Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Struggle Within

I forgot how expensive it is to go to the Pima County Fair: Five bucks for parking. Seven bucks for admission. Twenty bucks for ride tickets –- and that gets you four, maybe five rides. But the most interesting part was the hypnotism show.

I wanted to see if a stage hypnotist could put me under. I've worked out the implications: hypnotism is focused attention, not psychological enslavement. A hypnotist can not force you to do anything that conflicts with your value system or religious beliefs. And no, this one does not make you bark like a dog or cluck like a chicken. You can see people doing that in full consciousness anyway, over at the livestock exhibits.

So I volunteered along with about 10 other people to get the treatment in front of the crowd. So did it work? Kinda.

The process of going under involves the hypnotist asking everyone to relax in their chairs and focus their attention on a spot on the ground while he gently commands us to relax and let our eyes close, repeating words and phrases over again: “As you continue to focus at the spot on the ground, your eyes are growing heavier, and as I count backwards they will grow heavier still, and still heavier after that as you continue to focus on the spot.”

I focused on the spot and gradually, the area around that spot blurred like a camera going out of focus and my eyes did indeed close. And then our leader counted backwards from ten, working to relax every part of our body as we sat, nine, working down from our heads, eight, to our shoulders, seven, asking us to feel looser and looser, six, looser still while relaxing, five, every muscle in our midsection and lower bodies relaxing, four, our legs and knees relaxing, three, our lower legs and feet relaxing, two, our feet and our toes loosening and relaxing, one, until we ended up slouching on the shoulder of the person next to us.

Here's the interesting part: during the induction process where we're supposed to become more and more relaxed, I started sweating profusely and breathing faster. I felt a bit nauseated. Nobody noticed anything, not even the hypnotist, and I went on with the show.

Myself and my stage partners were put through a series of suggestions and displays: asked to imagine the person next to us smelling bad, asked to imagine we were back in school and taunting our 3rd Grade teacher, asked to model like we were Mr. Universe. I went through the motions and fell asleep on command, but never felt like I was fully into any of these suggestions, that I was only faking it to avoid spoiling things. I noticed a lady to my right didn't seem to respond to any of the prompts, either. I was completely aware of my surroundings at all times, and never asleep, but I wasn't embarrassed.

I have Googled around looking for an explanation of what happened during the induction process, but I haven't come up with anything. My own theory is that my allegiance to GOD was battling with the hypnotist's suggestions, leading to the labored breathing and sweat. My mind and my body were refusing to submit to a third party's control. The Bible, in II Corinthians 10:3-5, tells us to take thoughts captive. Perhaps that's exactly what happened.

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