Does hypnosis deserve the hype?
By Samantha Delaney – March 30, 2011
I’m stretched out in a reclining chair with my eyes closed. Your eyelids are getting heavy. They’re so heavy that you can’t even open your eyes. Go ahead, try to open them. I tried, but I couldn’t open my eyes. Or, I thought, maybe I’m not trying hard enough because I really want this to work. I’m still not sure. It’s a sunny afternoon in Bedford, and I’m being hypnotized by Ken Penrose. I ended up here by talking to Halifax hippies. They told me that the reason I’m so messed up is because of traumas I endured in past lives. Memories of these tragedies are stored deep within my subconscious, and in order to fix all of my anxious tendencies, I needed to dig up these memories from beyond the grave… with hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a trance-like state, similar to daydreaming or becoming engrossed in a movie. It allows direct access to the subconscious mind. It sounds freaky, but “there’s nothing spectacular or magical about hypnosis,” says Mike Lalonde, a Halifax-based hyponotist. Lalonde says people are afraid of hypnosis because they don’t know what it is, but “it really is a natural state.” Lalonde explained the relationship between the conscious and subconscious to me in this way: the conscious mind is like a soldier – its job is to protect you. The unconscious is like a child – creative and uninhibited, but also gullible. That’s why you can convince a hypnotized person that they can fly. “But your conscious is always paying attention to some degree,” says Lalonde. This ensures that when you come out of hypnosis, you won’t jump out of a window. Lalonde doesn’t believe in past lives, but believes that pastlife regression can be a useful tool, as it can “give you a healthier understanding of yourself.” Lalonde believes that what people refer to as past lives are simply stories created by the subconscious as a way to help release baggage or tell people something they need to know. “It’s your incredible, wonderful, beautiful mind giving you some information that can and will make a difference in how you see yourself now,” says Lalonde. He says it relieved the back pain of one of his clients. She discovered that she was once a soldier in the American Civil War who got shot in the back. She woke up back-pain-free. But Penrose does believe in past lives. He says it’s just too much work for the mind to make up all those stories.
In many of his own past lives, he says he was a woman, which is why he’s so comfortable working with his largely female clientele. Sitting in Penrose’s living room before my session, I filled out a client information form, then read his code of ethics: “1. The client experiences the journey in a kind, safe and trusting environment. 2. Soul permission is asked before embarking on the journey.” I read on. There was a disclaimer: “Ethical Past Life Regression Journeys are the experience of the client and in no way reflect the thoughts, feelings, or channelling of the facilitator.” After a few minutes of talking and counting me into a hypnotic state (I felt relaxed, but totally awake and aware), Penrose instructed me to choose a past life and describe what I saw. I was standing in the muddy grass, wearing a white apron over a long heavy brown dress. It was hot. It felt like I was just making stuff up. Penrose would ask a question and I’d answer with whatever popped into my mind. “What’s your name?” “Ann.” “What are you wearing on your feet?” “Sandals.” “Where do you live?” For some of the questions I just drew a blank. In the hour-long session, we found out I was a peasant woman, likely living sometime in the eighteenth century, who married young because it was the societal norm. My boring, abusive husband left me when our child died shortly after birth. I lived alone for a while, working on a nearby farm. Then I met a lovely widower, Charles, and his 10-year old son Matthew. We lived happily until I died in a tragic and unexpected farming accident. The best part of the session was Penrose asking me to give advice to my past self and for my past self to give me advice. The moral of the story was essentially ‘ignore the town’s people’. Don’t get married because you think you have to. Realize that you have other options. Life isn’t a chore, and it can even be fun. I did shed a few tears during the session, but I’m just emotional like that. Was any of it true? Maybe. Was I just making it up? Probably. Sixty dollars well spent? Of the Watch’s money, absolutely.