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Friday, December 04, 2009

Being hypnotised was like having a massage without a massage

Helen Jardine

Friday, December 04, 2009

"Look into my eyes, you are getting very, very sleepy."

This is what I imagined being hypnotised would be like - a moustache-wearing magician swinging some kind of gold pocket watch in front of my face as I drift into unconscious abyss.

However, I was faced with a much different picture last week as I stepped into the office of ­hypnotist Monica Dobbie.

The "office" felt more like a relaxation chamber - with candles, water ­features and pressure point charts strewn around the room.

The first thing I was asked to do was to come up with a behaviour that I would like to change.

I was torn between two things; my needle phobia and my hate, hate, hate of public speaking.

Either one, Monica said, could be "cured" with ­hypnosis.

She herself has a needle-phobia and still practices self-hypnosis each time she has to give blood.

Even though my needle fear causes me to pass-out cold on the floor (seriously, even having my ears pierced), I would rather withstand one or two minutes on the floor than even one second in front of a huge group of people.

Speeches, presentations - forget it. I either manage to escape the moment altogether (calling in sick, passing the task to someone else), or stumble my way through in a frenzied state of cold-sweating nausea, clutching the sheet of ­paper I am reading off word for word.

I feel like a bit of a loser telling the hypnotist the ins and outs of this completely insane fear, but she tells me that almost 80 per cent of people suffer from some form of speech anxiety (perhaps she was just trying to make me feel better), herself included.

In fact, this is how she first became ­involved with ­hypnotherapy 20 years ago when her fear of public speaking - known as glossophobia - ­began affecting her job in reinsurance where she was ­expected to give large presentations several times a year.

So, we decide to focus on my public speaking terror and start off doing something called the Emotional Freedom Technique, which involves using several ­pressure points on the body to "cure" you of your affliction.

On a scale of one to 10 I rate my fear of if I had to stand up that moment and give a speech in front of a big crowd.

Visualise the moment

I concentrate for a few seconds, try and visualise the moment and say "six."

However, it was really hard to 'imagine' the ­moment, as I knew full well I wasn't in any danger of this happening on that ­particular Friday afternoon.

I then repeat the ­sentence, "Even though I have this anxiety, I choose to feel calm, confident and in ­control" three times as Monica taps various pressure points on my body ­including my hand, ­eyebrow, chin and collarbone.

After a few minutes of doing this she asks me to rate my fear levels, and I have to say I was about a 'three' on the fear-scale - definitely a lot more relaxed.

She gets me settled on a bed, adjusts the temperature in the room and presses play on the relaxation music.

I close my eyes and Monica says something along the lines of: "It's a beautiful sunny day. You are sitting on the beach and the sun's rays are so warm and ­comforting. You feel this warm relaxed feeling - starting at the top of your head, and slowly melting down the rest of your body."

After what feels like about 10 minutes, we are down to my toes ­- and every part of my body feels like it has sunken right into the bed I'm lying on.

She asks me various questions about my fear - what I see, how I feel, what "colour" various items are that she asks me imagine.

She asks me to picture myself in a movie theatre, watching a movie of myself about to give a speech to hundreds of people.

She asks me to play around with that image - adjusting the colours, sound, speed and rewinding it, fast-forwarding and pausing it at various ­moments.


She asks me to jump into the movie and to control various aspects of how it plays out, picturing the ­audience members as Mickey Mouse or with ­giant ­cartoon noses.

I wished I could just "let it happen" but, being the skeptical journalist I am, I was so busy thinking, "I wonder why she is asking me to picture this," or "I see where this is going" I think I was somehow trying to figure out the process - which you are totally not supposed to do. I am my own worst enemy in this scenario.

Then she starts chanting/talking to me a really smooth, calm, slow voice.

Although I am in no way passed out or even asleep during the session, what happened for the next 50 minutes is a bit blurry.

All I can recollect is her saying something about being the "most confident speaker" that ever existed and everyone was desperate to hear what "important things" I had to say.

Also, my time-perception was completely distorted.

When Monica took me out of my relaxed state and I sat up on the bed (when I had a major headrush) she asked me how long I thought I'd been lying on the table.

I said "about 20 ­minutes." In fact I had been there for 55 minutes.

The best way to describe it would be to say it was like a massage without a massage - I was so ­relaxed.

It took me a moment to ­focus and find my words and Monica advised me to wait a few moment before hopping into my car.

As for whether it has worked or not, I guess I won't know until the fateful day I have to stand up and give a public speech...I'll keep you posted Sun ­readers.

For more information call Ms Dobbie at 505-7531 or email her at or go to her website,

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