As a young person I developed a passing interest in the art of hypnosis. I don’t recall much about the circumstances nor even the name of the performer, but a magician and hypnotist performed in El Dorado at the high school auditorium when I was a pre-teen, and I had a front row seat. I was fascinated by the many card tricks; the appearance and disappearance of birds and bunnies, but was especially captivated by the hypnotic feats he performed with a volunteer from the audience. I never discovered if the volunteer was randomly chosen, or if he was a performer who worked for the magician, but like most in the audience I assumed the former. While he was in a hypnotic state he was given certain commands to do unusual things he might not have otherwise done, particularly in front of a crowd. A few things I remember were his walking on all fours and barking like a dog and then begging for a bone. Before he was hypnotized the man did not appear to be an extrovert, and it didn’t seem like he was acting while barking and begging. The hypnotist said a person could not be given a hypnotic suggestion to perform a lethal act or do something which would be personally harmful. Who knows what calamities that might lead to? In the following months I was able to find and read a few articles about the hypnotic state, but because I wasn’t challenged by any friends to continue, I lost interest.
It was about a year later that my brother, Berry Lee (Bubba) and wife LaNell were in El Dorado for a brief visit during Bubba’s Christmas break from medical school. He began talking about a course he was taking on medical hypnosis offered as an elective by the Psychiatry department. My sister Marilyn and I had lots of questions, particularly on the medical indications and long-term effects a hypnotized person might have. Not surprisingly Bubba was well read on the subject, and it seemed to me he had enough knowledge to be considered expert on the subject. One of us asked the question, “What type of person is the best candidate to be put into a hypnotic state?” His answer was something like this, “The person must have lots of trust in the hypnotist and believe in his ability to hypnotize them. Now which one of you wants to try it?” Because he was looking at me I quickly said, “I’ll go first.” In reality I was so competitive, I didn’t want Marilyn to beat me to something good.
I don’t have clear recollection of what then occurred, but this I do remember; the doors to our large living room were closed, the curtains drawn and the room lights dimmed and the room was made very quiet. The only ones present were the 4 of us; Bubba, LaNell, Marilyn and me. Bubba’s voice was the only sound I heard and he spoke in a very hushed tone. I remember him telling me I must allow every muscle and joint to relax so I had no sensation of any impulse coming to me except the sound of his voice. I can recall the complete relaxation I was experiencing in that distraction-free environment, and that is all I remember. What occurred from this point forward, I was later told by Bubba and LaNell and it was confirmed by Marilyn.
While Bubba was inducing the hypnotic state in me, either LaNell or Marilyn had gone to the kitchen and retrieved a large white onion. When he believed I was ready to proceed, Bubba told me that he had the most delicious red apple he had ever seen and wanted me to eat as much of it as I wanted. When he handed me the onion, he said I quickly took a huge bite out of it and seemed to savor each crunch as I chewed and swallowed the juicy apple (onion). I believe he allowed me to take another large bite and I was in the process of chewing and swallowing that bite when he took the onion away from me. I suppose he couldn’t bear watching me eat the entire onion, while I was apparently enjoying it. When he awakened me from the hypnotic state, he showed me the onion and told me what I had done. I remember thinking, I don’t remember taking 2 bites from that onion, but the taste in my mouth confirmed it.
I don’t think Bubba had any other experiences with inducing a hypnotic state in an individual and certainly not in me. Perhaps he saw the ability one could have in affecting another’s behavior, even to the extent of doing something they would not choose to do. Medical hypnosis has been used for years for many varied things such as smoking cessation, weight loss, dealing with the pains of labor and delivery and treatment of all forms of phobia. When I worked for a short time in an industrial surgical clinic in New Orleans, one of the surgeons in that clinic was certified in medical hypnosis, and he treated patients with severe warts with hypnosis. He said his cure rate success was about 80-90%. I never saw him treat a patient in that manner during the 2 months I worked there. I personally prefer Huckleberry Finn’s treatment for warts. (You’ll have to look it up).
Over the last 40 + years I have not enjoyed raw onions on any food, thus I always ask the restaurant or my host to leave them off. Cathy knows that and doesn’t prepare a dish with raw onions for me. I can’t say for certain, but it may have something to do with that delicious apple I was devouring many years ago when Bubba made me stop!