For years, like many of you, “hypnotism” has been relegated to carnival acts or comedy clubs. The swaying chain watch, the droning voice saying “You are becoming sleepy” and all that. It’s certainly not a clinical, professional niche of psychotherapy, right? I recently volunteered to be treated with hypnotism by local professional hypnotist, Helene Gross, and I thought readers might appreciate a skeptic’s retelling of the experience.
Nervously, we sat in her studio with a large massage bed. We spent a considerable amount of time just explaining some of my struggles and the obstacles I feel have interfered with my life. She didn’t spend a lot of time with long-winded questions about my past, but rather “How do you feel about this situation today?” which I appreciated. Nobody wants to spend 2 hours just bringing the listener up to current day.
She had me get comfortable on the table, close my eyes, and breathe deeply. Her voice, with a quiet and monotonous tone, began to relax me further and further. Focusing on different parts of my body at a time, I was aware that I was drifting more and more to a relaxed state.
I don’t want to explain too many of the specific steps that Gross uses as she guides you through the process for fear that I might mischaracterize them or make them sound silly, but she visually begins to walk you through a bit of a “journey” through your life in an attempt to identify key moments and begin to process them.
A few moments here and there I realized that I was answering her questions about “What do you feel?” or “Can you see where you are when this happened?” and I responded as if we were having a normal conversation. At no point did I feel out of control or as if I was drugged or that I was under a spell or any other state that one might think possible when viewing hypnotism on a TV comedy show.
A few times I realized that there were tears running down my face, but not in pain or fear…just in emotion. Mostly good emotion. I was processing emotions that had festered in my life for a lifetime and I was just now fully allowing those emotions to wash over and through me as I held onto what I needed to, and released much of the toxic portions that have been holding me back.
At one point I realized that she began to sort of “talk me back to the surface” and I listened and dreamed a bit and was relaxed, yet tired simply from the exercise. Ultimately, I rose higher and higher back to my consciousness, until she finally said “Ok, and how do you feel?”
I sort of nervously giggled and said “Wow, that was…intense” and she said “Oh my dear, you did wonderful.” We debriefed a little about the experience, and she helped me make sense of what I described for her during my experience. We spent a good hour talking through the visual and auditory remnants I could remember, and she was knowledgeable and professional and was able to help me fully understand what my brain and my heart had been through.
There’s a lot more to this process that I’m not explaining, but only because I believe that each person’s experience is quite unique based on circumstances. What I did and what she guided me through might be entirely different for you and your situation. I can, however, tell you that upon completion I giggled nervously at one point and said “That was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever done. I absolutely need to do this again!” and she was gracious and encouraged me to return. She again told me that I had done a great job and I said “I can’t believe we covered so much in 20 minutes!”
She said “My dear, we were working for over two hours.”