Express - 18 January 2012
We're halfway through January and for most of us the resolutions have slipped a gear and it looks like we won't be delivering the slim, non-smoking, de-bugged Self 2.0 that we promised to launch.
There is one way to get back on schedule: through weight loss hypnosis the dark side. For at least a century hypnosis has been trying to bury the image of the swinging watch and waxed moustache. It has been promoted as a mere relaxation technique and has ended up in the same aisle as crystals and whale-music in the self-help supermarket. But a new gastric band hypnotherapy treatment that has helped hundreds of people to lose rucksacks of fat is likely to bring hypnosis back where it belongs and where it works best: as a dark art that bamboozles your mind into behaving itself by the power of suggestion.
In gastric band hypnotherapy the obese patient is hypnotised and lied to. Through verbal suggestion and play-acting the Hypnosis patient is made to believe that they have undergone gastric band surgery. Their appetite is drastically reduced. This has proper Svengali overtones, recalling George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby in which the sinister hypnotist turns an ordinary woman into a theatrical star whom he can manipulate.
The 80 per cent success rate of hypnotic treatment beats the 70 per cent success rate of real gastric band surgery comfortably. Yet the reputation of hypnosis remains rocky with mixed reports about its success.
Gary Barlow has been successfully treated for a fear of spiders. Russell Grant used hypnosis to propel himself through Strictly Come Dancing on a bad hip and Joanna Lumley beat panic attacks with the help of hypnosis.
On the other hand the England football squad was reported to have been hypnotised to believe they would be unbeatable in the 2002 World Cup and Kate Moss is supposed to have tried hypnosis to give up smoking. Hypnosis can do good but it can't do miracles.
I know hypnosis works because I learned how to hypnotise people from a doctor who worked at a psychiatric hospital and had treated several of my highly strung friends. As his private student I was allowed under supervision to lead several volunteers into a trance. I could talk consenting friends into falling backwards helplessly without them even knowing that they would be caught.
Experimenting on myself I found it easy to dismiss sensations of cold by suggestion so that I was able to walk around in shirt sleeves in winter as if I were a Geordie. When I went shopping for hypnotherapy years later I was disappointed to find that most hypnotherapists aren't They want to sell you 10 weeks of talking sessions in which you are supposed to unearth rotten old thoughts and memories such as that terrible day when your dad spanked you with a butter pat while dressed as a clown. It can help some people but it won't get you over that crippling phobia of clowns nearly as well as old-school hypnosis, in which a charismatic and authoritarian hypnotist puts you under and tells you you're fine about clowns.
I discovered several distinct species of hypnotherapist: there is the Gadget Boy Hypnotherapist who sits you on a hydraulically reclining Mastermind chair, puts you in headphones and hypnotises you through a microphone with a slight reverb. There is the Nursey Hypnotherapist, a deceptively nurturing older lady, probably an ex-NHS psychiatric worker. Then there is the Hippie Hypnotherapist, likely to try to steer you towards crystals, spirits and energies. I even encountered a holistic healer who offered a package deal of hypnotherapy with colonic irrigation. I told her what she could do with her irrigation.
For the rich there are celebrity hypnotherapists such as Paul McKenna. Even if I could afford him I'd wonder. Despite writing a book called I Can Make You Happy, at times he strikes me as being unhappy and unfulfilled as only a man who owns several Ferraris can be.
The important thing is to find a hypnotherapist willing to cut down on past-life chit-chat and help you tackle irrational fears and filthy habits.<
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