“We’re going to try hypnosis.”
Many years ago, I was a forgetful kid. I was the type of person that would walk into a room with a purpose, I’d do several other things, and then I’d leave. Maybe I’d remember the original task, but that wasn’t a given. I was also the type of person who would put the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the cabinet. I’d forget things, many things, much to the frustration of my parents. I was absent-minded, and I had trouble focusing, or maybe it was that I focused on everything that came into my field of vision. My mind bounced around like a pinball, and it still does. I’ve improved only marginally as an adult.
Aside from my momentary mental lapses, I was also terrified of sleeping on the bottom floor of our condo in New Hampshire. At home, I was on the top floor, and there was comfort in being high above the ground, away from any potential “threats.” Each time I attempted to sleep in the quiet basement, I would hear the loud, jarring sounds of the air conditioning or heat, or it would be so quiet that every sound caught my attention, and kept me from nodding off. I tried to sleep, but now that I was no longer distracted by the day’s events, my imagination would run wild. Left to my own devices, I could concoct terrifying scenarios with the greatest of ease. Maybe someone was there to hurt me, or maybe there were ghosts lurking just around the corner. Maybe it was a combination of the two.
I couldn’t get these thoughts and images out of my mind. I wasn’t progressing the way my parents wanted me to, so hypnosis was suggested. I’d never tried it before, but truthfully, I did want to focus more, and I wanted to be able to sleep downstairs whenever we went to New Hampshire. The bed was comfortable, but more than that, I wanted to avoid the awkward conversations that happened when I asked to sleep on the pullout couch on the ground floor.
My first hypnosis session took place when I was in my teens, maybe younger. The hypnotist had a soothing voice, and he started giving me instructions, but I’m not sure I ever let my guard all the way down. Before we began, he mentioned that hypnosis didn’t work for everyone. Maybe I just was one of those people. I listened to the tapes when he told me to, but despite it all, my attention span and fears of quiet, solitary sleeping arrangements didn’t improve. Maybe his disclaimer had more of an impact than I realized. Maybe it caused me to doubt the entire concept, and no matter what he said after that, I wasn’t going to buy in. Maybe hypnosis is more effective when you’re older, but I can’t say for sure.
My memory didn’t improve, but I do remember one thing from the experience. The hypnotist told me that I should pick a happy place to go to when the bad thoughts began to flow. I thought about the places I genuinely enjoyed being, and one I never expected came to my mind: my grandmother’s house in Illinois. I feel like most children don’t love going to visit their grandparents, but I was not most children. To me, my grandmother’s house reminded me of summer. When I’d go to visit, I’d spend time with her, and hang out with her neighbor who was a year older than I was. There was no shortage of fun and activities.
When I was younger, sometimes I’d stay for a week, and just enjoy the nearby pool. The area always had a very positive association for me. When I went there in my mind, I felt the warmth of the sun, and the thrill of catching fireflies in a jar. It was home, in a way. It was the place I would have grown up had my dad not decided to go to medical school in Massachusetts. The hypnotism may not have worked, but it did make me realize how much I loved spending time out in the midwest.
It’s hard to lose pieces of your childhood.
Both of the places I’ve just mentioned, they’re both gone. I’m sure they’re still physically standing, but the house in New Hampshire definitely belongs to someone else, as does my grandmother’s house. The house in Illinois is even a different color. We drove by it at Christmas time, and although some of my family have been over to see it, I’m not sure if I want to. I’m sure I could handle it, and I know that I build things up in my mind, but I’d rather keep my memories intact. Maybe I would love what they did with the place, but maybe it’s nothing I ever need to see again. Maybe the house exists in the only place that really matters: my memory.
In our memory is where these childhood delights still exist. My mind definitely isn’t what it used to be, or maybe we’re all overloaded by information, but there are more than a handful of memories that are still with me, that still bring me comfort when I revisit them. I still think positively about both of the places I’ve mentioned. I loved the condo even though I feared it, and I love both places despite the fact that the endings were bittersweet.
These places each scared me in their own way, but those memories have fallen away for the most part. What I will remember is the wonderful time I spent at each of those places. I’ll always remember a time in my life when I was young and carefree. In Illinois, I’ll remember the milkshakes and the time spent with family I didn’t get to see enough. In New Hampshire, I’ll remember the way the condo overlooked the lake, and the fact that my dad was always happiest there. My childhood in each of those places was something I’ll never forget.
It’s important to find our happy place, whether real or in memory, and to give ourselves a place of refuge, no matter what stage of life we happen to be in. When we visit a place from our past, maybe we find something new that we didn’t see before, but more often, we find a place that’s welcoming, that gives us a place to stop and rest. We all need moments of peace and quiet, moments when we’re not focused on all of the chaos of life. Nostalgia is powerful, and combined with happiness and positivity, it can give us just the boost we need before we return to the life we left behind, this new and uncharted territory, which might be the place we return to one day, years down the road. Thanks for reading.
One thought on “Happy Place”
Hypnotism: I tried it about six years ago. I found it difficult, frustrating and non-yielding UNTIL what I would call a breakthrough session during which I experienced a powerful image and message (from my subconscious) that I carry with me and conjure whenever I need reassurance that my heart is core to who I am and how I interact with the world. That experience alone has given me amazing moments of peace and quiet.
I suspect many people share your views about memories, Adam. True, many of them fade with time yet the powerful, perhaps magical, ones that we hold on to can be part of us for as long as we choose to embrace them. I wouldn’t trade mine for anything.
As you continue to grow into new and unchartered territories, I wish you more happy places. May you revel in the beautiful and inspiring scenarios that unfold!