Hypnosis and Nail Biting: An Experiment

29 May

You know, after trying over fifty new things last year, sometimes I wonder how I’ll continue to find fresh and interesting things to try as I maintain my Lollipop Tuesday series.  Luckily, there are a variety of daily deal companies that are happy to litter my inbox with wacky shit to try for a cheap price.  This week, it was hypnosis.  Because nothing says “hey, this is creepy and uncomfortable” like a Daily Deal Voucher for Hypnotherapy.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ladies and gentlemen.

As far as Lollipop Tuesday adventures go, on a scale of 1 to awkward, hypnosis ranked somewhere beyond the meter.  It was a prime example of an instance in which I could be murdered (as are almost all instances of leaving the house).  The idea of lone wolfing it into a strange office with a couch to talk about my feelings, get put into a trance by a watch, and to cluck like a chicken is, in my opinion, a likely murder scenario.  Because if someone is willing to do all of those things, they’re also probably willing to go out back to the shed and dig their own grave for you to bury them in.  

Anyway, I spent quite a great deal of time leading up to my appointment by strengthening my mind to oppose any ideas that might lead to my own murder while under hypnosis.  It was a lot like Harry Potter being trained for Occlumency, except I played the parts of both Snape and Harry.

I had no idea what to expect.   I was really hoping it would be like Office Space. 35 dollars for an experience that would result in my complete apathy toward work-related things, a loaded bank account from a scheme that I don’t go to jail for, and a coworker burning down my place of business is a great daily deal voucher indeed.   What I didn’t expect is to be asked what I was coming in for.  I told the hypnotherapist (let’s call him Skip) that I wanted to try something new.  He told me that he likes to focus on something for the sessions and that he would like to know what I struggle with.

That’s a little personal, but hey: I’ll roll.

As many avid readers know, I tend to take out my nervousness, boredom and/or general mood swings on my fingers.  It’s not just my nails; in fact, now it’s all cuticles.  I go at them with the vigor of a rabid mongoose as if in a trance and when I come to, I’m staring at something from Grindhouse.

Skip seemed happy to address my nail biting issue but the gravity of my scenario didn’t seem to hit him until I was on the couch in his office and he was talking to me about my “feelings”.  I didn’t really anticipate the couch treatment.  I don’t know why, but I thought we would just casually chat and then he’d put me in a trance.  Instead, he asked me about my history with my hands and when it started.  I told him I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t do it.

He got real serious on me then.

He started asking me how I feel when I do it, what the scenarios are that make me do it.  I told him I’ll revert to it when I’m bored.  If I’m forced out in social situations and I don’t want to be there, I’ll often just take out my angst on my hands.  Skip asked me what I meant by angst.  I explained that I didn’t really like to be around people.  He asked me what I do to cope and I said sometimes I’ll put on a character to just get through the night and pretend I like it.  I started to explain the concept of Mindee when I realized something very serious about myself:

I sound like an effing loon.

Really, I sound like I should be institutionalized.  I don’t like to leave my apartment because the idea of running into people I know or being forced into social situations with people I even call my friends makes me so angsty and upset that I often put on a character in order to cope? 

Suddenly, the nails don’t seem to be the problem.

I tried to casually wrap up conversation on the crazy nesting in my head and he said “I think I’ve got a good amount to work with here” and told me I could have a seat in the enormous  La-Z-Boy to his left.   Skip explained that the session would consist of an active relaxation technique in which he would guide me through a visualization using repetition and reaffirming statements. I would close my eyes but I would not sleep.  By the way, there were no watches involved.

Sounded simple to me.  You do a lot of strange things in theater school and lying on the floor, pretending to be somewhere else while music played in the background was certainly one of the tamer ones.  I told myself the worst part of the session was over.  I can do visualization.  I’ve rolled around on the floor in front of twenty of my peers using only the terms ‘glitter’ and ‘kitten’ as my guide; I can take a mental walk with a Hypnotherapist as my forest guide.

He guided me through relaxing all my muscles and thoughts and did the stereotypical “deeper and deeper” repetition to help get me into my happy place.  All I really did is go to my skeptical place, because in those theater classes in voiceover recordings and I was really unimpressed with his lack of vocal variety.

I imagined skeptical Jackie was not welcome on the forest walk so I tried to leave her behind and instead heard Skip reading aloud the Mad Lib we had created together earlier.   I was a wood nymph, headed to a pool of water on the forest floor and when I looked into the pond I saw someone with beautiful hands.  And that from then forward, I would feel (insert mad lib word from couch session) when I looked at my hands instead of (insert mad lib word from couch session).

It was kind of hard to get into it since his techniques were so obvious, but it was even harder when he kept accidentally incorporating cue words from a beach visualization into my sacred forest glade.

Apparently a lot of people order the beach for their getaway.

I wasn’t sure what the effects of bouncing between a beach and a forest would do to my inner psyche but I’m pretty protective of my napping hours and I don’t want Skip getting in there and messing things around.  I thanked him for his time, the recording, reassured him that the beach/forest mixup was no biggie, and went on my merry way.   He awkwardly wished me a happy future with beautiful hands.

Immediately after my session, I went to get a manicure.  All that talk about my ugly and/or beautiful hands made me want to spend twelve dollars on my digits.  And though I think it’s much more a result of paying so much attention to the issue and not so much the Hypnotherapy, I must admit that it’s been a week and I have yet to tear at myself so viciously.  Don’t get me wrong: I still do it every single day, but I’m sparing the nails now and only going for the cuticles and when I attack my fingers, I snap out of the daze and stop the violence a lot earlier.

I think that had a lot to do with Skip’s eye judgment and insinuation that I’m an addict out of control.  I didn’t like how quickly he made me feel like a lunatic with his hypnobabble mad libs and his alarm at my social anxiety.  I don’t want to say Hypnotherapy worked, but to be fair I have to admit that my nails look better this week than they have in quite some time.

I think my record for such achievements is two weeks.  In three, I’ll likely get a visit from my inner mongoose.  I’ll keep you posted. Until then, I’ll keep playing the voice of Skip walking me through the beach/forest and I’ll keep reimagining the rousing game of psychiatric mad libs on a leather couch.  

So far, so good.  Just don’t make me go back to the couch. 


11 Responses to “Hypnosis and Nail Biting: An Experiment”

  1. Jules May 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    Perfect timing Jackie! Maybe I will try something like this. My mental health has not been very “together” lately. (Personal reasons I won’t disclose of course :o).
    Also, have I told you that a friend of mine lives in your neighborhood. She has seen you from her bus stop. Small world!


    • Jackie May 30, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      Give it a shot! I imagine it’s similar to meditation and yoga in its mental health benefits. And no, you haven’t told me about the friend but that’s super creepy. Thanks. 😛


      • Jules June 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

        Ahahaha!! I figured you would find it creepy. Do you expect any less of me?


  2. Katherine Gordy Levine May 30, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    I am a hypnotist. Skip gets a C- or D+. A couch? He is playing analyst. Don’t go back to him. Look for hypnotists that have have had Ericksonian Training. They see all hypnotism as self hypnotism which I believe it is. We talk ourselves into to so much all the time. You are very good at trancing Jackie. When you come to Colorado I’ll do my hypnotic thing now cost.

    The danger of hypnotism is that we can follow suggestions for all the wrong reasons. So anyone seeking to use trance states to change habits needs to keep themselves safe. A simple reminder to yourself to stay safe before going into a trance usually is sufficient.

    A trance is just an altered mind set. Read a book and get lost in it, you are trancing. Bite your nails unconsciously, trance.

    Now here is tip number two. You really have to be ready break the habit. I could help people stop smoking in one session. But not if they were not really motivated. One way to make sure you are motivated is to spend a bit of time thinking about what you will be giving up if you break the habit. What will you do with all the feelings the nail biting helps calm?

    And the session probably did some good which is why I said C-.



    • Jackie May 30, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      You *would* be a hypnotist 🙂 It’s all rather interesting to me. It’s not at all what I expected. So funny that I could give you a perspective on another hypnotist. If I ever find myself in the Colorado area, I might just have to take you up on the offer for the hell of it. Thanks for the insight!


  3. Ro May 30, 2012 at 1:32 am #

    Someone I know very well used to see a hypnotist. She initially went for something similar but got far more out of it than she expected. She has honestly become significantly less anxious. She keeps telling me I should go. It sounds a little crazy to me, too, but I guess it sometimes works!


    • Jackie May 30, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      I think it’s something about relaxing, opening your mind, and having something repeated to you. It’s hard to continue to do something when you have in the back of your head the same sentence about not doing it being repeated over and over.


  4. pegoleg June 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    I went to a hypnotist when I wanted to quit smoking. The guy was a real doctor who gave up the rest of his practice because the hypnosis part got so successful. The nurse showed me into a big room to wait for the doctor. I sat in the comfy chair, opposite a comfy couch, and stared at the GYNNIE EXAM TABLE…WITH STIRRUPS! The guy had been an Ob/Gyn.

    You may be surprised to know that neither my conscious nor my unconscious got comfy enough during the next awkward 20 minutes to learn anything new. I lit up a cig in the parking lot.


    • Jackie June 12, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

      LOL whaaaaaaaat that would have been *such* a better blog post. I mean, traumatizing- sure. But comedic gold. Thanks for sharing. You still smoke? …Is that a personal question?


  5. Gerri May 7, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    I love, love, loved it when I was hypnotized! The strangest things happened…in my brain. I remember everything and I couldn’t stop crying for about 2 hours. Weird, but I loved it.


    • Jackie May 10, 2014 at 10:14 am #

      How interesting… It’s fascinating how things like this affect people differently


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