This past weekend, April 11-14, I had the extraordinary opportunity of participating in the “Basic Workshop: Fundamentals of Hypnosis” at the San Diego regional workshop sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH).
I learned from presentations by knowledgeable and personable faculty, practiced with a fantastic group to (finally) begin developing my skills in hypnosis, volunteered as the subject in a demonstration, and met some great colleagues from a range of mental and physical health care disciplines. On Sunday, one of my workshop-mates, a chiropractor named Dennis, related a story that I hope he won’t mind me sharing here, as best I can:
Dennis told our fellow Basic attendees how he’d been talking to the hotel staff setting up our breakfast when they indicated one of our meeting rooms and asked him, “Do you really understand what they’re talking about in there?” Dennis chuckled and told them he didn’t, not really, but then paused, thought, and said, “Well, it’s like this:
“There’s this scrawny, starving cat, pacing back and forth, looking for something to eat. Down a ways, in the wall, the cat sees a deep dark hole and goes to check it out when whhhht! – something runs by the hole on the other side of the wall. The cat, surprised, stops and watches, wondering if the movement is something edible. Whhhht! There it goes again. So the cat reaches a paw into the hole and blindly bats around, but isn’t able to find anything. Retreating a bit, the cat sits and waits.
“Whhhht! And the cat’s stomach growls, reminding him how hungry he is. So the cat musters up his courage and sticks his head into the dark hole, then wriggles in his front paws and shoulders. When his eyes adjust – which never takes long for a cat, the dark being part of their native habitat – he sees no living prey, but there are some balls of cheese scattered around. This cat is so hungry, he takes a chance and licks at the cheese. Then nibbles it. Then eats it. And when all the cheese he can find is gone, the cat wriggles back out of the hole and goes on his way, satisfied.
“And I,” said Dennis, “am that cat.”
Now, I have to laugh – not because of Dennis’s story, but because as I’m composing this post, WordPress is parsing my words through some algorithm and suggesting possible accompanying images from their media gallery. One that caught my attention is just strident text: “Hypnosis can change your life”, which is absolutely true – but not only for the subject. I was leaving the workshop for the final time on Sunday afternoon, completely lost in thought as my feet retraced the now-familiar route between the hotel that had hosted us and the one that had housed me, and I noticed a difference in the quality of the light, in the feel of the air around me, in the way I was hearing my environment. And my mind tossed a thought into the path of my conscious attention: “There’s no turning back now!” I chuckled delightedly at that, knowing in that moment that although I’ve barely started this training journey, I’m already too far in the hole – too intrigued, too hungry for more, and definitely not satisfied by a few balls of cheese (although they made a great appetizer).
It was perhaps an hour later, on the freeway home, that it finally hit me how absurd that thought actually was. As I told a few people at the workshop – never failing to spark a mildly astonished expression – hypnosis (despite the inaccurate way I understood it at the time) has fascinated me since I was 6 or 7 years old. My understanding of the concept has naturally changed over the intervening years, but turning back? Never an option. I recognize now that I’ve always been on this road to learning hypnosis (and if you’ve read my About sections, you know I’ve done some study already); this weekend, by getting me to start finally practicing, just shifted everything into a higher gear.
I’m grateful that my road eventually led towards a career path that enables me to train with ASCH, because I felt at home this weekend. In their understanding and teaching of hypnosis, in their personalities and humor, in so many ways – I’ve found “my people”. So I’d like to send an enthusiastic THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this workshop the amazing experience it was for me:
- Emma Leighton, ASCH’s admin superhero, who not only organized everything and kept us ducks in our rows, but astounded me by asking for the last name of each of the 70-some attendees as they checked in and, with just that, remembering their first names.
- Dr. Laurence Sugarman, workshop director and a wonderfully engaging, funny, and approachable presenter (who also “let” me volunteer as his demo subject on Saturday; an experience I’ll remember a long time).
- Norma and Phil Barretta, who graciously shared their combined years of experience and metaphor in a no-nonsense, entertaining manner.
- “The three Davids”: Drs. Paperny, Patterson, and Wark, who each accepted the challenge of delivering too much knowledge in too little time.
- An extra and special expression of gratitude for the faculty who guided my practice group’s experiential work and provided such excellent feedback: Delle Jacobs, Laurence Sugarman, Norma Barretta, and David Paperny.
- And, of course, my practice groupmates, who all ventured through the hands-on work with me as we sometimes fell flat on our faces (but at least headed the right direction!): Lillian, Whitney, Gretchen, Vee, Joel, and Ken.
I’d like to write more posts about the workshop as I process the experience, but I’m also in the final two weeks of my graduate school program (no, I can’t believe it, either!), so have other work to do. Stay tuned and let’s see what happens.