While most people consider hypnosis either a complete fraud, or a great benefit, few people talk about the lighter side, or occasional “mishap” that can occur while the subject is “under”. I can’t imagine that I’m the only person who’s experienced an unexpected result due to a careless hypnotist. In the extreme, no doubt there is a risk of disastrous results, but my experiences have been both beneficial, and occasionally amusing (beyond the fact that I had to pay for the inept therapy.)
My first experiences with hypnotism began in high school when my best friend and I decided, “we could do this.” And, that’s just what we did!
We just didn’t realize how well we’d learned the skills by “playing” hypnotist and subject. These mock sessions taught us valuable skills such as concentration, focused attention, patience, deliberation, and of lifelong value to me, relaxation skills (I’m a hard-core type A personality, so, maybe you can appreciate the difficulty in achieving simple relaxation.) No matter the amount of stress in my life, within 30 seconds of my head hitting the pillow, and much to my husband’s envy, I am sound asleep even now, 45 years later. These skills have been invaluable in my career, helping me both in my studies and in carrying out my responsibilities easily shutting out the distractions around me, and able to deeply concentrate on finding solutions to complex problems.
Undoubtedly, there are many ways to learn these skills. But, I don’t think there is an easier or quicker way, as they are all part of the hypnosis package.
My Psyche 101 professor bestowed my next hypnosis experience upon me. I asked him about the techniques, benefits, etc., and specifically about my use of the techniques. He offered to hypnotize me before our next class, and this is where the unexpected results began. Sitting in his office, which opened to the hallway traveled by hundreds of students between classes, he instructed me to relax “eyelids getting heavy, close my eyes, etc.”
After a couple test exercises, suggesting that my hand was to heavy to lift, then to raise my hand slowly while trying (unsuccessfully) to hold it down, I began to notice how acute my hearing was. I could hear peoples’ footfalls in the hallway, heard multiple people talking clearly, and was able to discern what they were saying, though there were dozens outside at any given time. Although there was quite a commotion, I not only distinguished several conversations simultaneously, but I remained completely relaxed. I also heard jets flying overhead, and birds outside the closed windows.
Finally, I heard the professor pick up a pen, pull a “sticky note” from a pad, and clearly heard the sound of writing on the paper. He then said, “Think about the color yellow. Whenever you think of yellow, you will become this relaxed and calm.” And then he woke me up. The first thing I saw when I woke up was the yellow “sticky paper” that he held up, with the word “yellow” written on it. Little did I know that this visual of the color yellow and the written word reinforced his hypnotic suggestion.
That day, in class I realized how powerful such a suggestion could be. As I sat there, still a bit groggy, I looked over at a bulletin board. Sighting a large yellow poster it was all I could do to stay awake. I had to force myself NOT to look in that direction for the remainder of the class. I guess I don’t have to mention that I was unusually mellow for the rest of that day.
Over the next 20 years or so, rather than diminish, this unexpected result of instant relaxation broadened to include any color-blend of yellow oranges, greens, light browns. That, folks, would mean almost anywhere I looked I found a relaxing sight. (To be envied by every type A personality!)
A third experience went quite wrong, but, in an amusing way. Desperate for a way to quit smoking, I decided to try my long-trusted resource, hypnosis. The therapist seemed competent enough, interviewing me and gathering information, supposedly to establish both rapport, as well as a foundation for deciding which suggestions would work to discourage my stubborn habit.
Naturally, he asked if I’d had any experience with hypnosis. I answered with descriptions of my experiences, and a detailed explanation how I was still responding to the color, word, sound, or the sight of any blend of “yellow.” Well, maybe he wasn’t listening.
It only took one session of hypnosis, which took place on my second visit. Using the usual techniques to put me “under”, I quickly went into a relaxed state, where I was able to remember everything that took place (as far as I know, anyway.)
He began creating an image for me to picture:
“Envision blackness, a slowly-emerging dot, growing into an oval, then into a lemon. Picture a sharp knife with a finely honed blade. See this knife, it’s razor-sharp blade cutting the lemon, juice splashing everywhere sour, bitter juice droplets flying in all directions. Taste that juice, its bitter unpleasantness. This the most sour lemon ever tasted.”
He ended with the suggestion that every cigarette I smoke, or even consider smoking, brings up that unpleasant image, taste and discomfort.
Did he forget that I’d just described to him over 15 years of POSITIVE association with the color yellow and ALL associated with it?
Needless to say, I didn’t quit smoking. On the contrary, beginning with my next coffee break at work, I found myself bypassing the coffee machine and heading to the lemonade dispenser.
Yep, I’d pretty much overcome my coffee habit, but became totally hooked on, even craving, lemonade, for many months afterward.