Friday, September 19, 2008


But first, speaking of clowns... has anyone else noticed that John McCain is looking more and more like Charlie Chaplin?

Poor Charlie, a lifelong lefty, would be horrified of course. Still, I couldn't help but notice.

So… yesterday, a most interesting experience. Hypnotherapy. I had long ago connected with a fellow Brit, one of those who came to that old college reunion that I hosted, and wrote about, way back in June—or was it July?—and who has chosen this healing art as his third career path. He had offered at that time to give me a session, and yesterday, after a long interval, we finally got around to it.

I was interested primarily in the experience itself. I was hypnotized once before, years ago, when I was trying to give up cigarettes. It didn’t work then. Perhaps the single session was not enough to address a long-ingrained habit. And I have thought about it on and off since, in the context of simply finding another avenue to delve into the core of my being, to further my persistent inquiry into who I am and what on earth I’m doing here on this planet.

It seemed important, however, to find a purpose for the journey, so I opted for an old familiar: the slow, inexorable, and seemingly irreversible expansion of my waistline over the past, well, twenty years, and the accompanying gain in weight. As those who remember the short-lived blog, “A Diet of Choice,” will remember, it has been a losing battle. No matter how many good resolutions I make, no matter how well I know a variety of reliable methods to lose weight, no matter how readily I can identify those foods that do me in (bread, butter and other dairy foods, ice cream… and wine!) I have proved incapable of making the good choices. I eat—and drink wine! Not too much, just a couple of glasses—for comfort. To relieve the stress of everyday life. To distract me from more painful realities.

So there it was. My friend—my hypnotherapist—and I talked these things through for a good long time, laying the groundwork before he went to work on my recalcitrant mind. Then he walked me down, gently, into the recesses of my subconscious, and gently implanted a few sensible notions: to eat when I want; to eat what I want; to eat consciously; and to stop when I’m full. Nothing terribly complicated.

There’s a part of me that naturally wants to resist when I begin to sense that someone else is taking over the controls of my mind; and there’s that other part that sees it as an adventure and wants to surrender to whatever experience might come. On this occasion, the surrender was a little easier than I expected, perhaps because it was established that I was in fact still firmly in control, still balanced on my bike even while I let go of the handlebars, so to speak. I did not feel unsafe. I did not feel submissive, as I feared I might. Instead, I felt totally relaxed—more relaxed than I have felt for a very long time. By-passing a lot of that automatic technical control stuff, I think I went deeper into relaxation, even, than in meditation, where the mind is still (ideally!) alert. It was a little like flying—or how I imagine free flight might be.

And that sense of relaxation persisted. An hour or so later, I took a nap and drifted off into a deep sleep. When I awoke, I was still feeling limp—not fatigued, exactly, but as though all the muscles in my body had agreed just to let go. Even today, I can feel some of that pervasive sense of relaxation in my body—a not unpleasant feeling at all, a kind of remove from the external cares.

And the eating? Well, I have noticed that those useful ideas are still at the forefront of my consciousness as I eat. I hear my inner voice reminding me: eat when you want, eat whatever you want, eat consciously, and stop when you’re full. It’s a persuasive voice. I am, indeed, more conscious as I eat. At breakfast, I was not even tempted by the New York Times, lying by my plate. I chewed twenty times, and tasted the food. At lunch, I felt like a ham and cheese sandwich. I love ham and cheese sandwiches. But I heard the voice as I ate, and before I was halfway through I had decided it was enough; I cut the sandwich in two, and wrapped the other half to put in the refrigerator, ready for a second attack. Instead of a whole apple, as is my wont, I ate just a half. And ate, again, consciously. No newspaper. No crossword. Just me and the munch.

I'll be watching my progress, and perhaps reporting on it from time to time. Has anyone else had the experience of hypnosis? Was it similar to mine?


heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have never been hypnotized but would like to be. I would also want it to help me accomplish something, but don't really have any bodily unhealthy habits.

I wonder if past lives could be delved into. I would very much like to know where I've been because I believe it would shed light on certain aspects of my present condition.

Please do keep us posted about the success of your post-hypnotic suggestions. I do believe it will work because it seems to infiltrate your deepest core. Good luck, Peter!

Anonymous said...

I tried it once - found it helpful for relaxing in anxiety-provoking situations. Now I use a very low-level verison of it when I have to have a needle put in me - got me through an amnio!

robin andrea said...

I have often thought that John McCain looks like Charlie Chaplin. Glad to see that you see the resemblance too. I think that Rudy Guiliani looks like Peter Boyle's Frankenstein. I could easily see him doing the "Putting on the Ritz" duet with Gene Wilder.

I have never been hypnotized. I've always suspected that I would put up quite a resistance.

Mandt said...

Gosh, I think he looks like Statler---the Muppet.

PeterAtLarge said...

HeartSF, sure, past lives, why not? It's just a matter of delving into the unconscious mind.

Citizen, glad to hear than the effects can be lasting.

Robin, it does require a little judicious surrender. Like everything else, it's a choice.

MandT, Statler, which is he? I thought I knew them all...

Jayme Odgers said...

I have been hypnotized for past-life regression experiences four separate times many years ago. I LOVED the experiences and they brought forward vivid "past life" events. Who knows if they were "past life" but certainly did have that feel. The true worth of it lies heavily in the hypnotist questions. If they ask ordinary questions one answers ordinarily, however, if they ask insightful questions the answers proved more helpful. The life "events' were powerful and gave deep answers to otherwise unanswerable questions. For ex. one might have a life-crippling fear of water without knowing why. In a past life regression they have the experience of tragically drowning (actual story). Upon coming out of the hypnotic state they now are fully aware of why they have such an intense fear of water and can address it more coherently.