DOES IT REALLY WORK?
Article by Rebecca Stalley
Published in Marie Claire magazine, February 2002
This month: Interactive hypnotherapy to cure blushing.
Initially apprehensive about hypnosis -- would she be put in a trance and made to do things she'd normally never dream of? -- Rebecca Stalley decided to find out whether hypnotherapy really could cure her shyness and spare her blushes.
Interactive hypnotherapy is described as a mind detox. By asking a series of questions, the therapist takes you back into your past to find the root of a particular problem -- in this case, blushing -- then helps you find ways to combat it. For best results, three to five sessions are recommended.
Most people leave blushing behind -- along with crushes and Clearasil -- in their teens, but, at 23, I still turn beetroot when slightly embarrassed. Last week, when asked at a work lunch to describe my job to a group of women I hardly knew, no amount of Chanel foundation could have hidden my rosy cheeks. I always blush during job interviews and even when asked simple questions about my boyfriend. So when I heard that hypnotherapy had helped hundreds of shy girls like me, I pushed aside my negative notions of hypnosis -- formed largely by watching TV hypnotist Paul McKenna making people do wacky things -- and decided to give it a try.
I was extremely apprehensive before my first appointment, convinced that the hypnotherapist, Deborah Marshall-Warren, would put me in a trance from which I'd never awake. But she assured me that being hypnotised isn't at all scary. She explained that the aim wasn't to dredge up deep, dark secrets from my childhood, but to find out why I felt uncomfortable in certain situations and to deal with the problem. I asked if she would swing a watch in front of me, while saying, 'You're getting sleepy, veeery sleepy,' and she laughed. She explained that interactive hypnotherapy is nothing like what you see on TV -- she wouldn't be in control, I would.
After a consultation in Deborah's cosy front room, I lay back on the chair and she instructed me to close my eyes. She told me to picture a shell dropping into water in slow motion, then to visualise ripples, fish and sun filtering through the water. She told me that I was falling into a deeper and deeper state of relaxation. But, to be honest, I felt about as relaxed as I did on the Oblivion rollercoaster at Alton Towers. Then, she started asking ridiculous questions like, 'Are you there, subconscious?' When she finally said, 'Hello confidence,' I had to stifle a laugh. It began to make a little more sense when she told me to imagine a younger 'Becky' talking to a wiser 'Becky', and then she asked me to go back in time to my first memory of going red.
On the whole, the experience was neither relaxing nor enjoyable. In fact, far from feeling sleepy, I was wide awake throughout. When my time was up, Dedborah told me that it's normal to find hypnotherapy strange at first, and gave me a CD on which she asks the same questions (with music in the background) for home-listening -- 'to facilitate the next session'.
Perhaps the CD helped, because my next three visits were much more productive. The questions didn't seem as silly and I was able to answer them without laughing. I still didn't go into trance, but Deborah said that this wasn't necessary. After the second session, I felt relaxed and positive. She had helped me understand why I felt shy and rationalise why I should be more confident. On my journey back to work, I remember thinking to my myself, 'Don't worry about anything. There's no point.' I was even looking forward to assessing my progress -- would I still blush when my boss asked me a tricky question? The real test came when I met some of my boyfriend's elderly relatives for the first time at a Sunday lunch. He'd warned me that they could be difficult. Normally, this type of situation would have reduced me to a red-faced wreck, but even when they commented on my denim miniskirt, I remained unfazed. I did get a little hot and lobster-like when they started quizzing me about our living together, but who wouldn't?
After two further sessions, I felt considerably more self-assured -- many of my friends commented on how 'chilled' I seemed -- and when I had to speak on a course in front of a large group, I remained calm and didn't blush at all. What a result!
A WEEK LATER
Although I still blush from time to time, it's definitely a rare occurrence. The most positive impact of the therapy is that I feel more relaxed and able to cope with awkward situations.