Hannah Stephenson looks into Paul McKenna's eyes and finds a closed book...
Self-help guru and hypnotist Paul McKenna is not a person short of confidence.
He's made millions out of hypnotising the masses, is a magnet for celebrities who seek his help - Sophie Dahl, Geri Halliwell, David Bowie and Daryl Hannah, to name but a few - and has dated a bevy of glamorous beauties including GMTV's Penny Smith and model Liz Fuller, who dumped him live on her cable TV show.
He can now be seen on Sky One persuading fat people to think themselves thin and has a new book out, Instant Confidence - and looking at his CV, you'd understand why he's brimming with it.
The 42-year-old former DJ seems to have a stereotypical rich bachelor life - his pad is a mews house in upmarket Kensington, he drives a Ferrari, enjoys the company of glamorous women on the party circuit and if he can drop a famous name into the conversation, he will.
So I wonder how he'll react when I confess that whenever I see him on TV these days, I think of the hilarious Little Britain spoof in which Matt Lucas, playing charmless stage hypnotist Kenny Craig, looks intently at his victims, saying, 'Look into my eyes, not around the eyes...'.
"It's great, isn't it?" Paul chuckles. "I know David (Walliams) quite well and he told me at a party one evening that they'd done this character sort-of based on me. I felt really flattered."
He's quit the stage shows for a while, preferring to concentrate on what he calls "edu-tainment" and his best-selling self-help books.
He says of Instant Confidence: "Commercially it was a good decision. But it was also what I want my life to be about, which is making a difference to people."
Yet this supremely confident multi-millionaire says he hasn't always had tremendous feelings of self-worth.
"I was quite a nerdy, geeky kid and I don't think I was confident. I'm not Charles Atlas and I think that like any teenager I had fears and self doubts.
"To some extent a lot of my life has been about compensating for that, thinking if only I had a bigger, more powerful car or a more beautiful girlfriend, I'd be more of a man.
"I got to a point where I thought, I'm doing all this to compensate for the lack of self-worth on the inside, so I did some processes to heal that and I now feel so much better in myself."
He still has the fast cars and the beautiful girlfriends, though.
Whatever you think of him, Paul has done some pretty amazing things with hypnosis since first hitting the big time in the early 90s with The Hypnotic World Of Paul McKenna, which attracted 12 million viewers an episode.
Once he had mastered the entertainment side of his skills, persuading participants to believe their feet were on fire or they'd just eaten the sourest lemon, he began to pursue a more clinical approach to the technique.
His seminars on Neuro-Linguistic Programming are frequently sold out and his self-help CDs have sold in their millions.
He has tackled everything from phobias about snakes to helping couples with fertility problems - and even helping a blind man see.
"I can cure most people of most things," he claims. "I don't mean all medical disorders, but psychological problems."
He has worked hard to bring hypnotism into the arena of credible, safe therapies and in 1998 he won a court case against a schizophrenic who claimed that participation in his show had triggered his psychiatric illness.
Paul has even conquered his own phobias, including a fear of rollercoasters, by practising his techniques on himself.
Does he have any fears now? "Poverty," he jokes. "I'm working hard to make sure it never happens to me."
His clients have included the likes of everyone from Robbie Williams to the Duchess of York. He has been whisked off in private helicopters to give his own personal therapy to
celebrities in need and he loves it.
"It's great because I'm terribly shallow, so I love all that," he quips.
"I love glamour. Basically, as a kid I wanted to be James Bond."
As for the many sceptics of hypnotism out there, he maintains: "People feel scared of it and I get challenged from time to time and attacked by my commercial competitors. I just know I'm successful and success is the best revenge."
He's jovial and jokey, in a DJ sort of way, but you get the feeling that much of what he says is carefully scripted. You never really find out just what makes the real Paul McKenna tick, and humour is his way of dodging personal questions.
The jokes come thick and fast when he is quizzed about his private life. He has never settled down and has in the past admitted to being a commitment-phobe. Yet he has dated some of the country's most beautiful women.
"Most of them don't know. They think they're going out with George Clooney and then wake up in the morning and think, 'Who's the ugly guy next to me?'."
When I persist as to why he's never settled down, he says: "I'm probably a nightmare to live with. I'm told I'm eccentric, but I'm not eccentric. I'm probably not interested in commitment. But I've got a feeling that may well soon change."
He says he has no girlfriend at the moment, although he has his eye on someone special, who happens to be famous, but won't elaborate.
Paul McKenna is a restless soul, not content with persuading people to become slim or confident. His next challenge?
"I'd like to do Oprah Winfrey's job - a self-improvement show that's watched all over the world.
"And then I'd like to open a finishing school for international supermodels..." Ha ha.
* Instant Confidence: The Power To Go For Anything You Want! by Paul McKenna, is published by Bantam, priced £9.99. Out now.