From Iceland — Descending Into Hypnosis

Descending Into Hypnosis
Photo by
Art Bicnick

A Hypnotherapy Session With Magician/Hypnotist Jón Víðis

“This is by no means a magic solution,” is the first thing Jón Víðis says when we sit down to discuss his hypnotherapy career. “Raise your hand,” he told me. I raised my hand. “Jump out the window.” Suffice to say, I did not jump. “Why didn’t you do that?” Because I don’t want to, I replied. “Precisely. Hypnotherapy is based on what you want. I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to.” I feel compelled to emphasise this point, as while hypnotism can be beneficial in certain circumstances, it does not work for everyone or for any type of ailment.

Jón Víðis has occupied my mind, rent-free, since the moment I saw his yellow-page ads as a kid. Stooped over my kitchen table as I shoved Coco Puffs into my face, Jón Víðis’ picture bore the caption: “Do you want to stop smoking? Jón Víðis can help you.”

Straight out of a P.T. Barnum show

I guess the main reason for my fascination with this hypnotist is his striking appearance. Short in stature, with a glorious moustache extending out over his cherubic cheeks with a flourish. During our session, he frequently asked me whether his moustache wasn’t alright. If you’d given him a top hat, he’d look straight out of a P.T. Barnum sideshow.

Photo by Art Bicnick

That reference isn’t too far off, as Jón Víðis also works as a professional magician. “I started out as a magician. I thought [hypnotism] was a clever thing to add to my shows,” he tells me. “I was surprised to find out that it actually works to help people. I’ve lost thirty kilos with the help of hypnotism.”

Very real weight loss is a common testimonial of people who undergo what’s called a virtual gastro band hypnosis – a method which makes people imagine a band wrapped around their abdomen and a service Jón offers. No actual surgery is involved, it’s just a way to get people to eat less. An important note to make is that a pilot study funded by the University of Hull found no significant difference in virtual gastro band hypnotherapy and conventional relaxation therapy accompanied by a self-directed diet. But I digress.

Hypnotherapy explained

So, having pitched the idea to my editor and been given a green light to book a hypnosis session, I hopped on a bus to Jón’s office. Located in Stórhöfði, his place of work has a picturesque view over Grafarvogur. The issue I wanted help with was nail-biting. Although I had gone back and forth between choosing to tackle my affliction of nail-biting and sugar-craving, I finally went with the former. Jón was fine pivoting on a short notice.

“I am now speaking to the core of Jóhannes. Can Jóhannes’ core tell me if it wants to communicate?”

“Have you ever been hypnotised?” he asked me. No. “Have you ever fallen asleep?” This is a rhetorical question. “You’ve been in a state of hypnosis every day of your life, twice a day. Between the moment you fall asleep and when you wake up.” It turns out, hypnosis is essentially like being between sleep and wakefulness. It’s basically a legitimate form of therapy which aims to alter the habits of the patient. Hypnosis only works if the patient is willing to participate in it and believes the methods will work. I wasn’t necessarily sceptical, I just had no idea what it was all about.

Photo by Art Bicnick

The hypnosis begins

During my descent into hypnosis, my head spun and I felt my eyes fluttering.

First, Jón gave me the rundown of how it all worked. He talked about the conscious and subconscious mind, and how the subconscious managed to compartmentalise memories as well as physical and mental responses. Jón was adamant in making sure his explanation of the mind made sense to me. If it didn’t, he’d just use another analogy. “It’s all based on your imagination,” he stated. “During hypnosis, you’re more receptive to suggestions of change. We use that state to alter patterns of behaviour.”

Informed of Jón’s methods, I proceeded to get comfortable in his huge, black armchair. I was to focus on one point in the room and listen to Jón’s voice. Closing my eyes on the hypnotist’s cue, Jón went through his hypnotism script. “You begin to feel heavier and heavier,” was one of the vocal cues.

“You enter a house.” I imagined that of my grandmother.

“You see a staircase leading down and with every step you take, you start to feel relaxed.”

My grandmother’s place didn’t have a staircase leading down, so the story needed some heavy lifting from my imagination. However, I managed to relax and during my descent into hypnosis, my head spun and I felt my eyes fluttering, sort of like a REM episode.

Jón started communicating with what’s called ‘the core’ within me. “I am now speaking to the core of Jóhannes. Can Jóhannes’ core tell me if it wants to communicate?”

A giant whiteboard occupied my mind – it spelt the letters ‘Y-E-S’ and continued to relay messages to Jón. This went on for a while until Jón waked me out of my stupor.

Getting the results

Before Jón had played his Jedi mind tricks on me, he asked me if I was afraid of heights. To be honest I don’t find heights particularly scary, but sure, in some cases I feel discomfort. Jón asked me to walk to his office window, which was situated a good 10 metres from the ground below. “How do you feel?” I told him I didn’t feel at ease, which was the truth. “What I’m looking for is something that can verify if this works,” he said. During the course of our session, he hypnotised me into not being afraid of heights. After our session, we repeated the walk towards the window. I didn’t feel the same level of discomfort.

It seemed like the therapy worked.

However, I didn’t feel as if it resolved my nail-biting habit, as a few days later I caught myself doing it. Although, Jón did warn me that it might take a few sessions to eliminate the quirk entirely.

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