Paul McKenna on tour: Hypnotist says he can make Scottish audiences feel positive and resilient

The audience should leave with more confidence and verve
SUccess for Life book jacketSUccess for Life book jacket
SUccess for Life book jacket

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Paul McKenna has one of those faces.

The television hypnotist and author was in an Indian restaurant a while ago, and the waiter asked if he could make an ashtray disappear.

“I’m not Paul Daniels,” McKenna explained, but they didn’t believe him, so he signed the menu for them anyway. Also, Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs once told McKenna that he’d been mistaken for him on a train.

Paul McKenna portraitPaul McKenna portrait
Paul McKenna portrait
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There is more confusion. People also often think he’s a psychic, but that’s not his schtick.

McKenna, who lives in London with his wife and Great Dane, is all about retraining the mind, using hypnotherapy and other techniques.

While his umpteen previous books promised that you could lose weight, free yourself from anxiety and get rich, his new publication and accompanying tour, Success For Life, is more general in that it promises to help you achieve a positive outlook and enjoy its benefits.

The live tour, which will be landing in Edinburgh on March 28, will be like a personal session with McKenna, so you can be like all the celebrities who’ve come to him for support over the years.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Paul McKenna as he joins BUILD for a live interview at their London studio on February 8, 2017 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Paul McKenna as he joins BUILD for a live interview at their London studio on February 8, 2017 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08: Paul McKenna as he joins BUILD for a live interview at their London studio on February 8, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

“I say, tonight, I'm going to get you into super states of mind and body. I'm going to help you feel more resilient and confident. Get clear about what it is you want. How to go for it. I'll start with a simple demonstration of overcoming fear of public speaking and there will be loads of hands up. So I'll grab somebody, then a few minutes later, they have no fear. They hold the microphone. It’s a simple process. Nobody has to do anything they don't want,” he says. “I get everyone to do it. Then I hypnotise the entire audience. I spend about an hour afterwards doing selfies with everybody, so it's a chance for me to connect. I leave people with two things. Firstly, feeling really positive about the future, with a definite plan. Also, they've learned techniques that they can take away. So when they're feeling overwhelmed, they can get their feelings and their thoughts back under control”.

You can also leave with a copy of his book. It comes with audio ‘trances’ to listen to, which are narrated by McKenna. Before our chat, I give those recordings a whirl, but my imagination stalls when instructed to conjeur colours and relaxing scenes.

“That’s maybe because you’re a perfectionist,” he says, very kindly.

Anyway, this tour date won't be his first time crossing the border.

LONDON - OCTOBER 4:  Paul McKenna and Matt Lucas attend the after party for the opening night of 'Little Britain' hosted by David Walliams and Matt Lucas at the Carling Apollo Hammersmith on October 4, 2006 in London, England.  (Photo by Gareth Davies/Getty Images)LONDON - OCTOBER 4:  Paul McKenna and Matt Lucas attend the after party for the opening night of 'Little Britain' hosted by David Walliams and Matt Lucas at the Carling Apollo Hammersmith on October 4, 2006 in London, England.  (Photo by Gareth Davies/Getty Images)
LONDON - OCTOBER 4: Paul McKenna and Matt Lucas attend the after party for the opening night of 'Little Britain' hosted by David Walliams and Matt Lucas at the Carling Apollo Hammersmith on October 4, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Davies/Getty Images)
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“'I’ve helped many Scottish people over the years”, says McKenna, whose grandfather was Scottish.

We imagine that there’s an increasingly receptive audience. After all, everyone used to be a bit scared of hypnotism, after tales of stage shows that resulted in audiences running around like chickens or eating raw onions. The art was seen as a bit of a jokey stag party act.

McKenna even appeared on Little Britain, back in the Noughties, playing himself alongside Matt Lucas’s fawning character Kenny Craig, who did the ‘look into the eyes, not around the eyes’ sketch.

These days, though hypnotherapy might not be as cool as breathing exercises, or mindfulness, it’s in the same camp.

“When I started nearly 40 years ago, people were very cautious and sceptical. Along with many other new techniques like NLP, and other psycho-sensory techniques and mindfulness, people are taking well-being much more seriously,” he says. “Mental health is not some stigmatised thing that you should be worried about anymore. People do things to make themselves more resilient and capable, whereas they didn't bother with that before. Nowadays, every major CEO or sports star has a success coach”.

McKenna is not immune to struggle.

“When my father died about 10 years ago and I was working with war veterans and those with PTSD, I got very depressed for a few months. And that's a dangerous place to be,” he says. “I've been to the edge of the abyss. I found my way back. But because I've been there and know about it, I'm able to help people much more”.

He’s also quite positive about turning the big 6-0, back in November last year.

“I still feel like I did when I was in my forties,” he says. “Obviously being older means that I have to look after my health because I'm not quite as fit and strong as I was, so I don't work as hard as I used to. The good thing is that I have more knowledge and a little bit more wisdom. So there's pluses and minuses. When I was younger, I really was incredibly driven. And I'm still a very motivated person, but I don't have that kind of ambition that I used to have”.

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It seems that McKenna, who isn’t officially diagnosed but thinks he may have ADHD, won’t be retiring any time soon. Among other things, he’s keen to tell me about Mindvalley - a ‘life transformation platform’, on which he offers his expertise to train future hypnotherapists.

“My objective is to train a million therapists and invent new psychological technology that everyone can use. It's to write more books, to do more events,” says McKenna, who also does a Positivity Podcast. “My long term objective obviously starts with health. If you don't have it, you don’t have anything, but I love touring the world. We go to exotic places like Italy or New York, see friends and do a bit of work. I love my work, by the way. I love helping people improve their lives. It's a very, very gratifying feeling”.

He’s obviously happy with his life, since marrying his former personal assistant, Kate, back in 2016.

“I'm very fortunate to have such a wonderful wife. Everyday is like a lottery win for me,” he says.

Does she say the same about you?

“I hope so. We say it to each other. There are languages of love. Some people are visual, like my wife, so you do an act of service or give them a present. I bring her coffee in the morning,” McKenna says. “I prefer auditory. So I need to be told I’m loved. Part of what makes our marriage work is that we have shared values. My wife is a listener, I'm a talker, but we both think kindness is important”.

Paul McKenna will be at The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh on March 28, tickets at www.mindbodyspirit.co.uk

Success for Life: The Secret To Achieving Your True Potential by Paul McKenna (Headline Welbeck, £14.99) is out now.

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