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“I can sense a certain amount of disbelief”, she bluntly declares a few minutes into the conversation and one is forced to wonder whether she can read minds. A few seconds of an awkward pause are followed by fairly amateur attempts at denial and deflection. Somehow, the questions and answers resume their course, the “disbelief” desperately toned down. Over the next few exchanges, this “disbelief” gradually changes, shifting and sliding into the curious.
After close to a decade in the legal industry, Ruchika Sukh gave up a job at Johnson & Johnson to become a full-time hypnotherapist. Over the course of the last twenty-four months, Ruchika has had clients from different walks of life with problems ranging from extreme stress to unfulfilled dreams. Of course, some of these clients bring their own share of skepticism that partly emanates from the popular perception of hypnotherapy. “Some people tend to assume it means being under complete control of someone,” she says, “but in the context of modern practice of hypnotherapy, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
The initial skepticism dissipates as she explains what hypnotherapy is all about. “Once they understand how hypnosis works,” says Ruchika, “they feel ready to flow with the process.” She also says that, unlike popular perception, hypnotherapy is not some “occult or esoteric art”. She states “It is a scientifically acknowledged psychological and therapeutic discipline. It is a regulated practice in developed countries. Various techniques can be used in combination with a hypnotic trance to access or recondition the subconscious mind. The subconscious is of interest because it is 6,000 times stronger than our logical mind and directs our life without us being aware of it.”
Ruchika herself took a long time to understand alternative healing and the thinking that goes behind it. In 2004, with a law degree from Amity Law School, she joined K&S Partners, working in the field of Intellectual Property (IP); a field she was genuinely interested in. Over the course of time her changing interests led her to Rainmaker, where she worked in the legal talent management team.
“My choices have been borne from my intuition [and] as I grew up it was natural for interests to change.”
She admits it wasn’t an easy decision to take. When she first discussed plans to work full time as a hypnotherapist, she did face resistance from her family and friends. Although there were some who remained “understanding and supportive throughout” not all her friends reacted in the same manner. “Some thought this was nonsense,” recounts Ruchika, “and wondered why I wanted to keep changing my work every couple of years.”
Once she began getting clients though, the misconceptions and fears of her family members began to clear up. It helped that some of her clients were, “people whom they considered conventionally successful”.
“This career switch may seem unconventional”, says Ruchika, “but there has been a linear progression.” Albeit with the help of hindsight, she says her, “past choices make sense now that I can connect the dots.” And once the decision was made, there has been no turning back. Her love for her current pursuit (she refuses to call it a “job”) is evident; when asked what the worst thing about her new “job” is, she answers, “Does there have to be one?”
Excerpts from the interview:
Bar & Bench: No swinging pendulums? What is hypnotherapy?
Ruchika Sukh: Simply put, hypnosis is a ‘trance’ or an altered state of aware consciousness. You feel extremely relaxed, pleasantly calm, receptive to suggestions and are able to access deeper memories. If I were to compare it with an everyday experience, it is how you feel just before falling asleep.
Due to lack of awareness, it has been projected in a magical or mysterious light especially by the media. So some people tend to assume it means being under complete control of someone. When we speak in context of modern practice of hypnotherapy, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. And since it can be applied to any area of human life – health, wealth, relationships, behaviour, spiritual understanding etc. it has gained popularity not just as a therapeutic tool but also a technique for self-exploration and development.
B&B: Are a lot of your clients initially skeptical about this?
Ruchika Sukh: Some clients are skeptical and some curious. Once they understand how the mind works and that they do not have to believe in any ‘concept’ for this therapy to work, they are comfortable. When we allow the subconscious to reveal the story surrounding how the problem was created, we can use it as a metaphor and allow a resolution to emerge.
Besides hypnotherapy, I do systemic and family constellation work. This technique allows the client to see a spatial representation of their subconscious contents and heal patterns that are being passed down across generations. This is an even more fascinating therapy with infinite applications. Most people will need to see it to believe it!
B&B: After graduating in 2004, you joined K&S Partners. Fairly conventional career choice – were you just following the crowd or was this an opportunity that genuinely interested you?
Ruchika Sukh: An interest in intellectual property developed in the second year of legal studies i.e. year 2000. It was still a relatively new and rapidly expanding practice then. I found its interconnection with a variety of fields – business, art, entertainment, economics, society etc. quite fascinating.
B&B: In 2006, a near death experience changed your perspective on life. You soon shifted careers and joined the legal recruitment industry.
Ruchika Sukh: After the incident, my world-view had shifted and there was an urgency to move in the direction of my dreams. In 2007, I joined EA International, an international legal recruitment firm to satisfy my entrepreneurial drive. To see people benefit directly from my work was the icing on the cake.
In 2009, after the economic slowdown the international job opportunities dried up and I joined Rainmaker and headed their talent development team. In 2011, I moved on to Johnson & Johnson.
All these were wonderful opportunities in many ways. I interacted with some of the best legal minds in the world, understood how various organizations and leadership structures worked, picked up legal and business skills, gained experience in counseling, interviewing, consulting, analysis, investigation and training. . Over this period, I had many realizations about human nature and our constant quest, which unconsciously laid the foundation for what I do today.
B&B: The 2006 incident also led you to observe that, perhaps, there is, “something bigger at work” in the world. How does your practice connect with this?
Ruchika Sukh: Most people approach me to resolve their practical issues such as health, wealth, relationships, behaviour etc. They not only want to get rid of their problem but also to know why they suffered in the first place. A metaphysical or spiritual understanding often releases deep tension and answers existential questions which have kept them from moving on. . . Also when they learn how they ‘created’ their issue, they can learn to make a different choice.
When we stand in the doorway between life and death, past and future, right and wrong, it adds depth to our understanding of self and life in its many dimensions. It is an extremely humbling experience and gives us more balance and peace.
B&B: You have observed that people in the legal profession often face tremendous amounts of stress, and have to deal with a tremendous amount of fear and insecurity. Do you think this is more so in the legal profession compared to others?
Ruchika Sukh: These days, most people living in cities are dealing with varying degrees of stress. Since the benchmark has shifted, it all seems normal.
I haven’t conducted a formal study [on lawyers]. I said so because many of my clients are lawyers and this could be purely because of my connections in the industry. I do not wish to generalize, but it could relate to the ‘adversarial’ rather than a ‘reconciling’ mindset that some lawyers tend to develop.
In my experience as a therapist I observed a few factors that my clients in the legal profession shared in common. These lawyers were facing varying degrees of unpredictable reactions at work, verbal abuse, excessive or unreasonable criticism, lack of transparency, controlling authority structures, long working hours, tight deadlines, disregard for the body and its demands, more focus on intellect less on emotions, culture of numbing stress and pain with drinking or drugs, etc. These can affect a person’s sense of self worth and obviously be a cause of stress, triggering many modern diseases. Despite these conditions they reflected a strong ability to fight the situation, were hopeful and confident that they will be able to move to a better life, and once they were able to understand the reason why they were facing their issue they were very quick to take charge.
B&B: Lawyers, with their natural inclination to question, must make for some very tough clients.
Ruchika Sukh: Lawyers make very interesting clients because they make you become very thorough with your work. They are usually high intellectuals and question everything. They do their research before coming and like to be aware and more in control of the process. They can be difficult to hypnotize if their conscious mind keeps interfering.
Another distinguishing trait is that lawyers generally prefer talking as compared to listening. Many tend to ‘understand’ their emotions than simply ‘feeling’ them. Connecting them with their deeper feelings is a challenge at times.
B&B: Professionally, you have faced your own set of difficulties. Was letting go of the “fake security” of a fixed income the biggest challenge you faced? How did you finally decide to take the plunge?
Ruchika Sukh: Every job I took up was a great learning opportunity and offered a lot in the material sense. Still, with every job, I felt my soul drying up. I felt stuck in a system that didn’t support the full expression of my creative potential.
It was also frustrating to accept an authority whose values I didn’t resonate with. It didn’t feel worth my time. I longed to dive into the depths of my being. A point came where my inner voice was very clear and there was no choice left. After completing my training in hypnotherapy and seeing its results, I felt I was ready to take the plunge.
Overcoming the insecurity was liberating. The pay-check was actually a tiny challenge compared to continuously living in uncertainty. Challenges are always a part of the journey. They create discomfort and psychic heat, which is required for growth.
B&B: Best thing about this job?
Ruchika Sukh: That this is not a job. It is a journey, an exploration.
B&B: Some of your friends and family were not too enthusiastic about this move. What did you tell them?
Ruchika Sukh: I received all kinds of reactions. Some friends remained understanding and supportive throughout. Some were afraid to delve deeper but were happy seeing me happy. Some thought this was nonsense and wondered why I wanted to keep changing my work every couple of years. Some were scared, some were perplexed. Some were excited and wanted to know more.
Initially my family was concerned for me because I had given up a secure path. At an age when everyone is thinking of a promotion, marriage or a baby, I was venturing into the ‘unknown’. It required me to be extremely grounded to address their doubts.
When they saw I was serious about pursuing therapy they supported me. I think a shift also came when they met some of my clients who were CEOs of large companies, general counsels, partners of law firms, basically people whom they considered conventionally successful. Then they concluded I must be doing something right!