The moment I take my seat on the stage I regret volunteering. I’m sitting at the end of a row of nine other students, who like me, eagerly flung their arm in the air when the stage hypnotist asked for volunteers. A solid mass of faces leer up at me. I should be with them. I should be in the audience. Not on stage. When I was 12 the stress of playing ‘man in the crowd’ in the school production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory got too much for me and I pleaded with my teacher to let me be a stagehand instead. It’s fair to say show business is not in my blood. But right now a substantial amount of alcohol is, which is why I find myself on stage about to be hypnotized. I become aware of every muscle in my body, my hands and feet and lips and ears feel hot and twice their normal size. The hypnotic process hasn’t started; the hypnotist isn’t even doing anything yet. I just feel incredibly self-conscious. Rigor mortis has set in. I’m made of plasticine. I’ve morphed into Morph. And I really need to urinate. Now we are being asked to follow a simple set of instructions to see how open we are to suggestion. I put my right hand on my head, then my left, then my right, then my left. I stand up, I sit down, I stand up, I sit down, I stand up, I sit down…and completely miss my chair. A tsunami of laughter crashes over me as I loll impotently on the stage floor. Those in the crowd that know me begin to chant my college nickname. Those in the crowd that don’t know me join in. “Les! Les! Les! Les!” It’s horrible. The hypnotist helps me to my feet and quietly says, “You’ve probably had too much to drink, mate, you can go back to the audience.” As I shuffle shamefaced off stage the hypnotist encourages a round of applause, “Thank you, Les! There he goes, off back to the bar!” And that’s exactly where I head, muttering under my breath, “My name’s not Les, it’s Martin.”
Until Guy mentioned hypnotherapy to me, my only previous experience of hypnotism was that slightly embarrassing encounter with a stage hypnotist back in 1992. And all that taught me was no matter how much beer you’ve drunk never put your hand up for anything ever. An invaluable life lesson learnt, yes, but in no way helpful in my understanding of hypnotism or hypnotherapy. So I had no real preconceptions about the subject, other than the usual spooky ‘repeat after me’ stereotypical hypnotists you see on telly. Again not that helpful. Guy reassured me if we did a session together I would be awake the whole time and be fully aware of everything going on. Satisfied I wouldn’t be put into a zombie-like trance or start talking like a 16th century French peasant we arranged a time for the session, which we would do over the telephone. As the session approached I felt a little apprehensive. Apart from a brief chat with Guy the day before I didn’t know him from Adam. I was about to undergo some sort of hypnosis with a total stranger – a total stranger off the internet, which is the natural habitat of the strangest type of stranger. At this point I gave myself a little talking to and decided to approach it all with an open mind and just go with it. The worst that could happen is I’d get a mildly interesting anecdote to write about on Number Twos. Deep down I was hoping for more though. This wasn’t about having a funny story to tell, the purpose of this was to get better. To finally beat my UC. With that in mind I allowed myself to feel a little excited and waited for my very first hypnotherapy session to begin.