Casebook - A question of memory

Casebook – A question of memory

Every month for the last five years I’ve written about an issue that I’ve helped people with. That might be to helping them to stop doing something, like smoking. Or it might be to help them start to do something that they were previously afraid of, like flying. This month though I thought I’d write about one of the requests I’ve had to refuse, about someone’s memory.

I was asked by a woman if I could hypnotise her husband. Normally when people ring and ask about their partners seeing me it’s about a habit or a phobia that’s driving them mad. On this occasion though it wasn’t a habit or a phobia, and their partner didn’t even know anything about it.

What the woman wanted was for me to hypnotise her husband, and if possible without him knowing. I told her straightaway that I wasn’t prepared to do that, as everything I do is with the informed consent of the person involved.

I was concerned as well about why they didn’t want their partner to know that they were being hypnotised. Was he scared of being hypnotised, as some people are, because he thought that he would be completely suggestible? It isn’t the case at all, but it’s still a very common belief about hypnosis.

She asked if I’d be prepared to hypnotise her husband if she could get him to give his consent. I explained again that his consent to be hypnotised was only part of the question. The other part was what he wanted to be hypnotised for.
It was then she told me that she wanted to question her husband about a suspected affair two years ago. He’d repeatedly denied it, but she remained suspicious, and she’d been told that hypnosis made people unable to lie and unable to not answer a question. I tried to explain that they are both myths, and that being hypnotised isn’t like being given a truth drug.

What, she asked me, if I would ask the questions in her presence while she observed? There were dates when he said he couldn’t remember what he was doing, and she wanted to uncover the truth. I had to explain to her again that it wasn’t who asked the questions, or how they are asked. It’s about how our memory and our mind works, and being hypnotised being completely unsuitable for what she wanted to achieve.

What was particularly sad about this request was that the woman making it was so unhappy. Her suspicions were a real cause of anguish for her. I tried to help her see that hypnosis wasn’t the way to resolve them, but she refused to even consider seeing the other people I knew were in a better position to help her. Sadly I think that she may be struggling with those suspicions for some time.

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