This is not a joke.
I realize that the above headline looks like super dumb clickbait but be patient with me- this really happened and it changed the direction of my life when I really, in hindsight, needed it. But that was not what I set out to do when I found myself spending a series of afternoons with a hypnotherapist.
Hypnotism has dual histories. There is the entertainment hypnotist who makes people do funny things against their will and the therapeutic hypnotist who uses hypnotism to help people delve into their subconscious to deal with buried emotions and improve their lives. I was dealing with the latter though I did not know he was a hypnotist when I contacted him. I was pursuing a different goal.
NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming aka ‘fast therapy’
First a little history of a movement that was created to explore radical forms of psychotherapy known as NLP. NLP was created by two men named Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the nineteen seventies. They developed theories about how we process information on a subconscious level through what they call representational systems or modalities. These modalities were categorized as primarily visual (we think in pictures), audio (we think in sounds including text), kinesthetic (thinking in terms of physical sensation), and olfactory (smells,which are strongly associated with memory). According to NLP, about 50% of us are primarily visual (everyone uses all of these but typically there is a strong bias towards one), 25% are auditory, and the rest are some combination.
They theorized that if you could identify the representational system of a patient, you could establish much stronger rapport by communicating in their preferred modality. Perhaps the best ‘proof’ of this was reflected in the language people used to describe things. A visual person might describe someone as ‘bright’. An kinesthetic person might use an adjective like ‘sharp’ to describe the same person. While this is a simplistic description of their theory, it captures the gist of it. They took this idea, built a communications framework, then went out into the field and started experimenting.
Give us your worst cases; from catatonic to irritated
From the beginning they were rejected by the traditional therapy world, mainly because they questioned the fact that therapy seemed to go on forever without discernible results for many people. Given that therapists were paid by the hour or visit, there was a built-in self-interest in not completing a therapy. Bandler and Grinder believed their techniques could lead to fast therapy, where things like phobias could be cured in just a few sessions as opposed to months of talk therapy. So, they set out to prove it.
They went to mental hospitals (seventies terminology) and asked to work with their most difficult patients. One example was a patient who was catatonic and would sit motionless in a chair all day. Bandler got another similar chair, placed it next to the patient, sat in it and exactly adopted the same posture as the patient. He then sat there for a few hours motionless. Then he began twitching a finger. After another our the catatonic patient said “stop it”. He had not spoken in years.
There are now many books on NLP and trainings are done all over the world. I found this fascinating, especially because they believed they could help people achieve more in their lives. So I sought out a local practitioner to try and help me reach some goals that seemed impossible to conceive. But when I found one, he turned out to be something very different, a hypnotherapist with a certification in NLP.
This is where it got kind of surrealistic
The man was middle-aged and worked out of his home. He was single and his mother lived with him. However he had doctorate in social work and was very professional, in spite of having a somewhat odd demeanor.
I told him what I was looking for and we worked out an agreement for a limited number of sessions. I believe it was ten weeks, once a week. This limit was important to me because the results-oriented aspect of NLP was a big part of its attraction for me. He was fine with that. He then explained that before we could start working on the future, we had to deal with past issues with emotions. This would be done with hypnotism. I would be conscious and able to stop anytime. There was no hocus-pocus. He simply had me count backward from ten slowly and relax.
The process was that I would go back through memory and keep going back until I found the first instance of each emotion: anger, frustration, fear, love, etc. I found myself remembering things from very early childhood but seen through the lens of experience and adulthood. It was fascinating and cathartic. I did not have childhood trauma or abuse so this felt like a safe process, but I could see how it could bring up serious issues in a person who had these experiences, especially if buried. We had discussed this before starting the process.
Working through the past took several sessions. Without going through the details, there was a process that unfolded visually in my mind during the sessions that had some logic to it. For one emotion I felt that I had gone very far back, perhaps earlier than birth, which I realize sounds far-fetched, but that was what it felt like. I talked through what I was experiencing and he merely asked questions to keep me exploring. If this had been the entirety of the sessions, it alone would have been worth the price. But it went far past that.
Constructing a three-dimensional future
Once we got past the past, we began a process of guided visualizations. The idea was to construct a detailed future in which I was working at the things I wanted to achieve and living a lifestyle I wanted to live. I wanted to be a professional writer, writing books for national publishers. I had a fantasy of owning a recording studio that came out of years as a musician, performing and recording. As part of that fantasy (it was a fantasy because at the time building and equipping a studio was very expensive), I wanted to be producing other artists.
This mental fabrication needed to be detailed. I had to be able to place myself in physical places and situations that appealed to me and imagine the kinds of people I was working with and the environments where this took place. When we were satisfied with this vision, the sessions ended and we parted ways. I have not seen him since.
Fast forward ten years…
Time went by and I basically forgot about this experiment except as an interesting experience. But things started happening. I got my first book deals (six to that point). I bought a house with an office that basically looked like that fantasy I’d created. And I opened a recording studio with two partners and produced multiple CD projects. At some point I realized (about ten years later), that virtually everything I had visualized had happened. I still find it quite amazing what the mind is capable of if you set it in motion and let it work out details.
I’ve since used this on my own at times when I needed to initiate change or move myself faster into the next life experience. This helped me start a tech business, raise seed money, and write my first novel. I am now visualizing a life involving work and travel that will be the next chapter. I’ve sketched it out and have started filling in more concrete details. I’ll be writing more about that process as it unfolds.