Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, you are feeling veeeeery sleepy…..I decided to have some hypnotherapy sessions recently to conquer my fear of removing my scuba mask underwater. My brain mistakenly believes that if I remove my scuba mask whilst underwater I will die. No half way house, no ‘I may be uncomfortable but I will survive’. Nope, my brain believes no mask will result in sudden death. My brain took great pleasure in showing me exactly how it will react when my mask is removed during my latest scuba diving holiday. I had planned to practice removing my mask to become more comfortable with it on this holiday and with a very dear friend of mine. For those of you that have followed my blog, you will know I am moving overseas in 43 sleeps and part of my plan is to qualify as a scuba diving instructor. I want and need to get comfortable diving without my mask on and, being me, I am going completely over the top with preparations rather than just trusting it will be okay on the day. I have already spent a day in a pool with my old instructor practicing taking my mask off and that went well. I have sat in the bath and filled my mask with water from my pink elephant watering can whilst I relaxed with the bubbles and that went well. I survived; I definitely didn’t die suddenly on either occasion. My brain now believes that being underwater in a swimming pool or bath and removing my mask is not a problem. But the ocean…..whoa that is entirely different apparently.
My diving holiday mask moment went something like this. My dear friend and I went diving, the scenery was stunning and we had great visibility. We went deep and I got narked almost immediately – for those of you that don’t dive, it is a condition that leaves you feeling quite ‘drunk’ underwater and it isn’t particularly conducive to diving well and safely. I was narked and quite frankly couldn’t have cared less if I sank to the bottom of the ocean. I was giggling away to myself, could hear music in my ears and really had very little idea of what I was doing. We went shallow to ease the symptoms and pottered about looking at the beautiful reef and did our safety stop at the end of the dive. I was feeling tired by this point from being narked and my friend kept making me laugh with various underwater impressions from films we have watched together. Some things just make me giggle and I couldn’t stop laughing and flooding my mask with water. In the end I had to face away from said friend so I could regain some form of control and sort my mask out. I must have been confused from laughing so much, as I turned towards him and thought he gestured for me to try taking my mask off. He knows all about my mask fear.
I was feeling brave, I could do this, I could so do this. I whipped my mask off and looked straight at him. For a fraction of a second it was all good, I had done it, I had actually not died from taking my mask off in the ocean. And then it all went wrong. I panicked; oh I panicked and looked like such a chump. My poor friend had hold of me at the waist as I hyperventilated. I kicked like an angry child who’d had her sweets taken away, looked at him pleadingly (at least I think it was pleading, maybe it just looked like insanity?) and wheeled my arms around as I tried to explain to him in sign language that I was going to die, I had no mask on. Sudden death would occur if I was not removed from the water at that very moment. Being the lovely calm chap that he is he didn’t let go of me as I bolted for the surface. Not that I noticed or cared. I was so far beyond reason it was ridiculous. We made it to the surface, I cried. We made it back to the boat; I cried again. He tried to reassure me it was no big deal. I cried some more and, in a high pitched unintelligible voice that sounded somewhat like a seal, I stated I was going to be the worst diving instructor ever. Ever. Another friend then wandered over and asked if it was a good dive, I cried some more and resumed the high pitched seal impression. I am an ADULT….seriously not cool. I think I failed to mention that my dear friend that I was diving with is someone that I, well, how can I put this? Oh let me be honest…I would like him to think I am awesome, cool, gorgeous, intelligent, basically one super cool chick that he would like to have in his life. Evidently after that performance he is more likely to think I am demented and insane. And sadly he will be reminded of that if he reads this. Also, it turns out he wasn’t gesturing for me to take my mask off underwater at all anyway. Marvellous.
I don’t particularly want to go through that kind of embarrassment again, so I am pursuing any means possible to get over my fear and have booked myself onto a course of hypnotherapy. I genuinely believe that my mask fear and my willingness to understand and overcome it will give me compassion and make me a great scuba diving instructor in due course. Come the day I have a nervous student who can’t get their head underwater, who has a panic and a wobble of confidence at times, I will be able to help them through it to achieve their dream of becoming a diver. I am hopeful that hypnotherapy will be an incredible experience I can share with my students. And so far it has been just that.
I was so nervous when I went for my first introductory ‘chat’ and I sat there meekly on the chair hoping she couldn’t read my mind and that I wouldn’t blurt out too much information. To be honest, I was expecting the therapist to look like Mystic Meg and have the voice of Alice In Wonderland’s Caterpillar ‘Whooo…are….you?’ I expected to be made to look into her eyes, cluck like a chicken when commanded to do so and then be back in the room in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. She was actually a normal person, there was no looking into eyes and I have not yet clucked like a chicken. What I have done is spend an incredible couple of sessions learning all about fear management, how to reduce anxiety (Lordy knows I need to master that one) and have had a kip on a comfy couch and retrained my brain in the process. I discovered that I am totally aware of everything my therapist says when I am lying on the couch and the sessions appear to work. I haven’t yet delved too deeply into my mask fear, as she is easing me into this gently. However I do feel relaxed, calm and can visualise removing my mask underwater without my pulse going through the roof. That is a good start.
The part that is baffling me though is the appropriate etiquette for when one is being hypnotised. How am I supposed to behave when being stared at whilst lying on a couch? How should I look? What should I do? Being stared at is generally un-nerving for most people and I am not a fan of letting anyone ever see me sleep (in case I dribble a lot). As such, I find this situation quite difficult and way outside of my comfort zone. I just can’t figure out what I should be doing. I have given this a lot of thought and have taken to spending a large portion of my time on the couch trying desperately to keep still and to ‘look’ hypnotised. Yes, that is correct, I try and look hypnotised as I don’t want my therapist to think I am doing it wrong. It is ridiculous. So far I find my right leg has a mind of its own every time I am on the couch and I fight a weekly battle to try and stop it from lashing out at my therapist as she tells me to relax. Apparently involuntary twitching is normal when under hypnosis. Still, kicking her in the face would seem excessive. I also worry that if my breathing speeds up she will think I am coming ‘out’ of being hypnotised. To combat this problem, I have started holding my breath for as long as possible so that I look like I am breathing slowly due to being so relaxed. The only trouble is that I then feel a bit short on air at times, my heart starts racing and I need to suck great lungs of air in surreptitiously. Not easy to get away with in a silent room when you are trying to look appropriate. Oh, I also don’t dare swallow either in case that isn’t supposed to happen – which doesn’t help with trying to prevent dribbling. An hour is a long time not to swallow…After going through this malarkey for what seems like ages every session I usually give in and relax from sheer exhaustion. I can’t help wondering that if I relaxed sooner it may be even more beneficial.
But on the other hand, what if I relax too much and let out an almighty fart? Then I really will need therapy.