Posted by David
on Oct 8, 2006 in Upside-down Hippo
| 0 comments
Oh my, oh my, my lies have made an angel cry. Gratitude (or perhaps Adventure) weeps salty tears into his heavenly robes. I have to confess that I did not attend a therapy session with a nut who diagnosed my psychological condition via the tendonitis in my foot and then immediately suggested past-life regression as a way of locating the root of my troubles.
Because that would be stupid.
In all honestly, I must report the truth: after diagnosing my psychological condition via the tendonitis in my foot, the nut merely said that she was going to use hypnotherapy to help uncover the root of my troubles. It took at least another minute for her to lean forward and earnestly ask, “Now, tell me your sincere impression and we’ll go from there. Do you think the source is in your current life or a past life?” And it was only upon receiving my response (for the record, it was, “Uh”) that she decided we would investigate both.
I have to say that I believe in hypnosis, and there is evidence to suggest that I can be put into a light trance by a skillful practitioner. I also have some half-formed theories about reincarnation, although far from being the typical fare, they have more to do with dimensional physics and the illusion of time. There was plenty of time to ruminate over these ideas and calm my mounting dread as she had me lie on the couch while, like a cavewoman trying to operate a ham radio, she fiddled with the ancient cassette recorder she would use to tape the proceedings. The evening was fading into night, and there was a bluish-purple tinge to everything in the nearly dark office as she finally croaked her induction. An elevator going down, a clearing in the woods, blah blah blah, all very standard fare. I honestly tried to pay attention to what she was saying, but it’s hard to be hypnotized when “Jesus God, I can’t fucking believe this” is ricocheting around your skull. I tried to put the time to good use by doing some planning for work, but she kept interrupting me with dreamy questions. “Can you think of a time in your life where . . . ?” “OK, go back further, how did you feel when . . . ?” My answers were consistently “No” and “I don’t know,” which didn’t phase her a bit. “You’re doing fine,” she kept saying as if I were taking the S.A.T.
Having struck out on my current life, she had me float through a hazy mist, or some such thing, and wind up in the past life that was the origin of all of my current distress.
“Ooo, who will I be?” I thought. The choice was automatic as I was in middle of a novel about the life and times of Cleopatra. When she asked what I saw, I began describing a scene where a man was moving a bunch of scrolls around a mud hut.
“Do you get a sense of why he is doing that?”
I pretended not to know in case she had read the same book, but if she pressed, I was going to say, “It seems like a flood is coming.” I thought at the time she must have sensed I was putting her on because she was strangely incurious about the details of this mystical vision and how it connected with my current litany of woes. There was barely time to invent some exotic birds flying past the window before she had me “return to the present and wake up refreshed.” This was fine as it saved me the trouble of coming up with an asp to bite my foot and set off centuries of painful limping, but I did find it odd that, after finally getting what she wanted out of me, she instantly backed off . . . especially when it became clear from our post-hypnotic discussion in the nearly dark room that she had believed me after all.
I think now that she merely lacked the confidence and analytical skills to extrapolate her loopy logic to its natural conclusions. For her, the focus was in executing the actual tricks of her dubious trade, not where they led; in terminology they were “tools,” but in practice they were ends in themselves, like a hammer existing merely to be a hammer and not to pound the nails that hold a house together. Thus she was able to check the Angel Game off her list and put it away without a backward glance. Thus we did past-life regression because, in her mind, that’s what “came next,” not because it built on anything we had already done or would lead somewhere else. Of course, it could only lead to fantasy, but it had the potential to be a distracting fantasy, engaging, worth the time and effort and money I had already devoted to it. But when she finally flipped on the light and we sat blinking in the cluttered office that, thanks to “them,” she only could use one evening per week, I realized that the entire session had gone to feed a different fantasy altogether.
As I put my shoes back on and reluctantly fished out my checkbook, she once again discussed her various credentials, this time putting them in the perspective of her life’s journey. For once paying attention, I learned how her various degrees, finished and unfinished, had given way to twelve-step programs and self-esteem seminars. These had somehow spurred her interest in Transformation, a concept with apparently universal application, as she expressed interest in Transforming herself and other individuals and groups. Into what, I still have no idea because she then went off on a tangent regarding the Rosicrucians, that legendary secret order that recruits via ads in the back of Fate magazine, and various retreats she had attended during her lifetime of searching, searching, searching. It was the awe with which she spoke of her spiritual teachers that provided the final piece of the puzzle. After decades of bouncing from swami to swami, she wanted a chance to play the esoteric master herself, dispensing wisdom like a fresh spring in the desert. Only, because her quest had focused on “techniques” that bring enlightenment the way a magic trick produces a bunny, and not on the enlightenment itself, that was all she had to offer. The sessions that she provided were not for the benefit of the client but to validate her shallow philosophy against her own insecurity that there was nothing to it; at the same time, she was terrified that her victims would, through the same techniques she used, achieve some sort of spiritual awakening that was beyond her, hence the pulling back from any revelation, no matter how imaginary it may have been.
I look at this now with some sympathy, but I confess that I left her office with a mounting fury, wondering how many of her “patients” had paid for the privilege of psychoanalyzing her. It was only weeks later, when I came across her brochure with its sad clip-art of a butterfly, that I wondered again about the nature of fantasy.
The brochure did not say “Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Spiritual Counseling, Life Planning,” the phrasing that had led me to make that fateful appointment with a new therapist.
It said “Hypnotherapy, Spiritual Healing, Life Consultant” and was chock full of the code words used by crackpots and charlatans through the ages to lure in their hopeful prey. For all of my vaunted intellect, I had fallen for the mimeographed version of a Psychic Friends commercial.
I really should begin the search for another therapist to discover what all of this says about me, or perhaps I should just cut out the middle man and dig out my old tarot cards.