• Clare

In which I am hypnotised (literally!)

A few years ago, I went to see a hypnotists to overcome a severe phobia...

The reason for this visit might sound slightly insignificant, but it had become a big issue for me. Every summer, when the weather warms up and the nights are balmy, the back and font doors to our little family pub are propped open wide to allow air to circulate through. It's about 450 years old, with very low ceilings and incredibly thick stone walls. A perfect combination to turn a small space, bustling with holidaymakers, into an unbearable furnace. In fact, it's highly unusual for the pub to be cold at any time of year. Although, I have been known to wear six layers of clothing amid some exceptionally chilly spells during February and March, when the mercury hasn't risen above zero degrees for a week or so, the cold seeps in through the walls, and our beautiful open fire struggles to stave off the chill. Apparently, I'm the only one who seems to suffer like this, and I receive many odd looks from customers and much tutting from the Father-In-Law, who has no trouble managing with just his shirt and wool pullover.

I usually enjoy these summer evenings. Everyone is chilled out; families stop for a spot of refreshment on their way back from fossil hunting on the local beach, retired couples pop in for a sneaky G&T en route to their picturesque holiday cottage. The locals pop in to fill me in on their day at work, retelling stories of any disasters in the workplace or funny anecdotes that they want to share. Alas, one thing would put an abrupt stop to all this merriment - the appearance of The Daddy Long Legs!

You may wonder why this is such a huge issue, and, it's true, we hardly ever get them at home. Maybe 5 over the course of an entire summer, but the pub is situated only 100 yards from the town's Marina, and the combination of calm open water and plenty of lush green fields makes it a hot house for these blighters to breed. One particular summer, about 14 years ago, when every day was glorious, wall to wall sunshine, we experienced what seemed to be a plague of Crane Flies. Every night, at least fifteen of the buggers would head for our pub specifically, as if they knew of my fear and came to taunt me with their unnaturally long legs. Hovering around the low lights of the bar and making my life a genuine misery.

Now I'm looking back, the effect it had on me could be described as comical, and I'm sure every visiting patron must have wondered what the hell was going on, as I would scream and drop a half filled pint, glass shattering everywhere, just to escape these beasties. It was mortifying, but I had absolutely no control over my reactions whatsoever. I would begin every evening, around 9pm, with a general sense of dread for what was about to come, and then, as they slowly started to take over the bar, the sweating and shaking would begin. If one dared to approach me, I would squeal and flail my arms about like a woman possessed. Then, if there was no willing local about to shoo it out the door, or indeed catch it within their cupped hands, the nausea would engulf me like a black cloud, until I became a quivering, sobbing mess in the corner, unable to verbalise my phobia to a group of very bewildered, slightly annoyed holidaymakers, who just wanted to order their pints of local cider and sit in the courtyard to catch the last of the sun's rays.

This kind of extreme reaction was acutely embarrassing. I would plead with the Father-In-Law to allow me to shut the front door, but I knew that this wasn't at all practical, as within two minutes, the pub would become a sauna, unbearable to anyone looking for respite from the sun's heat outside and indeed to any poor fellow staff member who had the misfortune of working with me; already mopping their brows furiously and running their wrists under the cold tap every 10 minutes in a vain attempt to cool their internal furnace. I needed to get a firm grip on this and quickly. The Mother-In-Law found a local Alternative Therapy Centre and readily made me an appointment with the resident hypnotist at the very first opportunity.

And so, a week later, I found myself in a tiny waiting area, surrounded by potted ferns and leaflets on cracking your addiction to smoking and losing weight with the help of hypnosis. I have to confess; I was rather sceptical, but also desperate to relieve myself of this horrible affliction. I was willing to try anything. After what felt like forever, a softly spoken gentleman with glasses on top of his head and a slight middle aged paunch, guided me into his airy white office, further adorned with pot plants, a leather sofa and not much else. It has since become the kind of space I can only dream of acquiring for my own home; but with two children and a Husband who struggles to throw anything away, it's unlikely to happen. He can't understand my want for bare white walls! "What, not one picture of the children, or our wedding? You're so cold-hearted!"

The hypnotist asked me to lay back on his reclining chair and told me to close my eyes and try to relax. To my surprise, there was no pocket watch dangled in front of my face. Not once did he say the words "Look into my eyes!" He didn't even snap his fingers and make me fall into a deep, deep sleep, unable to control any part of my mind or body. I just didn't feel convinced by this stranger. He asked me to describe my phobia in great detail and then began a very slow process of tapping into my sub conscience over the course of an hour or so. Slowly, he took me to a place in my mind where I felt safe and at ease; in my case, my Grandparent's garden, and then set about desensitising me.

He asked me to humanise the Daddy Long Legs; to imagine them with little wellies on each of their feet, dancing around and being utterly silly. I actually laughed out loud at this point! I hadn't meant to, and I felt terrible that I may have spoilt all the hard work this man was trying to do for me. He simply said "yes, it is a funny image isn't it, but you can see, there's really nothing to fear." Shortly after this, he started to 'bring me round'. To my surprise, I found that I didn't actually want to return to the real world, I was so utterly relaxed; rather like one would be after an hour long massage, and my body felt too heavy to get up from the chair. I was glad that the Husband was picking me up and I didn't have to drive myself home. "How did it go" the Mother-In-Law enquired when we got back. "I'm not sure" I said, not wanting to confess that I thought the whole thing had been a waste of time, not to mention her hard earned cash.

I didn't have to wait long before putting the treatment to the test. Around 9pm, as usual, they began arriving at the pub in their swarms; ready to laugh at me as I ran away screaming. Teasing me with the fact that they possessed the deadliest poison in the world (although they have no way of administering it! What a blow!) The family and customers alike, waited with baited breath to see how I would react. The locals on their usual bar stools, poised to make a swift dash at any moment. Too everyone's enormous surprise, I was calmer. No screaming, no nausea, no sweating. I still didn't really want to get near one and would wait for one to move before delivering a pint to a thirsty customer; sometimes passing it along to another Barmaid to deliver. But I didn't run away! The next week was even better; I was able to pass Daddy Long Legs that had settled on the wall, or duck under one, as it hovered round a light. I marvelled at their stupidity and could picture their little legs dangling, pulled down with the weight of their shiny yellow Wellington's.

Every year, it continues to get better and better. My fear of spiders has also improved too; although, I never did have quite such a problem with them. I've even got to the stage where I can hold a Crane Fly in my hands! (If someone catches it for me first! I wouldn't like to reach up and grab one mid-flight, but that's ok! Let's face it, they're not very nice creatures and, having a dislike for them is perfectly acceptable.) Visiting the hypnotist was my first experience with alternative therapy and, since then, I've reverted to it many times in various ways. I now use Yoga when I'm going through a stressful patch, aromatherapy to boost me up and calm me down, mindfulness, gratitude... I even drink herbal tea! I often find myself recommending alternative therapies to people in times of distress or illness. I suffer quite a lot with my lower back. Whether that's due to pregnancy, running, being on my feet all day, or a side effect of some strong medication I took four years ago, I don't know, but I can't wait to visit the local Physiotherapist to give acupuncture a go. I'll keep you posted, but I have every faith in it working wonders for me...

Do you have any phobias? What are you afraid of? Have you ever been hypnotised? Let me know in the comments section below.

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