“So, how’d it go today?” asks Mr. Octopus. He is sprawled on the dining room floor, taunting the puppy by lithely passing a bone from tentacle to tentacle. Mr. Chulo growls in his big-dog voice.
“Can you stop that? You’re driving him crazy.” Finally growing bored, Mr. Octopus tosses the bone across the room. Chulo goes skidding after.
“My head was on fire,” I say.
“Oh goody! Do tell,” he says, slithering into a patch of light.
“I thought octopuses didn’t like the sun.”
“Well…I am not your averrrage octopi.” A long moment passes. Dust motes dance in a ribbon of afternoon light. I am thinking about the sensation of burning in the back of my head while under hypnosis.
“Do you think I need pain?”
“You have always enjoyed it in moderate doses. It makes things more rrreal.”
“But do you think it’s necessary?”
Week two of hypnotherapy. It’s difficult to describe the process, but it sort of amounts to a massive emotional spring cleaning. The therapist leads your unconscious back in time to the place of hurt. In my case, several hundred places, woe is me. (This is sometimes accompanied by physical sensations, such as the burning feeling in the back of my head). You observe the emotional hurt from a removed perspective in order to learn the lessons of the experience which then allows you to leave the hurt behind. Or rather, the understanding dissolves the hurt. It reminds me of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: I am the ghost of Adolescent Peer Pressure! Clank-clank.
It is actually all very practical. It makes a lot of sense. I clean out closets. I occasionally clean out my colon. Why not my emotional storage system?
I’d always thought of myself as a naturally brooding, reflective person. I tend to go back over events in order to make sense of them, but usually end up beating myself up over what I did wrong. Then, feeling like crap, I try to make myself feel better by pointing out what the other person did wrong as well, or what was wrong about the situation in the first place. Boo hoo! I was an asshole, but it wasn’t all my fault. Crack-pot self-therapy has gotten me nowhere. The hurt gets justified, but it’s still there.
This process is different. There’s no judgement. There is nothing to forgive. You see that everyone, including yourself, was having an experience and just living out their side of the story. The hurt that resulted wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just happened. And you see how you made up a story about what happened that furthered the pain and resulted in a destructive compulsive habit.
I am not saying that you should avoid responsibility and not apologize and/or forgive past hurts. That is definitely a part of the healing process. The intention of the hypnosis, however, is to take things deeper. To pull the emotion itself up and out by the root.
“So how’s the lip picking going?” asks Mr. Octopus, turned over on his back now, tentacles spread wide.
“God, close your legs. That’s disgusting.”
“Oh…baby…,” he oozes as he makes a humping, gyrating motion.
Annoyed, I stand, as if to leave.
“Well, somebody around here can’t take a joke. Why don’t you relax? Live a little. Go clean out your colon or whatever it is you do for fun.”
“Why don’t I punch you in your fat stupid face!”
Mr. Octopus storms into the kitchen. He bangs pots and pans, singing La Donna e Mobile loud enough to rattle the dishes. Eventually, he calms down and slides back into the dining room with two cups of tea.
“Bravo,” I say.
“Well, well, would you look at that.”
“Usually, one of your premenstrual froths sends you into a flurry of lip-picking.”
“And…you’re not picking.”