Earlier this week, for the first time ever, I attended a hypnotherapy appointment–targeted towards relieving the prying, continuous, self-inflicted stress and obsessiveness I experience on a daily basis.
Much to my surprise, I actually got something out of it.
I grew up in a family grounded in empirical thought. Anything mystical, spiritual, or extraterrestrial was more or less considered to be moot. I recently outlined to my father, an ardent intellectual, my growing affinity for the wonders of astrology. “It has merit!” I emphasized. He scoffed.
So, when the possibility presented itself for me to experiment with the alternative therapeutic method of hypnosis for the sake of an assignment I jumped at the opportunity. The fact that the practice intrigued me was sort of a guilty pleasure, and I could couch my desire to explore it under the auspices of “journalistic investigation.”
I booked an appointment with a hypnotherapist named Shauna at Leap Ahead Hypnosis, and chose between three options for my appointment: Diet and Weight loss, Relationships, and Anxiety Management. I selected the last.
Like any self-respecting millennial, I struggle with your garden-variety of anxiety. Be it quotidian stress about the trajectory of my life, or a a neurotic tendency to place great import on small interactions or insignificant decisions, it’s not a normal day unless I create something to fret about.
I have never addressed my obsessiveness with any deliberate preventative measures. To be honest, I’ve always considered it an integral, albeit frustrating, part of my personality.
Now, as I approach my mid-twenties, I’ve begun to realize that the constant pressures and preoccupations that pepper my thoughts might take a toll on my mind and body. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s about time I find a way to calm the fuck down before I drive myself insane.
I was tired when I left work to head to my appointment, and mildly apprehensive about the endeavor. At the very worst, I figured I’d fall asleep during the session and get in a nice little nap before cooking dinner for my friend later that evening.
The center was only several blocks from my office. When I arrived, I rode the elevator up to the top floor and opened the suite that the doorman had directed me to. There was nobody to be seen. Several therapy rooms were oriented in a row. Each one looked abandoned: dark, doors ajar with nobody inside.
I made my way to a couch and grabbed a copy of Psychology Today from the stack of magazines that lay beside it, and noticed that one of the doors to the rooms which I had quickly surveyed earlier was in fact closed. I heard the faint murmur of chatter within.
Evidently, I wasn’t alone.
After a few minutes, the door opened, a client walked out, and a woman in a suede skirt who I assumed must be Shauna invited me inside.
The room was small and very warm, but Shauna seemed kind, so I made a conscious effort to enter the moment wholeheartedly and to reserve my judgement until afterwards.
We started our session by discussing why I had come that day. What issues did I hope to address? What colors did I see or feel within my body when I experienced certain emotions? Where was my happy place?
Shauna then outlined precisely what hypnotherapy was and what it was not. She explained that hypnosis is one of those practices often framed as a pseudo-science. Its representation in media brings to mind images of nutjobs holding ticking clocks or swinging pendulums, reciting the infamous catch-phrase “You are getting sleepy… you are getting verryyyy sleepy…”
The reality of the practice is something different entirely. It more closely resembles meditation than mind control, and the desired outcome is to help people reach into their subconscious and reprogram their mind-body connection to better benefit their lives.
Our bodies, she told me, are like computers, and we have within us the potentiality to change habits or thought processes that we exhibit every day. Hypnotherapy is a way to harness the natural powers that we all possess in our minds and bring them to fruition.
She told me she would be helping me to enter an alpha/beta brain-wave state, which is what we experience each night right before we slip off to sleep. It’s a time when humans are naturally very suggestible, and therefore an ideal moment to plant the seeds for reassessing our psychological behavior.
Then, she asked me which I’d like to be my “trance hand.”
To which I said, “What’s a trance hand?”
Apparently, it’s the hand you use to help you enter into a deep trance state. Duh.
Following her direction, I raised my right hand up slowly, centimeter by centimeter, and while doing so I took deep breaths and sank into a comfortable state of relaxation. I was told it was alright to close my eyes, so I did.
She led me through a series of visualizations in which I saw myself going through my daily life, but with a notably lower level of stress. I imagined myself basking in the sunlight, surrounded by lush plants, writing happily in my notebook. I felt unburdened by minuscule inconveniences and content to exist in that space and time.
I could feel myself grounded in the small, warm room, yet also in the places I projected myself into. I could hear Shauna’s voice, yet I felt a level of separation from the physicality of my body and where I landed in my mind.
She told me to focus on creating positivity within my chest, and I quickly began to feel an orange-y light emanate through my body–starting at my heart and moving outwards to my hands. It was pulsating, warm, and welcome.
I was asked what part of my body lacked this feeling, and I answered my head.
“Send more light to your head,” she told me.
Somehow, I did. She asked me how it felt. Good, but a little scary, I thought. “It feels scary to let go,” I heard myself say.
The intensity with which I viscerally felt this joy was disconcerting. I felt myself shying away, and I had to deliberately train my mind to stay in the moment–to surrender to the blithe emotion I had cultivated within myself.
In quiet moments, I am not accustomed to feeling carefree. When I am idle and my mind is left to wander, it usually goes to the corners of worry instead of productive reinforcement. I generally only experience euphoria when my mind is distracted from the matters it occupies itself with; when I am socializing, writing, playing basketball or music–these are the times when I ordinarily am able to reach a transcendental state.
However, submerged in this trance, I did so. It kind of blew my mind.
Before I knew it, I was being told to come back into the room, to lift myself out of this liminal state and enter the present. I slowly opened my eyes, feeling groggy, but relaxed. Shauna asked me to name three things that I felt in that instant, that I hoped to carry with me when I left.
“Centered,” I said, “Calm. Present.”
She told me to write down these affirmations before I went to sleep, and to recite them to myself throughout the day. This would be the first step in transforming my cognition into a tool for self-improvement.
I am centered, I am calm, I am present.
Since the appointment, I can’t say that I’ve kept up my practice of repeating these affirmations every day. However, I did find myself employing them during a specific disquieting moment, and I felt a wave of strength and serenity wash over me.
I don’t anticipate a weekly practice of hypnotherapy, mostly because of the cost. However were it not for my relatively tight-belt, I’d be happy to visit Shauna again. During our session, I gained a momentary sense of clarity and tranquility, and I could certainly benefit from more of that in my life.