I'm not really a psychologist. People like to believe that I am, though. My office has the obligatory confessional couch, a bronze bust of Sigmund Freud, and a bookshelf full of psychoanalytical titles. I merely facilitate the expectations of my clients. If any of them were to ask me, straight up, I wouldn't lie. But, they never do. Perhaps, they already know the truth and they simply don't care. That's more likely. It really isn't the truth that matters, here, anyways.
They come to me with their fantasies, which they perceive to be disorders of the mind. They might have a habit, or a fetish, that they want to eradicate, because it's distasteful to their partner, or socially unacceptable. They might be smokers who can't quit, or sexually excited by paperclips and courting trouble in the office copy-room. Some are housewives. Some are professionals. All are desperate. Usually, they have tried traditional therapies without success. And, so, they turn to me, hoping that hypnotism will be their cure.
Hypnotherapy is part science, part quackery, and pure art. I don't know the science, but am good at the other two. I learnt my craft from my mother, who read tea-leaves for a living, and from my father, who was an evangelical preacher and a consummate hypocrite with phenomenal powers of persuasion. Together, they gave me a terrific laboratory for the mind, which I had to navigate for self-preservation.
The most important element of hypnotism is to find a willing subject. Not everyone is willing. It has nothing to do with IQ and a great deal to do with the imagination. Dreamers, activists and idealists make good subjects, while critics, judges, and tax attorneys make lousy ones. Maybe, it is because dreamers really want to believe in the impossible, a pre-disposition, as it were. I don't know. Whatever the reason, some people simply don't want to entertain alternate realities. They are prisoners of the never-changing present.
My wife was the one who got me into this business. Before I met her, I was a reasonably talented magician. "Reasonably" being the the operative word. I had higher expectations of myself. I used my hypnotic powers occasionally in my act, but it wasn't the centrepiece. I suppose I didn't like duping people. After growing up with two con-artists all my life, I had a love-hate relationship with their tactics. I enjoyed getting away with it at first, but inevitably felt guilty, afterwards. It made me wonder if my parents ever felt guilty about what they did? Perhaps, they lacked a conscience. If so, they were in the right line of work and I wasn't.
I did want to help people. Honestly, I did. That's why I began the hypnotherapy career. I wanted a fresh start. I wanted it, because it didn't start out that way. I first used my hypnotic powers to help myself, before helping others - starting with my wife.
I had selected her, very carefully. I didn't want to spend my life with someone I could not control. However, I didn't want a pushover, either. She had to have a backbone, so as not to be easily swayed, or too gullible to fall prey to a sweet-talking salesman like my father (or, someone like myself). My wife was perfect in this respect. She was strong-willed and a God-fearing. She was a lady. Yet, I had pre-determined that she was susceptible to my hypnotism. Whatever advice you may hear for marital bliss, I can give you my own: one partner must dominate and the other must be happily subservient, otherwise your home will be a battlefield. My parents had many shortcomings, but they understood and could abide by this. They remained together until the day they died (during a fire at a bible sales convention, as it happens).
My wife wanted to preserve herself until our wedding day, which I respected. Unfortunately, subsequent to that happy day, I discovered that she was severely lacking in imagination in the bedroom. Her physique was fantastic, which excited me to rapture, but she would lay on her back, as still as marble, and hold her breath, until it was all over. I felt like I was relieving myself against a stature of the Virgin Mary, which didn't help my libido. I mistook it for a lack of interest, but she let me do this as often as I liked. She said she enjoyed it. However, she might have said the same about a pilates class, or a visit to the library. Sadly, I didn't and I grew restless.
I began fantasising about my female assistant in the magic show. She was not particularly well-endowed intellectually, but had an enormous bottom. It floated behind her, like a cruise-liner with her, the passenger, full of majesty and blossom. When she was first introduced to me, I was sitting down and didn't want to leave my chair - I was the one, now, mesmerised - I wanted to plow my face into it, luxuriate in its largesse. My fantasies worsened over time. I began dreaming of her at night, or rather dreaming of her nether pillow, saving me from drowning in a storm, or carrying me like a balloon up into the stratosphere. There was even one where she had disappeared into her backside and was simply a derriere in stilettos. That's when I knew I had to take radical action.
I hypnotised my wife for my own sexual gratification.
I started out innocently enough, instructing her in oral remedies. But, then, I grew bolder. I introduced her to role-play. I might be a lost postman with a special delivery, or a milkman with extra cream. Gradually, these became more elaborate with backstories and scripts that I meticulously prepared in advance. Of course, I felt guilty afterwards, but our love life was incredible. My wife would do anything I commanded of her. Her shyness and innocence stripped away, she would give herself to me completely in all ways imaginable.
I assuaged my guilt by telling myself that it had saved our marriage, which was not a fiction. My fantasies of the bottom subsided. In time, I even let my assistant go and found someone less voluptuous to work with. Sometimes, I let my wife play out fantasies of her own, which seemed only fair, although her imagination could take on unexpected turns, too peculiar even for my proclivities. For instance, she wanted me to dress up as her female tennis instructor, or as a robot ballerina. This made me uncomfortable and I would steer her away from it.
Eventually, though, the guilt would gnaw at me again. I didn't know why. I was happy. My wife was happy. Nobody was hurt. She may not have had any recollection of what happened to her under hypnosis, but she physically felt the after-effects - and it seemed to make her glow. She would cook better breakfasts for me the mornings following a marathon session of love-making. Eggs would suddenly be adorned with extra bacon. Muffins were baked. It was a happy time.
I decided to use my skills for a higher purpose. I wanted to assuage my guilt by doing something better for mankind. That's what I told myself, anyway. I felt emboldened by my success with my wife. My first experiments on strangers were successful. Then, clients came in greater numbers, as word got around. I guess I was helping them, because only a few regulars returned. That was my solace.
Things were good for awhile, but then disturbing thoughts began to plague me. The problem was, I spent several hours a day listening to other people's darkest fantasies. I found myself pent-up and frustrated at the end of it all. My only remedy was to return home, hypnotise my wife, and act them out. Some of them were strange and perverse. It brought me relief. But, then, I'd wrestle with my conscience, again. My wife appeared to be enjoying it tremendously, but not with her conscious consent. Wasn't this rape by another name? I grew to hate myself. But, that wasn't the worst of it.
For a week, memories of the bottom returned to haunt me. I wanted to exercise those demons. In all our nocturnal calisthenics, I had refused to cross that line. Even though we had never actually discussed it, I was pretty sure she wouldn't agree to something like that. What was I to do? The fantasies grew worse and worse. I wanted something taboo and it made me want it all the more. And, yet, I could take what I wanted and get away with it, too, and she'd be none the wiser - the perfect crime.
I went ahead and did it. I did that which was verboten. She didn't seem as willing during it and I realised I'd crossed the line. When I brought her out of the trance, I told her she had fallen down the stairs on her backside, while sleepwalking and that she was lucky the injury hadn't been worse. She accepted the lie and went back to bed. My pulse was racing. That was close. I promised myself never to do it again.
The next morning, I did not get bacon with my eggs.
My wife's eyes were puffy, as if she'd been crying. I asked her what was wrong. She told me that I should not have done what I did. My blood curdled. I dropped my fork and gasped. She smiled in a disturbingly disjointed way, an expression I had never seen before. Then, she said that what was done was done, and could not be undone. She went back to her cooking.
I couldn't think straight. I skipped work. I tried to help her around the house, but she tormented me with her silence and reproachful looks.
Gradually, I coaxed it out of her. She finally admitted that she had never been hypnotised by me. In the beginning, she did it out of amusement. She enjoyed watching me make a fool out of myself. My exertions were comical. After awhile, things had gone so far that she figured it was even worse to admit that she was pretending. Also, she liked the sex in particular. She had suffered from issues of frigidity in the past, but pretending to be hypnotised freed her, gave her license to step outside herself. She could pretend it wasn't her, but someone else, who was making her do those things. She could indulge in fantasies that she'd never previously allowed herself. She let herself go - but, she was always in control.
That is, until last night. I had crossed a line and so had she. She could feel God frowning on her. I asked her to please forgive my tresspass. I pleaded with her to let things return to the way they were. She was angry, now. There was no way to go back and pretend that we were no longer pretending.
We did try to restore normalcy, but it was doomed. I felt like a fraud at work and no longer believed in my abilities. It turns out that self-belief is an important part of hypnotism. You can't sell the lie, if you don't believe in the lie, yourself.
Things at home became boring and predictable. The passion was gone. Our game was over. We reverted to type. We remained together, but never recovered. Our marriage became a tomb.
I learnt an important lesson about relationships. They are not about control and submission. They are about permission. There are certain boundaries that need not be spoken of, but must be understood. So long as they are respected, you can happily lie to one another, safe in the knowledge that the bond will not be broken by the truth. I will never forget this lesson as long as I live.
(Based on this Story Jam)
Fruit from this Jam:
THIS IS IT FOLKS by Rhoda Taylor
Night Of Passion by lisarey1990
Pot Luck by Alison Young
A Cautionary Tail by Vaulte Kamish
Grenade Fishing in the Andaman by Jeff Burns
Guilt by Abby Buttery
Liberté by Payton Huey
The Perfect Lie by Kevin Cagle