Date Published: Issue (Pages 81, 82, 84 and 87)
Publisher: Good Housekeeping Magazine
It took an hour to reach the Brooklyn office of hypnotist Roberta Temes, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor in the psychiatry department at Downstate Medical School. Ordinarily, I'd be restless. But now I welcomed the extra time to pinpoint the behavior I wanted Temes to help me change. I discarded kicking my fear of the dentist (I could only put it to use twice a year), my mammography anxiety (useful only once a year), and my tendency to holler at my children (they wouldn't recognize me). I finally settled on slowing down my speech, best classified as 78 rpm. Waiters often ask me to repeat my order; people I interview ask me to repeat my questions. When I'm nervous, the problem escalates. Using hypnosis to apply the brakes seemed a great plan.
But I was a little skeptical (does hypnosis really work?) and a little scared (what if hypnosis does work and what if my speech does slow down and what if it turns out that my rapid-fire talking is connected to my ability to complete in a day what it takes some to do in a week, and what if post-hypnosis I started moving, in the parlance of Winnie-the-Pooh, like day-old honey?). Worse - I'd seen too many movies - what if instead of speaking more slowly, I started barking every time I hear a certain word?
Once I arrived, Temes put me at ease before she tried to put me under. "You'll always be in control," she reassured me. "People think I can get them to rob a bank, but I'm simply a coach to help you get where you want to go."
Sometimes, getting there takes more than a single $200 session. "Many habits are eliminated in one visit, particularly simple ones like nail-biting," said Temes. "But others require two and maybe three visits." People can learn to hypnotize themselves, she added, but she prefers that a client meet with her first, record the session on audiotape, and play it back at home as a "booster."
Now on to the main event. Temes asked me if I'd like to lie down or sit (I chose an easy chair, my legs uncrossed, hands on the armrests) and whether I wanted to close my eyes or stare straight ahead. (I closed them). She then had me focus on a soothing image to shut out extraneous noise and thoughts. I chose a swimming pool.
Then Temes began counting to five, and at each count, to deepen the hypnosis, she had me focus on an additional detail of the pool - the scent of the air, the warmth of the water. "You'll speak slower. You'll be pleased with how you sound," she said, stretching out the "pleased." "You have good things to say, and people should hear all of them. Your friends will smile when they hear you because you are speaking more slowly. Your family will be happy."
Dutifully, I focused on the pool, on Temes's calm voice. I wanted to be a good subject - but I didn't feel hypnotized. Still, Temes had warned that I might feel absolutely normal, that my mind might be saying, This is a hoax. I'm not being hypnotized. "How you feel," she said, " has no correlation with the success of the session."
While the entire meeting took an hour, the hypnosis itself took only 20 minutes. When Temes invited me to open my eyes on the count of five, she cautioned me about standing too quickly, saying I might be unsteady.
"I don't think it worked," I said a bit guiltily. Temes thought otherwise, saying that my speech had slowed markedly. "You even look different," she said.
I wanted to believe her, and after leaving her office, I called a friend who had successfully used hypnosis to reduce her morning sickness.
"Am I speaking slowly?" I asked.
"Sorry, honey," she said.
I headed off to lunch with an editor. "You don't sound any different, but I like your haircut," he offered gallantly.
The final test: my husband. No soap. But he thought I should go back to Temes and try again. "If she can't get you to talk less quickly," he suggested hopefully, "maybe she can get you to talk less." - Joanne Kaufman
This is a four page article on hypnosis.
Auke Tellegen, Ph.D., emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis; Etzel Cardeña, Ph.D., chair of psychology and anthropology at the University of Texas-Pan American, in Edinburg.