Once, for a story, I went to a hypnotist. I’d suggested the idea at a weekly meeting and got a lot of eye rolling from my editor and colleagues. But a few hypnosis clinics had recently popped up in the metro area so the story had a good news hook. The clinics promised an easy, painless way to lose weight or stop smoking. One colleague made a crack about how Americans were so lazy and so gullible that they wanted to believe that all they had to do was pay money, go into a trance, and they could look swell in their swimsuits. I laughed, too.
For the story, I talked to medical doctors who used hypnosis to help terminally ill patients deal with pain. I talked with a few hypnotists who’d helped people overcome phobias such as fear of flying. I avoided those party-trick hypnotists who tell people to cluck like chickens figuring clucks = quacks.
But what I really wanted to do was be hypnotized myself so that I could write first hand what the experience was like.
I didn’t smoke. I didn’t have weight issues. I didn’t have a tangible phobia unless you count the big why-am-I-here-and-what-if-I-miss-the-whole-point-due-to-meaningless-distractions-such-as-writing-a-hypnosis-story type fear that plagues me on a daily basis. The newspaper only agreed to pay for one session of hypnosis. I had no delusions that a single session with a swinging watch chain would reveal the secrets of the universe.
Obviously, that would take three or four.
The hypnotist was a middle age woman who’d been doing this for almost 20 years. She had an office in the burbs with a waiting room and a smiley young receptionist who checked me in and answered the phone that rang at the same time and I saw a guy in the back room working on a computer. The place was hopping.
The hypnotist took to a room with a couple of big overstuffed recliners. It looked like a room in my parents’ house. I pulled out my reporter’s notebook and asked a lot of questions. She’d been doing hypnosis for almost 20 years and claimed great success. She asked what I wanted to work on and I said I had a bad habit of not being happy. Even when I wasn’t actually depressed, I often fell into negative thinking and could I be hypnotized to remember to be happy? It seemed a ridiculous request but what the hell. I pulled the clutch on the chair and settled back. She talked in a soothing voice, told me to close my eyes and imagine myself in a green pasture or some such. No swinging pocket watch. None of that “you are getting sleepy, sleepy” stuff. I felt very relaxed and calm and suddenly - thwam! Nothing but white light. I was aware of her voice still going on about green pastures or flowery gardens or something but I was off somewhere far more interesting. The sensation was pretty extraordinary, as if my body had completely dissolved away and I was white light. I heard her asking me to describe what I seeing. I intentionally ignored her because I felt amazing and didn’t want to interrupt this fantastic feeling by figuring out how to make my tongue form words. She asked a second time. Dang, her! She wasn’t going to let this go so I said simply: White light.
“OK, I know what you mean,” she said.
And I knew that she did know.
She continued talking and making suggestions about remembering this feeling and I remained in that blissful, radiant, white light the entire time. She suggested that every time I touched my right wrist, I’d get this feeling. After a while, I think it was about an hour total, she gently brought me back to waking state. I felt a little spacey, like waking up from a nap.
For a few days, I’d intentionally touch my right wrist every once in a while and it worked. I felt good. Not like a blast of white light and bliss good, but a quiet wave of contentment.
Within a few days, it faded completely and touching my wrist did absolutely nothing but remind me that I felt absolutely nothing and then I stopped trying.
I meant to go back for more but I’ve got lousy follow through.
I’ve had that white light experience a few times in my life. I’d like to call it up at will, like getting movies on demand.