Saturday, May 31, 2014

Do you remember that time....


How many times I have said that to one or both of my sisters over the years. One thing you can be sure of is that no two people will have the same memory of an event they shared.

Here is my memory of an event I shared with my sister, I asked her to send me her memory of the same occasion. I wrote my section below before I received her account to ensure that I didn't allow her account to influence my own.

I do not remember when this occurred, I remember it was summer time, and probably late 1970s or early 1980s.

We headed off in the early evening, my sister and I, I want to say our appointment was for 6 p.m. but I am definitely not sure about that. We were heading to Naas, Co. Kildare to attend a group hypnosis session for weight control. We had high hopes that this would prove to be the magic answer to our weight problems. With that hope in mind we stopped to fill up with gas and bought a couple of chocolate bars each as it would be our last chance to indulge because once we were hypnotized we wouldn't eat chocolate anymore. What is particularly ridiculous to me even now, is that I was determined that I would not succumb to any form of hypnosis, the idea of have my awareness removed was not something that appealed to me.

The hypnotist in question was an elderly surgeon. The session was held in his home, his home was actually a castle, a small castle but a castle nonetheless. I do not remember if there were any men in the group, and I don't remember how many of us where there, but I think at least 10.

We sat in the doctor's living room and spoke in turn about where we believed our weaknesses resulting in overeating were. I do remember one woman who bought her children's school snacks on a weekly basis, and then devoured them all herself and had to buy more. After each person spoke, the doctor suggested a way to avoid these occasions of temptation. For many of the people there the issue was not wanting to waste food and so they ate it, hungry or not, and also cleared their children's plates too. When everyone had confessed their weakness he started his hypnosis. I no longer remember much of what he said, but I do remember him saying  that it was as much a waste to eat food when you are not hungry as it is to throw it away, it was being wasted either way.

Then it was over, I had not been hypnotized and my sister was fairly sure she had not either. The proof was in the fact that we neither of us noticed any change in our eating habits nor in our weight.

My thanks to my sister for sending me her recollection of visitng the hypnotist:
I wasn’t fat, just more overweight than I was comfortable with.  My friend, Ann who worked in the shop below mine in the centre, was well ahead of me in the fat stakes and we both decided to do something about it.  I can’t remember where we heard about the hypnotist but he was well known and respected.  He was a medical doctor – surgeon in fact and he had a reputation for stopping people smoking as if by magic.  We thought if he was that good it might work for weight loss.  Dieting had been tried and failed and besides being hypnotised took the responsibility off our shoulders.
The appointment was made and we were both really excited about the possibility of freedom from fat.  This doctor had actually operated using only hypnosis as an anaesthetic; that was impressive. Ann drove because I didn’t have a car and the hypnotist lived in the next county.  On the way there we stopped off at a shop and bought large bars of chocolate as a sort of ‘last meal’ which felt really good.  We had done the same thing when we went to Weight Watchers together – the other way around though – we went for pizza after the weigh in.
The hypnotist saw us in his house which was a big old rambling country house, set well back from the road.  I remember coming through a room at the back of the house that was especially for taking your boots off when you came in with muddy boots – a mud room?  It had a lovely old wooden bench and lots beautiful antique things. It set the scene.
An old man, spare and fine featured he brought us up to his sitting room.  High ceilinged and comfortably furnished.  It is such a long time ago that some of the details have gone a bit fluffy.  I do know he explained the process and how we would not be asleep but in a relaxed and receptive state and that he would make suggestions to each of us in turn, which he would tape so that we would listen to the tapes over the coming weeks to establish them firmly.  I was a bit disappointed because I couldn’t see how that would work.  I wanted the dramatic hypnosis that you see on television when people do things they would not normally do and not remember them.
We each had our session separately.  I was aware of everything he was saying and thought, well if he as good as his reputation it must work.  I remember one of the things he said – if a baby has enough to eat it will stop and even if you spoon more food into its mouth it will just spit it back.  That brought to mind disgusting images of the babies in the family being fed by a nanny and the spit-out food being spooned in again.  I wondered how that would work for me.
I listened to the tapes and his voice told me that I would feel satisfied with less food. Sadly I wasn’t and neither was Ann; we continued to go for a Chinese meal and lots of wine at the end of the week. I still believe hypnosis works but perhaps not for eating.  When you give up smoking you don’t smoke again.  If you were to do that with food you would die.  Perhaps that’s why it didn’t work. I did once or twice when were at the Chinese restaurant imagine Ann climbing on her chair like a baby and spitting food down her chin!
I had forgotten completely about the tape, and yes we did get one. I don't know if my sister mixed up both visits or if she did the chocolate bar trick both times. I don't remember being aware she had been before. 

One thing I must say is that I while didn't remember Dr Gibson's name - I did remember he lived in a castle and that he was a doctor. I also remember exactly what he looked like. When I googled hypnotists in Kildare I found this:
Jack Gibson
April 2nd 2005 – Dr. Jack Gibson, of St. David's Castle, Naas, Co. Kildare, Ireland, peacefully passed away at Naas Hospital, where he was once County Surgeon. In his 96th. year, Dr. Jack, predeceased by his loving wife Elizabeth and daughter Rosemary; deeply missed by his grandchildren Tamsin and Jason, son-in-law Andrew, relatives, long serving Patrick and Pauline, colleagues, friends and patients, some of whom he was treating until the end of his remarkable life.
The photo of Dr Gibson confirmed that my memory of how he looked was exactly right.

The exercise in comparing my sister's recall of the event with my own led me to do some more googling on the subject. Here is some of what I turned up.

This definition of Episodic Memory most closely relates to what I was trying to display above:
Episodic memory is a category of long-term memory that involves the recollection of specific events, situations and experiences. Your first day of school, your first kiss, attending a friend's birthday party and your brother's graduation are all examples of episodic memories. In addition to your overall recall of the event itself, it also involves your memory of the location and time that the event occurred. Closely related to this is what researchers refer to as autobiographical memory, or your memories of your own personal life history. As you can imagine, episodic and autobiographical memories play an important role in your self identity.
A number of types of memory retrieval were described here:
Recall: This type of memory retrieval involves being able to access the information without being cued. Answering a question on a fill-in-the-blank test is a good example of recall.
Recollection: This type of memory retrieval involves reconstructing memory, often utilizing logical structures, partial memories, narratives or clues. For example, writing an answer on an essay exam often involves remembering bits on information, and then restructuring the remaining information based on these partial memories.
Recognition: This type of memory retrieval involves identifying information after experiencing it again. For example, taking a multiple-choice quiz requires that you recognize the correct answer out of a group of available answers.
Relearning: This type of memory retrieval involves relearning information that has been previously learned. This often makes it easier to remember and retrieve information in the future and can improve the strength of memories.
Finally, this article is very interesting:
False memory refers to cases in which people remember events differently from the way they happened or, in the most dramatic case, remember events that never happened at all. False memories can be very vivid and held with high confidence, and it can be difficult to convince someone that the memory in question is wrong. Psychologists have studied false memories in laboratory situations in which events are well controlled and it can be known exactly what transpired. Such experiments have uncovered a number of factors that are responsible for creating false memories. ...

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