Hypnotism is a strange, scary process. You put your mind under the control of another’s mind. So you gotta really trust that other person. I didn’t. But after an old friend suicided recently, and my fragmented memories wouldn’t let me remember her properly and were also disturbing my body’s humours (such an old term but it just fits), I decided to give it a shot, to see if my memories, and one in particular, could be pulled out and put back together again in my consciousness.
I had discussed hypnotism with my psychologist years ago and again recently with my neuropsychiatrist. They had said I do have ultimate control; we don’t necessarily know how it will work out until we try because each person is different; the memories may not be retrievable for a number of reasons; and my neurodoc stressed: “the wild card is your brain injury — it may have irretrievably damaged your memories and may affect being hypnotized.” I had one last discussion with him about the risks and benefits, and a promise he would call me back if I left a message saying, “Help! My mind has freaked out!”, before I sucked in a deep breath and went for it.
I have had a lot of experience – a lot! – with deep relaxation methods, guided relaxation tapes, deep breathing. So, for me, the relaxation part was old hat. But before he began the process with guiding me through deep relaxation, he asked me a number of questions about when, where, and what I could remember about the humours-disturbing fragment. My answers became cues he used when asking me questions about the time I wanted to recall. Once I was in an apparent hypnotic state, he asked me to go back to that time and to speak what I could remember. I said nothing. He asked me to describe my friend. I began.
From then on, he would ask a question and I would answer. Then I began to spontaneously say things as if that young me was speaking through the me of today or my friend was speaking through me. Just short sentences, but it was . . . odd. He wrote down everything I said. He told me later he does this because usually his patients cannot recall what they remembered while hypnotized. When I travelled back in time, my perspective shifted from that of an outsider looking back from way in the future to one of being there, of sitting where I would have been sitting and seeing my friend in the way she probably was at that time. Details of what she said, what I saw in my mind as she described things, what I felt seeped out. Bit by bit, the memory was rebuilt.
And then suddenly, my eyes snapped open.
My neurodoc didn’t notice. I said, “I’m back.” He was focussing on his notes and on the questions he was asking me, not on my face. Sheesh. Funnily enough, I was able to answer the rest of his questions about how the event ended and a final detail of the event as if I was still hypnotized. Except, it turns out, I hadn’t really been hypnotized. When he realized he didn’t need to bring me out and what led to me popping out (an internal feeling, not an external distraction), he said I was probably lightly hypnotized. Lightly is fine with me.
We went over what I recalled, and he filled in the gaps with his notes. Then I exclaimed: there’s one thing that really resonated that you forgot. Well, he had written it down, but he hadn’t realized how much it had been screaming in my mind.
I began to feel worse and worse after the session, like a great big pit had opened up in my stomach and was trying to swallow me up. The pit wasn’t related to me – it sat on its own unconnected to my head. It was related to my dead friend. So I called a current, new friend, and we talked and talked until I felt better.
I learnt a few things. I learnt I had absorbed my friend’s memories and emotions related to some of her childhood events into myself. They had become one with me and were causing a disturbance in my humours. Now that I know them, I can separate their strands entwined into me and toss them out with my neurodoc’s help.
Now that I’ve undergone hypnotism once, it doesn’t feel so scary. I will probably do it again for memories that won’t reveal themselves to me but are bothering me deep inside. As my neurodoc said: despite the fact I was only lightly hypnotized, I was still amenable to the procedure.