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For as long as I can remember I've had a fear, a phobia, a terror that I can hardly mention. Please don't laugh, but my greatest fear is cats! But recent events left me wondering, could a hypnotherapist help? Isn't hypnosis just a magic trick? Can I even be hypnotised? Read on to find out…
I don't even like to talk about cats, really. Partly it's because just the thought of them brings me out in cold sweats, but it's also because a lot of people don't understand and think it's somehow ridiculous or amusing. But my fear of cats is very real and has affected my life on a fundamental level.
Some years ago I had an evening job working in a local pub. It was a job which I really enjoyed, but I had to leave because they got a cat. It also occurs to me now that the route I took to walk to and from this job was a slightly longer route than necessary. This was because of a cat that I had encountered, once, many years before, at a specific point along the route that would have been much more sensible.
Sometimes I find myself freaking out, seeing cats where there aren't any. I'll neurotically avoid visits to friends' houses if I know they have a cat, or even if I suspect there's one in a neighbouring house that might wander into their garden – that's pretty silly, isn't it?
Well, a few months ago a conversation with a formerly nicotine-addicted friend got me wondering if I could do something about it.
I knew she had stopped smoking after a visit to a hypnotist in Sudbury , but it hadn't occurred to me that the same hypnotherapist could help with phobias, or more specifically that he might help me with my fear of cats. Obviously I had heard that hypnotism can help with this sort of thing, but I never made the connection to my own fear.
So, after getting the phone number of the hypnotist from my friend, procrastinating for about a week, getting a lot of chores done that ‘absolutely must be done before I could possibly even think about making any phone calls', all the while thinking about cats without really meaning to, I eventually called.
I spoke directly with the hypnotist and we had a chat about my problem, and about what hypnosis is (and isn't), and about how hypnosis can help with all sorts of problematic behaviours and thought patterns, including phobias like mine.
Despite my difficulty talking about cats, I felt hugely reassured that it was entirely safe, not scary and might possibly even be quite an interesting experience. I was confident enough to make an appointment for the following week.
The hypnosis part sounded fascinating and I have to admit that I was even looking forward to it a little because I was assured it would be very pleasant and relaxing.
So the following week came around and as arranged I went to a small health food shop in Clare, a village just down the road from Sudbury , not far from where I live. The shop has a treatment room from which various visiting therapists work on different days – and on this particular day from which a hypnotist works.
I sat down, not knowing what to expect, but The Hypnotist (Benjamin) was warm and friendly and spent a few minutes explaining the process and making sure I had no questions.
It seems my preconceived ideas about hypnotism must be either entirely out dated or just plain wrong as there was no watches, no spirals and no need for looking deeply into anyone's eyes.
Benjamin then guided me through a serious of ‘imagination exercises' (as he called them) which left me feeling very relaxed and calm. Looking back on it now I realise that this was actually the start of the hypnosis, but it felt just like being really relaxed and comfortable. I mean REALLY relaxed and comfortable!
Then I was asked to imagine various sensations and scenarios. At one point I was imagining I had balloons tied around my wrist, and without any effort on my part my arm started lifting toward the ceiling. It was a very strange experience to be sure.
It's a little difficult to make a coherent narrative about what happened in the following half an hour, I was just too relaxed to completely pay attention to it, but we had a long conversation about various things, including cats and my feelings about them, trying to amplify and reduce certain feelings as we went.
The next thing I clearly remember is being told that I would wake up feeling great at the count of 5, and at the count of 5 I opened my eyes feeling great, as if awakening from the best night of sleep in my life!
We talked some more, mostly about cats, and I was asked to think of scenarios that would make me uncomfortable, but I was unable to think of any scenarios with any kind of negative feeling at all.
Once Benjamin was sure the hypnotism had worked he said that this session was over and that I had responded very well, so he didn't think more sessions were necessary, but I was welcome to come back for more sessions if I wanted to.
As arranged beforehand, on the way home I went to a friend's house. A good friend, but a friend whose house I had never been to before as she has a cat. As I approached her door I thought I should be nervous, but I just wasn't, in fact I felt calm and empowered.
I knocked on the door and was surprised that I still felt no apprehension. The thought occurred to me that she might answer the door with the cat, but the thought didn't bother me at all. My friend answered the door, without the cat, and I was enthusiastically ushered into her front room.
My friend left to get the cat, and I have to admit I felt a little lift in my heart rate, but this was the only point at which I felt any anxiety at all. When she returned with the cat in a large white cage I actually got a surge of excitement and I just felt great.
My friend put the cage down about 5 feet from me and asked how I felt. I started calming down from the excitement and was just feeling calm and relaxed.
After a few minutes, all excitement gone, I went right up to the cage. The cat sat placidly in the cage purring. My friend assured me that her cat was the nice sort; a sort I hadn't known existed until then. She opened the lid of the cage. Amazingly I still felt fine.
I reached in, without any fear and actually stroked the cat! A little over an hour before I couldn't even say the word cat without breaking out into a cold sweat, and her I was stroking one!
He let out a loud purr. I could hardly believe it. I simultaneously felt calm, overjoyed and entirely perplexed, partly at the change in my behaviour but also because I couldn't quite understand how I had ever thought this cute fluffy animal could be scary, it just seemed absurd!
I felt great for the rest of the day, kind of bouncy and uplifted, like nothing could spoil my mood, like I could do anything. I had finally conquered my fear, and now nothing could stop me – I'm even considering getting a cat…
…maybe that would be taking things a bit far, but like I say, I'm only considering it!
The Hypnotist mentioned in this article can be contacted via www.sudburyhypnosis.co.uk
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