I spent nearly five years of my life feeling emotionally imprisoned by a relationship. Although I had become a master of smiling my way through it, I was silently beating on the prison walls, pleading for someone to save me.
My reason for staying with him can be summed up in one ugly word: fear. Every attempt to leave was always met with what I felt were crippling manipulations, venomous tantrums, and control tactics. Yet, as bizarre as it sounds, I was equally terrified that no one else would ever "love" me as much as he did.
I had received the pep talks, recited the affirmations, read the self-help books, and cried all of the tears. I had even burned the sage. But, sadly, there I was - still doggy-paddling my way through the turbulent waters. The notion of reaching shore seemed to be an impossible feat.
Not only had every ounce of his appeal shriveled and died; I was being tormented by the smell of its decay.
One most defeating morning, a friend shared her experience with a hypnotherapist who, she swore, had helped her quit smoking despite her own failed attempts. She claimed to have tossed her cigarettes in the trashcan following her session, never to glance backward again.
I already knew a bit about hypnotherapy's claim to reprogram sub-conscious thought patterns, yet I remained leery of its power to help me. Still, with a shrug and a fragment of hope, I scheduled a session.
The day arrived. Although I wondered if I would encounter some level of voodoo-like weirdness, the atmosphere of the therapist's office was tranquil.
The therapist asked me a series of questions before informing me, with a smirk, "I've made many observations over the past half hour, and I know even more about you than you've shared."
I assumed he was being presumptuous but decided to maintain an open mind.
Entering into a trance was actually effortless. I relaxed into the cool, leather chair and allowed myself to be soothed by the rhythmic flow of his words. His voice cradled me throughout the hour-long session - like a haven in the midst of my storm.
As I drove away that Thursday afternoon, the feeling of comfort remained. Friday and Saturday came and went, and I began to forget about being hypnotized. I brushed it aside, assuming I was the same.
Until I knew I wasn't.
I awoke late Sunday morning, poured myself a cup of coffee, and scrolled through my social media feeds. My phone rang. My boyfriend's name appearing on the screen had long riddled me with anxiety, but what happened next is something I will never be able to justifiably articulate.
It is only something I know.
Just as my friend had tossed her cigarettes in the trash, I departed from a relationship that had long felt like my personal Bermuda Triangle. The same way one discards yesterday's newspaper, I was done with it without a flash of hesitation. There were no fireworks to be seen or heard. There was no audible voice from the divine.
I answered his phone call and, without a flash of hesitation, declared: "This is the last time you will ever hear me say good-bye." His relentless manipulations and objections had long tugged at my heartstrings, but this time there was an absence of any feeling.
I changed my phone number the following day and never looked back. It would be a year before he would cease efforts to contact me through email and mutual friends, but my decision remained as strong as cement. I suppose the hypnotherapy session had rewritten the script of my brain chatter and planted a seed of bravery. All of the fear and second-guessing was just gone.
Reflecting on that time, I picture myself standing in a boat while holding onto a branch. I had taken extreme measures to figure out how I was going to convince my hand to release its grip. Suddenly, however, my fingers uncurled, allowing me to be carried peacefully upstream.
Before and after my session, everything about my life was the same. The only piece of the equation that changed was me.
The repercussions of leaving still had to be faced, of course. Just as I had feared, my boyfriend would swing from extremes ranging from begging, to spreading lies, to hacking into my emails to quoting poetry. But this time, my reactions were different.
Hypnotherapy accesses the sub-conscious mind, where all of our programmed beliefs are stored. Just as a technician deletes problematic files from a poorly operating computer, I felt like the hypnotherapist assisted in cleaning up my internal hard drive.
Every aspect of my life began to blossom. For the first time in years, I was making decisions based on my value. And in the months that followed, I met the man I have been happily married to for more than three years.
I have never once glanced backward.