Until recently, the only experience I had with hypnotism came from the county fair. As a child, I loved watching members of the crowd crow like roosters or search for imaginary items onstage. But I always secretly thought that there was no way that I could ever be hypnotized because I so fear the thought of loosing control.
Then a few weeks ago I met up with Maribeth Theisen at Café Marc Aurel in Wailuku. She’s a hypnotherapist and licensed counselor.
Theisen knows her stuff. Not only has she practiced hypnotherapy for 30 years, she’s taught it at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
While we ate lunch, she drew diagrams and explained the difference between the conscious–the logical cause and effect thinker–and subconscious mind, the emotional doer. She explained that negative thought patterns can develop during childhood without us even realizing it, then become reinforced as we grow into adults. And she told me how hypnotherapy gets through the barrier of the subconscious, allowing the therapist to provoke positive change.
It made so much sense that I couldn’t help but begin to psychoanalyze all my weird tendencies. I have a lot of them.
The good news is that, according to Theisen, there are many different types of hypnotherapy related therapies, like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), that can fix those glitches quickly. For example, Theisen estimates that a person suffering emotionally from a one-time trauma can sometimes be healed in single session, whereas someone dealing with ongoing trouble can usually get results in four to six sessions.
After lunch, we headed to Theisen’s Wailuku office (she also practices in Kihei). My plan was to experience basic hypnotherapy, which would send positive reinforcements to my subconscious. I decided the reinforcement should be “I make wise decisions,” because I don’t.
As I lay on her big comfy couch, I was definitely nervous. What if I freaked out? Even worse, what if I was unhypnotizeable?
Theisen told me to settle in and stare at a spot high on the ceiling. She told me that my eyes would be feeling heavy, and that on the count of three they would feel so heavy that I should just close them. Three came and while it didn’t feel as though I had lead weights on my lashes, I decided to be a good sport and close them anyway.
Next she told me to relax every section of my body, beginning with my toes. I did my best, though relaxation is foreign to me. There was some twitching involved. Finally, when we got to my head, she told me that my eyelids should feel like they are glued shut and that any attempt to open them would only make them shut tighter. For some reason, even as I was thinking “bullshit,” the imagery worked. I couldn’t or wouldn’t open my peepers. And before I knew what was happening, I realized that I actually felt relaxed.
She asked me to imagine I was in a beautiful outdoor setting. My mind kept flashing on an image that’s hard to explain, but the colors were very bright—almost acid-trippy. There was a lot of vibrant green grass and magenta flowers. I could tell there was water nearby, even though it seemed quiet.
It was frustrating at first, because I would get this flash of the scenery coupled with a feeling of being “whole,” but then it would vanish. Eventually the images stayed still. It was absolutely beautiful and wonderful…
And then my horse showed up. I haven’t seen Maui Boy, who was extremely headstrong and overly sensitive, in a few years–long story–but I loved him a lot.
All of a sudden, I felt so sad that I started to cry. Vaguely, I could feel real tears seeping out of my eyes and running down my checks. An intense feeling of homesickness overwhelmed me, like I wanted to actually be wherever it was that I was imagining.
Maui Boy’s fur smelled sunny and earthy. Wrapping my arms around his thick neck, I could feel his red fur sticking to the sweat on my arms.
Theisen told me to imagine myself being bathed in white light and to let it pour into my heart. In hindsight, it sounds really fruity, but as I did it, my whole body was warm and cocooned in what I imagined to be Reiki (a healing modality of which I am a practitioner) energy.
Soon I felt calm and was content with just chilling out in my self-tailored fantasyland. Then Theisen told me to get on Maui Boy and ask him to “take me to the place of wisdom.”
Easier said than done. Maui Boy was never good at taking orders. Also, I didn’t have a bridle or saddle.
So I attempted to mount the horse without stirrups. It was a frustrating experience. After several failed tries, I scrambled onto his back. He started walking right away, but I doubted he would take me to anyplace special. In fact, I was assuming that he’d simply run me under a tree.
We wandered around for a while, and then I realized he had taken me to a clearing that looked a lot like the place where I experienced my first real kiss. I recalled that it had been disastrous–I was literally disgusted by the sensation of boy tongue in my mouth—and spent months fearing that I was a lesbian.
I urged Maui Boy on, not caring about the possible message that my subconscious was trying to give me. Frankly, I have no desire to rethink my sexuality.
Finally we got to this cottage. The cottage looked a lot like this place where I had lived with my daughter’s dad years ago. Maui Boy stopped, and I dismounted and just stood there for a while. I remember thinking that if this was my place of wisdom, then I was pretty much screwed.
Theisen asked me where I was, and I told her. Then she instructed me to ask Wisdom (as if it were some type of entity) to come out and talk to me and to let her know how Wisdom appeared to me.
I was feeling pretty silly at this point, but I went along, promising myself that if Wisdom turned out to be a Caucasian-looking Jesus or the Dalai Lama, then I was going to throw in the towel.
So, I asked and waited.
Finally the door opened and out stepped Don Juan from the Carlos Castaneda books. (I had been introduced to Carlos Castaneda’s work about four years ago by this beautiful but slightly strange guy that lived in my neighborhood. For a few months, I devoured the books. I hadn’t thought about them in a few years. I was surprised and confused that out of all the people and objects that I could choose to represent Wisdom, I came up with a scraggly old man who did a lot of mescaline.)
I relayed the latest developments to Theisen, who then told me to ask him if I could sit and talk with him for a while.
I did. He just ignored me.
Then she told me to ask him if he could come back “with me in my heart” so that if I needed him, he would be there. Something deep inside of me (probably my Christian upbringing) balked at the thought.
He continued to ignore me.
I began to get a little nervous. Why weren’t my created characters cooperating?
Theisen recommended that I ask if I could sit with him for a while. It was slightly unnerving and uncomfortable. I felt intrusive, but I climbed the stairs and sat across from him on the porch.
He was whittling.
My next prompt was to ask him if he had any message or gift to give me.
He still ignored me.
I sat there for what seemed like a very long time, eventually becoming content to just watch him shuck long strips of wood with a knife. Whatever he was whittling wasn’t intricate. In fact, it looked as if he was just carving the piece of wood into a sharp point.
He whittled and whittled until there was nothing left but a small square-ish block of wood–the part that he was holding in his hand. He extended it out to me, dropped it in my palm and closed my hand into a fist over it.
When I told Theisen what was happening, she told me to ask him what I should do with it and what it means.
When I did, he stood up, chuckled, tapped his finger to his head and went back into the house. Then he shut the door behind him.
I put the object into my pocket, struggled to get back onto Maui Boy and let him slowly take me back to where we started.
When Theisen brought me out of my trancelike state, I was surprised to find that my body had gone numb and felt really heavy. I thought that was a cool physical sign that something had actually happened to me and it wasn’t all just my overactive imagination.
“Your subconscious mind knows what all of that means,” Theisen told me, before letting me know that a session like mine–full of symbolism and vagueness–isn’t common.
“Most people end up talking to their grandpa, who tells them very clearly what they should or should not do about a certain situation,” she said.
Self-diagnosis? Completely loopy. But at least with hypnotherapy, it’ll be a blast to work out.
For more on hypnotherapy, visit www.mauitransformations.com or call Maribeth Theisen, MSW, LCSW, Cht at 269-2923. MTW