A long chain holding a pendulum swings back and fourth. Someone speaks in slow, monotone sentences, inducing a “coma-esque” state in the person (subject) that sits watching and listening. The subject is unaware of the present moment, but can go back in time and recover memories that were either stuffed , were too frightening or were avoided for a host of reasons, or see something that they paid little attention to at the time. The hypnotist could make the subject do anything he would suggest and the subject once “awake” would have little knowledge of the suggestion.
These were the ideas that I had about hypnosis.
Granted, much of these notions came from various sitcoms from the seventies and eighties. I think that “Gilligan’s Island’s” own Professor was my teacher early on. Even though I never questioned his credentials or even had a clue as to what kind of professor he was, because of these shows, I figured that hypnosis was a little hinky.
So, when my son, Will, told me that he was going to see a hypnotist to quit smoking, I had a lot of fun with him.
Will is very healthy. He has always preferred vegtables to sweets. As a four year old, he would beg for a side salad instead of fries at McDonalds. I have to wonder where that came from because we are a fry loving bunch.
He also practices yoga, more specifically Hot Yoga for well over a year and he usually does that five days a week. But, sometimes I would meet him after yoga and we would go to lunch. Many times he’d be having a smoke right after his class.
I would look at him and ask, “Really?”
“I know, I know.” He’d reply.
Smoking was one of the final ‘monkeys on his back.’
So, we laughed a bit about his plan to get very sleepy…”. Even so, I have to admit that I was intrigued.
You see, my weight and overindulging in all things sweet are the ‘monkey on my back.’ I didn’t dare say a word to him or anyone else for that matter, but I decided to see how it went for him. I chose to put my jokes on hold…just in case I wanted to give it a try.
My son has been smoking for longer than I want to know and he’d tried many times to quit, so if this worked, maybe there would be hope for me.
His first session went fine and while he didn’t completely quit, he reduced his number of cigs per day (CPD) considerably.
That seemed hopeful. I did question him about his session.
“Did you actually get very sleepy?” I asked.
He told me that his visit was more about becoming mindful about what he was doing. He was asked to start thinking of himself as a non-smoker. Then he was asked to become very aware of the act of smoking. When he went for a smoke, what did he feel when he stepped outside to smoke? How did inhaling the cigarette tobacco actually make him feel less stress? Or was it the act of walking outside for a break? He was encouraged to pay attention to each step and how those steps made him feel and then to connect the dots.
But, he’d been smoking a long time, so I was still leaning on the side of doubt.
Maybe I was thinking of all of my failed attempts at losing weight and transferring them onto him. That was foolish. We are not the same person. After all, he had successfully changed other bad habits. He’d stuck with yoga. I was the one who couldn’t hold it together. So I waited to see what would happen.
At his second session, a new suggestion was introduced. He was asked to remember how he felt the first time that he ever smoked. Did he feel nauseous? Why would that change since he was still introducing a toxic substance into his system? Could it be that he had just grown accustomed to that feeling? Was he associating a break with the act of smoking?
This seemed so logical….a light bulb moment.
I can almost hear my own therapist say, “Let’s try to slow things down.”
Will reported that when he tried to smoke after that session, he felt nauseous. If I am remembering correctly, I think that was his last cigarette….and I am guessing that was one to two months ago.
So…..guess who got an appointment with a hypnotist?
If you guessed cynical me, you would be correct. My appointment is October 12 and I can hardly stand the wait.
In the mean time, I have been trying to apply the things that he’s told me about his experience with cigarettes to my experience with food. How do I feel after I eat burgers and fries? How did fish and vegetables make me feel? Do I like the feeling of being stuffed? I’m trying to pay attention and slow things down.
And to my Catholic friends, before you start thinking that I’ve gone off the deep end (no comments please) let me just remind you of a little prayer called the Examen. This prayer that St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Society of Jesus–or Jesuits) says came to him directly from God, helps us to look at our feelings and examine them. If a particular feeling keeps coming back to us, we look deeper and follow its path. What are our feelings trying to teach us about ourselves? Let me just say, nothing New Age about that. It is just learning about the creation (me) made by our Creator (God)….and to me that is about building relationship.
And so my friends, I add this new endeavor to the growing list of things that I never dreamed I’d do. I see how ill-informed that I really am most days. And, I am grateful for another chance.
I’ll be sure to report back after my appointment, but in the mean time, what are your thoughts on hypnosis? Do you have any experience with it? Please share. I’d love to hear your stories.
I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother and probably most notoriously, ‘the Vet’s wife’.