Travel: A voyage to inner space - Travel - The Independent

Travel: A voyage to inner space

You don't have to travel far to take a trip into your subconscious. Jasper Winn is feeling sleepy ...

ypnosis is fascinating to even the most down-to-earth of people. Which is pretty much its definition: entering the imaginative and animal world of the subconscious with your rational mind. And while you're down there, leave a few useful instructions to be absorbed into your psychic make-up: "I am a confident, polyglot, non-smoker," perhaps. Or, if the victim of dodgy stage mesmerics: "I am a ukulele-playing chicken."

Hypnotherapist Jon Atkinson works at the serious end of the hypnosis spectrum. At his practice in Surrey he gives one-to-one hypnotic cures for addictions, personality disorders and medical problems. But he also runs intensive, weekend-long courses in self-hypnosis, because he believes that hypnosis should be about "enhancing your life rather than just putting things right". He also thinks that hypnosis should be fun - or is that just because he sounds like Eddie Izzard with an agenda?

"I'm going to teach you how to go into self-hypnosis safely, and then I'll give you two programmes; input them into your subconscious; one for instant deep relaxation, and another that allows you to "load" your own hypnotic 'suggestions'. They'll work in your everyday life." Jon was addressing 16 of us on a Friday evening at the start of his course at London's Imperial College.

"Firstly, I don't need to know why any of you are on this course, or what you want to do with self-hypnosis. I'm just going to give you a set of tools that you can then use for whatever you want." But if we didn't have to actually confess what aspect of our lives we wanted to change, it was easy to make some educated guesses as to the motivations of a few of us. The trio disappearing for regular fags in the corridor, the guy whose foot tapped a soft but regular 120 beats per minute, the two visibly pregnant women. Giving up cigarettes, relaxing and painless childbirth were high on the group's wish-list.

And me? Well, a chronically late, forgetful and disorganised acquaintance had taken a similar course. Meeting me some weeks afterwards (on time and remembering my name) she likened self-hypnosis to obedience training for the mind, turning one's subconscious from a good-natured but romping puppy into a house-trained, fetch-on-command best friend. Optimistically, I hoped that some neural switch might be thrown to let me learn languages with a single read-through of advanced course textbooks.

Jon's introduction was full of promise. "You can use self-hypnosis to improve every aspect of your lives. Throw away your alarm clocks and just jump out of bed at the right time, and feeling great as well. If you play a sport you can really improve your performance and co-ordination. And it can be fantastic for your sex life." Around the group people were mentally upping their ambitions from merely losing weight or giving up cigarettes. Jon was ticking off ideas on his fingers: "You can distort time - make it go faster or slower - which is great for travelling, no more jet lag - and you can stop pain, even bleeding, instantly. And you'll be able to remember things." Jon had known each of our names from the very start and never got them wrong.

But enough of the travelogue. It was time to take the trip. We lay down, the lights were doused and pleasant music treacled over us. Jon moved around the room while his voice conjured images suggesting the sensations of going down and deeper. It was relaxing, but I still felt disturbingly conscious and rudely analytical. So I clearly heard Jon commanding us to come in well before the 10am start the next morning. I gave a wry, relaxed smile at this simplistic manipulation, confident that my five- minutes-late-for-everything-in-life record would remain unbroken. After five or six minutes we were counted back from our first experience of hypnotic trance. But the clock showed that more than 20 minutes had passed. And the next morning I was back in the room at 9.40am, wearing a puzzled expression. The last straggler arrived a minute before 10.

This kind of thing was helping me believe that hypnosis might work. Saturday was a 12-hour session. There were more low lights, more tinkly tunes, and deeper levels of relaxation, less foot tapping and fewer cigarette breaks. We also had to learn the lengthy formulae we needed for accessing self-hypnosis safely, ensuring we were immune from outside influences while in deep trance, and bringing ourselves out of the trance at any time.

There was more group hypnosis with its weird distortion of time. And then the essential, "hypnotic suggestion" writing lessons. This was what we needed to know to be able to put our own programmes - better tennis, better sex, a better memory for Spanish verbs - into the right words to be loaded into our hypnotic software. "You have to be careful - this is very literal, so be exact about what you want and vague about how you make it happen. Lots of positive words, nothing negative."

By the Sunday, nearly everybody else had advanced, while in deep hypnosis, to allowing their subconscious to lift their arms "as if tied to balloons". The darkened room became a forest of gently swaying arms stretching skywards from recumbent bodies. Mine remained firmly earthbound. Then I suddenly felt the slightest tug at my arm - as soon as I thought about it the feeling stopped, then a minute or two later another little tug. It seemed when I dipped down into my subconscious, the arm was free to rise; conscious thought stopped it. My rising arm became a depth gauge, charting my dives into the depths of my own mind. I was ready for my first "solo dive", using what I'd learnt to take myself into hypnosis.

By now we had all fixed on our chosen "deepening" image - swimming fish and soaring birds were popular. Pete, a down-to-earth Londoner, described his flying sheep in bizarre detail. I had gone the lying-in-summer-grass- with-bird-song route. Without Jon's voice to guide and control us, dependent on our internal flight checks and psychological spells, we all managed to take ourselves into deep hypnosis, but I still felt my deep trances were basically fake. And so, in my first act of self-induced hypnosis I floundered like a travel writer; observing, taking notes and waiting to be amazed.

Hypnosis is all about belief in hypnosis. Jon knew that we still needed tangible proof that we had entered some new and powerful state. He handed each of us a sterilised, nappy-sized safety pin. We soared, swam or lazed our way back into deep hypnosis, and programmed ourselves to neither feel pain nor bleed, to enjoy the coming experience. Which was Jon coming around and with a fair bit of force pushing each person's pin through a hefty pinch of flesh. I watched my arm being pierced in a happy, disengaged sort of way. This was my conversion - whatever hypnosis was, I could do it.

And since the course? Well, I've programmed suggestions for all kinds of things. A memory for names, (worked); an ability to meet deadlines, (sort of worked); the annihilation of an incipient cold, (two days of snivelling, but how long without hypnosis?); a number of purely personal ambitions, (nobody but me will ever know how they worked). And the instant relaxation programme has become an addiction. Like a spell, the "access phrase" can give me a flopped-out trance as cool and refreshing as an ocean swim off a tropical beach. It sure beats acting like a ukulele-playing chicken.

SELF-HYPNOSIS

COURSES

Jonathan Atkinson D.Hyp. C.Hyp. CMH runs self-hypnosis courses at London's Imperial College. Courses include 25 hours of tuition (Friday 7pm to 10pm, Saturday 10am to 10pm, Sunday 10am to 8pm). Upcoming course dates: 26- 28 February, 23-25 April, 28-30 May. Course fee pounds 293.75, including manual, course hand-outs, post-course support network, free refresher courses. Details from Jonathan Atkinson Life Force Courses, 15 Lower Haslemere Street, Surrey GU27 2NY (tel: 01428 644712).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week