I can’t remember if I did have nice nails at my semi-formal but probably not, because despite trying to quit the habit for over 10 years now, I haven’t been able to. It’s not that I don’t want to or I don’t have the encouragement (read: loving nagging) to do so, it’s just a habit that is so ingrained in my system that I can’t.
So, faced with a lifetime of self-hand-loathing I decided it was time to take action and to that end I visited … a hypnotherapist.
When I told people I was planning on doing so, I got 2 reactions. The girls all thought it was a great idea and were keen to see what I thought of it. The guys all made bad ‘clucking like a chicken’ gags. Hypnotherapy is of course, nothing like that. The idea behind it is to access a person’s subconscious and re-program it to reflect the changes a person wants to see in themselves. A lot of people try it to quit smoking, others for anxiety or depression. The process and the purpose may be different for each person but the concept is the same – persuasion of the subconscious to accept a different reality and thereby altering the outwards or visible behaviour or attitude.
There was none of this malarcky.
For me, it was about changing my daily routine. Picking my nails was part of my every day routine, just as much as getting out of bed, making breakfast or showering – all of which I do without much thought, because they’re mostly controlled by my subconscious. Picking my nails is like that. Because it is something I have done since I was a child, my subconscious has it on my list of daily to-dos, something to be done and crossed off, just like my morning shower. So the aim of my session was effectively to re-program my subconscious to cross the habit permanently off my daily list.
The offices of the Brisbane Hypnosis Centre were is an uninspiring building in Everton Park. First impressions when going in were worryingly new-age, with a very hushed receptionist, the scent of incense and orientalesque cushions. My therapist – let’s call her Anna - started by asked all about my habit; when I started, why I did it, when I did it, how it made me feel, why I wanted to stop, what I’m tried to stop it, etc. She then went into quite a detailed layman’s explanation of how the process of therapy should work.
After that, the real process of ‘hypnosis’ began. I got comfy in the huge, squidgy recliner, arms on the arm rests and neck straight and relaxed. Anna started by taking me through an imagination exercise, to relax and start activating the different parts of my brain. She then went into a long monologue in deep hushed tones, talking about letting go and release, telling me that when I’m in that picking-nails situation I will decide not to pick but instead will feel calm and confident and turn my attention to other matters, I will no longer feel the desire to pick, and so on. While this was happening, my body went into a state of hyper-relaxation, like it was falling asleep, suspended above all matter, or like I’d taken an amazing muscle relaxant.
Writing this even a day later, I’m not sure of just want she said. You’re not expected to listen to every word, rather let them be there, part of the experience that you are having, speaking to your subconscious. I did have occasional, clear conscious thoughts but I tried to banish them as much as possible. I do know that she very cleverly used the exact terms and phrases I had used myself to describe my habit, woven in between the tones of ‘floating away’. She also talked about how I would feel in a month’s time looking at my beautiful long nails and about feeling calm and confident. It was all terribly life affirming.
The cynical side of my brain wanted to stay awake through it all – all that hypno mumbo-jumbo, ha didn’t work on me! But if you go in with that attitude of course it isn’t going to work. I have to believe it’s going to work on some level because otherwise it’s guaranteed to fail.
Walking out of the office, I DID feel calm and confident and that feeling is still here the next day. I have gone to pick at my nails once or twice I confess, when I’m distracted by other matters, but each time I’ve stopped myself. I may need to go back for another session or two but I feel very positive about the whole experience. And you never know, maybe in a month’s time I will be glancing down at my lovely nails and thinking how good they look.