the process will work for you. But then you choose it. You have to come in here with a plan for what you want to do.

There’s many people that suffer from a depression, or they’re not plugged into their lives, and just by coming here and being able to relax, being able to tell their story, it makes them feel better. And so, it’s not even a matter of me fixing you or curing you or all of those things. I don’t know how to do those things. What I do know how to do is help you get out of your own way.