Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hypnotherapy session number 1

Guy Cohen’s voice is clear, self-assured and not unpleasant on the ears. Behind the mellifluous tone is a hint of playfulness, which brings to mind a bright-eyed head boy. Guy fizzes with optimism and can occasionally come across as cheesy – but it’s only optimism in the same sense most Hollywood films are optimistic; E.T. goes home, Rocky wins, Jaws dies and Bill Murray learns not to be such a dickhead. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s actually quite refreshing. Guy is talking to me through my Mac using Skype, so I can be hands free and not have a hot headachy mobile pressed to my ear for the whole session. I am lying on my sofa in my spare room cum office. The blinds are drawn, shutting out the early evening light and the geese, which fly low past my window about this time every night on their way to Walthamstow marshes. After a few minutes small talk, it’s time to get down to business. Much like an airline pilot’s pre-takeoff preamble – we’ll be flying at 30,000ft, approximate journey time should be a little under 3hrs etc – Guy starts by outlining exactly what we’ll be doing during the session. Then we’re clear for take-off. Guy tells me to relax and concentrate on breathing more deeply. I begin to inhale and exhale more slowly, trying to find a steady controlled rhythm. Then Guy’s voice takes my mind on a journey around my body, and I’m asked to imagine my various limbs going limp and relaxing; my right foot going limp and relaxing, my left foot going limp and relaxing, my right leg going limp and relaxing, my left leg going limp and relaxing. When it comes to my hands going limp I have to suppress all thoughts of John Inman, and stay focused. Then Guy tells me to imagine I’m floating on thin air, floating and drifting, drifting and floating. At no point do I feel ‘under’ or at all like I’m in a trance. I think the purpose of these first exercises is to put me in the right frame of mind and set the mood. It’s mental foreplay. After which Guy begins to count upwards. All the while I’m encouraged to relax and smile and enjoy myself, whilst continuing to breathe nice and deeply. Now Guy asks me to remember a time in my life when I felt supremely confident. I have to picture it in my mind, make it really vivid, relive how it made me feel, what was in front of me, behind me, recreate the scene in detail, the colours, the smells, the sounds, making it feel as intense and bright as I can. Then just when I think I can’t push it any further Guy tells me to pinch my thumbnail against my middle finger, take a deep breath and relax. I’m a little concerned that I’m not doing this part right, but Guy reassures me that if I’m trying then I’m doing it right. Next I have to remember a time when I felt really curious, totally fascinated and absorbed in something. And again I have to picture it in my head in as much detail as possible, making it 3D and giving it surround sound. Then as before, when it gets to its most intense I pinch my thumbnail against my middle finger, and relax. Now Guy tells me to think of a time where I had the giggles. Proper uncontrollable giggles. I have to make it real in my head, adding layer upon layer of detail, until it can’t get any more vibrant, then I pinch my thumbnail against my middle finger, before relaxing. Now it gets a little harder. Guy tells me to remember all three scenarios all at the same time. Mix them all up, confidence, curiosity and the giggles. Guy gets very excited at this point and I’m guessing by his yelling and hollering that what we’re doing is kind of like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters and we’re going to unleash some God Almighty power. I half expect cupboard drawers to start opening and closing and gas bills and takeaway menus to begin swirling around the room in a vortex. I can report that none of this happens, although I do find myself smiling, which Guy tells me is a good thing. I pinch my thumbnail against my middle finger and we both take a deep breath and relax. Now we move on to the final part of the session and something called the Rewind Technique. Here Guy asks me to imagine I’m sitting in a big cinema. It’s just me, on my own, looking up at an old crackly, black and white film. And the film I’m watching is of a time when I felt anxious or was feeling particularly negative. I have to play the film from start to finish, 20 seconds or so. Then I have to imagine I float up out of myself right up to the ceiling where I can look down on myself looking up at the film of myself on the screen. In effect there are now three of me, four if you include the real me. Fortunately I’ve always had something of a split personality, so I feel quite comfortable in a roomful of Martins. Guy tells me to continue floating back into the projection room, where I can look down on the back of myself watching the film. Now I have to play the film in reverse. All the action moves backwards. Then when I reach the start, I have to rewind it again. And again, and again, and again, getting faster and faster each time. Guy suddenly starts playing the Benny Hill theme tune and everything in my head is careering backwards. Guy is yelling faster! Faster! Faster! He can’t get his words out quick enough. Benny Hill becomes fairground music. Clown music. Faster! Faster! Guy’s tripping over his words now. He wants me to laugh. I don’t know what’s going on. I struggle to keep up with it all. It feels like my eyes are spinning around in their sockets like a couple of Lotto balls about to be released. Then it’s all over. Quiet. Calm. Still. Relaxed, soothing Guy returns, taking over from manic, speed-freak Guy and he tells me that what we have just done is incredibly powerful and I should start to feel different very soon. There’s not a trace of doubt in Guy’s voice. It’s too early to say how I feel, but I know one thing. I believe him.