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Today is October 4, 2022

Grin 'n' Bare It

Yes, Mississippi, I have been hypnotized

Kay Grafe
Kay Grafe

    When you hear the word hypnosis, what comes to mind?
    If you’re like many people, the word may call up images of a movie where a male actor swings a pocket watch in front of a female actress. She drops her head as if falling into a deep sleep.
    Movies or television may have convinced you that if a person has been hypnotized, he or she will carry out all commands given by the hypnotist. These commands are usually sinister, only to create enhanced interest in the film. It certainly created interest, but a person under hypnosis will not carry out suggestions that are sinister or immoral.
    Real hypnosis bears little resemblance to these stereotyped images. According to research, the hypnotist doesn’t hypnotize the individual. Rather, he serves as a coach whose job is to help the person become hypnotized. It’s often described as a sleep-like trance but is better characterized by “focused attention and heightened suggestibility.”
    The term hypnosis comes from the Greek work hypnos, which means sleep. James Braid, a Scottish surgeon, coined it “sleep” in the first book on the subject, written in 1841.
    Braid based his book on a practice developed by Franz Mesmer. “Mesmerism” is derived from his name and is also called hypnotism in the dictionary.
    Old friends already know where this column is headed. They have heard it many times. “Are you bringing up your hypnosis story again?”
    Well, yes, I am. February never fails to take me back to a February years ago when Dawn, our first daughter, was born while I was under hypnosis. April also takes me back to when Babette, our second daughter, was born while I was under hypnosis, five years later.
    I could write a book on the circumstances that took me down the road to choosing hypnosis over anesthesia, and the outcome, but this publication isn’t the venue for such an undertaking.
    So this is my story.
    When Mr. Roy and I were married and he was in the army, we were stationed at Pine Bluff Arsenal, near Pine Bluff, Ark. After two months I was not feeling well, so I went to the doctor on the base. He gave me a “rabbit test.” Surely some of you remember that name. The test was positive, which meant I was pregnant.
    I was very young and frightened about taking anesthesia. My reason for the panic was simple: I had surgery when I was in high school and had a bad experience with anesthesia.
    Dr. Grade explained to Mr. Roy and me that he had been using hypnosis for several years and thought it would work on me. He wanted both of us to come to his office every three weeks and practice until time for delivery.
    OK. This is how it worked. I sat in a chair next to Mr. Roy. Dr. Grade began by having me close my eyes and relax. Then he told me to think of something happy and concentrate very hard. He began counting backwards from 10, slowly using a monotone voice. Between the numbers he said things like, “You are going deeper and deeper into a wonderful state of relaxation. So when I reach number one, you will be completely at rest with no worries.”
    Dr. Grade talked continually. When he reached one, he asked, “Are you happy and rested?”
    I was alert and responsive during the sessions when I was under hypnosis. He said to prove I was hypnotized, he would prick my index finger with a pin, but it wouldn’t hurt. I’d feel pressure but no pain. It didn’t hurt.
    As practicing went along, he proved to me I could withstand pain using other methods. He pressed a needle into the skin of my upper arm and pushed it through to the other side. I did not feel the needle and there was no blood. This was because of my relaxed state.
    He taught me to press my thumb and index finger to alleviate pain. And many other positive procedures. If I wanted to remember what happened during these sessions, I could. Then I learned to hypnotize myself by practicing with Mr. Roy at home.
    There’s so much more to say about hypnotism, but I did not have anesthesia or painkillers of any kind for 19 hours during the delivery. Not even an aspirin. Dawn was born in Hot Springs, Ark., at the Army-Navy Hospital. Babette was born by hypnosis at Providence Hospital in Mobile, Ala.
    Some might call it an “out of body experience,” the term we hear so much today. But I believe with all my heart that it was faith that caused the pain to vanish when I pressed my thumb and index finger together. God was definitely in the mix.
    Footnote: In February 1957 this story was distributed by the Associated Press to newspapers across the country.
    Kay Grafe is the author of “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” To order, send name, address, phone number and $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H to Kay Grafe, 2142 Fig Farm Road, Lucedale, MS 39452.

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