My relationship with hypnosis began when my husband was doing research at university. I was the first person that he hypnotised and remember the change in his voice when he realised that it was actually working.
Over the three years there were some bizarre moments – at one point he decided to test whether pain threshold varied under the effect of hypnosis. He borrowed an elderly electric shock machine that kept sticking when he attempted to alter the level of current. Wifely trust stretched too far at this point and I came straight out of my hypnotic state.
On another occasion, I had been having headaches so he hypnotised me planting a post-hypnotic suggestion implying that headaches were caused by tension. With a lively class of nine year olds there was plenty of that. Result – a constant headache for two weeks until he re-hypnotised me to undo the rogue suggestion.
Then we went to see a stage hypnotist. Tim persuaded me to try and get picked to go on stage to see if it was real or if there were planted stooges. I was hypnotised and told that I would spot John Travolta in the audience and rush from the stage to snog him passionately. This I duly did. I was also left with a post-hypnotic suggestion that when I left the theatre I would discover that I had lost my belly button and would ask passers-by if they had seen it. Somewhat disconcertingly for my husband, I rushed up to two passing policemen who were not amused. It must have been a particularly powerful suggestion because even next morning l had a strong urge to ask my rather stuffy head teacher if he had seen said article.
As a participant you don’t get to see much of the show so we were given front row seats for the following night. The routine was much the same but one subject was gorgeous and when it came to the John Travolta bit I just knew that she was going to pick my husband, which of course she did. However, the hypnotist also told her that when she woke up she would realise that it wasn’t John Travolta but some dirty old man. Well she really laid into Tim, raining kicks and punches.
Such experiences convinced me that I was a good hypnotic subject. When my first child was born I used gas and air for pain relief and the effect reminded me of being hypnotised. So when I was expecting number two we decided to use hypnosis during the birth. I was pre-hypnotised to be given my cue words ‘OK relax’, which took me immediately into a hypnotic state. Then Tim talked me through each contraction using suggestions of relaxation. Between contractions I chatted normally. I was aware of the pain but distanced from it so that it didn’t bother me and after only two hours a very alert baby was born. A great success but not without its amusing moments. I still retain the image of the midwife becoming very relaxed herself as she listened to Tim’s soothing tones. At one point he nipped to the loo. Feeling another contraction on its way I called him, whereupon he rushed out catching himself on his zip and was attempting to suppress the ensuing agony whilst offering me relaxing words. The midwife was much amused.
So ‘What is hypnosis?’ people ask. I’ve no idea really but would describe it as the imaginative response to suggestion – no swinging watch chains, just being counted down into drowsiness and waking up with a sense of well-being.