BUSHWICK — By the time students finish his new hypnosis workshop, Stefano Black says they'll likely be able to conquer phobias, numb parts of their bodies, overcome sexual inhibitions and even relive drug trips without the substance.
But when Black starts the sessions this weekend at the occult store Catland Books on Flushing Avenue, he'll share the most crucial lesson of all: that everyone experiences hypnosis in daily life. That's because "hypnosis" is much broader a concept than typically portrayed, he said.
"A lot of hypnosis is just managing the direction of your attention," said Black, noting that meditation, yoga and other practices of concentration fall within the category of hypnosis, since they harness a person's concentration and put them into a "trance"-like state.
"Trance is a natural spontaneous learning state of comfortable loose curiosity... and hypnosis is a way to engage that in effective ways," said Black, an event organizer for the store.
A trance includes the commonplace experience of losing oneself in thought while reading a book or forgetting one's exit while daydreaming and driving, Black said. It can also involve more extreme versions of relaxation and visualization, like imagining oneself descending a set of stairs and then arriving at a state of total bliss once at the bottom, he said.
In Black's $25 class, called "Only a Suggestion: Hypnosis and Trance in Everyday Life," he plans to share the insights he's been gathering for the past 12 years, both through classes he's take with hypnosis scholar Stephen Gilligan and through own reading.
Tucked behind the door of the cozy Bushwick shop, Black hopes to "dispel the myths" of hypnosis that he said abound in popular media.
"A lot of portrayals of hypnosis make it seem that there's this magical skill one person holds over another," he said, noting that people can actually practice self-hypnosis.
Many of the hypnosis methods can be surprisingly simple — like a quick phobia cure that involves a person visualizing himself from a distant perspective in the setting where the phobia is strongest, Black explained.
If someone is afraid of turbulence on a plane, for instance, that person would imagine sitting in a movie theater watching himself on the plane up on the screen, he said. Then the person would imagine he was up in the projector room, able to readjust the movie's color, sound and course of events.
"People think of phobias as one of the hardest things to change," Black said, "but they're one of the easiest things to resolve when you have tools to feel a sense of distance."
In Black's monthly workshops, he plans to teach both self-hypnosis and hypnosis of others, and said the specific uses will differ for each person depending on their needs.
"The overwhelming majority of people who seek out the training are also seeking a therapeutic end," he said. "What people are going to get out of this depends exactly on what they need."
Black's friend Katharine Hooper, who has long studied hypnosis with him, guaranteed the practice would alter a person's perspective on his or her "consciousness and psyche."
"Stefano has shown me tools that I've always had within my own mind, but which I never knew existed," said Hooper, 23, a filmmaker and sommelier.
"Overall, these hypnosis experiences have given me a greater sense of self-awareness and understanding, and have greatly piqued my curiosity in the potential of the human mind."
Stefano Black's hypnosis class will be held Dec. 15 from 2 to 5 p.m. at 987 Flushing Ave. It costs $25, or $20 if you RSVP in advance.