Ellen sat in the back room of the coffeeshop quietly sipping her tea. The other members of the hypnosis meetup group were slowly gathering after their break, chatting and catching up before practice portion of the night officially started. She strategized about what it would be helpful for her to practice tonight. Her traitorous brain eagerly supplied some silly power fantasies, but she quickly suppressed them. That kind of stuff wasn’t fair to think about here, she internally scolded herself. It wasn’t everyone else’s fault that she was so warped.
Ellen both loved and hated the group. She wasn’t just into power fantasies- she was genuinely interested in hypnotherapy and doing hypnosis for fun. She had been delighted to find a local hypnosis practice group existed where she could practice her skills and learn more. (It had gotten very tiring having to work up the nerve to bug her friends about letting her practice on them.) Of course, she was the youngest person there and usually the only woman but- that was OK. She had long ago accepted that that most actual, real hypnotists were middle aged men and she was an odd aberration.
She felt like an aberration in other ways too. Few of the hypnotists here seemed to struggle with nerves in the way she did. Group practice often brought those nerves on intensely. She hated the way they would make her words come out stilted and wrong, her gestures awkward, and her metaphors so mixed up until they ultimately went nowhere. When it got really bad, Ellen’s childhood stutter would return in full force. It felt important and meaningful to her that she got it wrong so often- like a big cataclysmic failure. She would beat herself up for hours afterwards.
It also felt meaningful when she got it right. Ellen would feel proud of herself for her mastery of something and then almost immediately the thought would sneak in- “if only they knew”. It’s not that the hypnosis she was doing with the group had a sexual charge (group members ranged from kinda- to very-not-her-type) but she could only imagine the disgust her subjects would feel if they knew the full range of thoughts she had about hypnosis internally. Or, even worse, if they could see her web browser history. How would they feel about being taken advantage of by such a perverted monster?
In a lesser but still meaningful way, Ellen also felt annoyed that she had never quite been hypnotized yet despite her many, many attempts. Usually practice time involved pairing up and switching turns being the hypnotist and the subject. Ellen would usually go along with others’ inductions and give the hypnotist some technical feedback afterwards, but the truth was she rarely felt anything besides plain, comfortable relaxation. She knew there was more- she could see it in the reactions of some of the people she hypnotized and some of the incredible mental feats they performed. She had evidence that this kind of deeper state existed. She just couldn’t access it herself.
Ellen was shaken out of her reverie by a voice.
““Hi! I heard your name was Ellen?””
She looked up to see the group’s newest member. He was a little older than her- probably mid- to late-twenties- and had a nice dark beard. When she replied with the affirmative, he extended his hand and shook hers confidently.
“Hi, I’m John. Do you have a practice partner yet?”
"No!" she smiled. "Want to pair up?"
Ellen and John socialized a bit before starting their practice. This was normal at the meetings- partially because of mutual nerves but also because everyone welcomed the opportunity to geek out together about an unusual personal interest. John said that had been doing hypnosis for about 5 years- around the same time she had- but he had already started a stage show and was planning on turning it from a hobby into a career. She was impressed. As he was talking, she found herself feeling surprisingly connected to him. She wondered if he had that effect on everyone he met. If so, it was a neat trick.
When they finally got down to practice, Ellen started by doing a modified Flowers induction. She had come in with the intention of throwing in a lot of language patterns into her induction- she had been drilling her Zeebu cards lately- but an odd change of mood happened as she watched John start to sink into hypnosis. Something about the way he responded to her words, melting and seeming to almost to throw himself into trance, triggered something in her. She found herself hovering closer to him, her voice going softer as she spoke closer to his ear.
She almost reached out and touched his arm when she remembered- no. That would be inappropriate. She caught herself and reminded herself to be professional. She gave John a few generic positive suggestions and then brought him back up out of trance.
John took a surprisingly short amount of time to recover, his expression showing alertness almost immediately. When she remarked on it, he told Ellen that he was actually a very practiced subject- that he had purposefully worked on his ability to be hypnotized to get better at it. Ellen hadn’t even known that was possible to do- the research she had read strongly suggested that someone’s ability to be hypnotized was pretty static and unchangeable. She confessed to John that she always had difficulty being hypnotized and envied people who could access that state easily. As she spoke, she worked to try and keep the longing out of her voice as she described her desire to experience knowing she was deeply and truly hypnotized.
John paused for a moment after she spoke. He gave her a curious, searching look. Then his face cleared as he seemed to decide on something.
“Hey, do you mind if I try something a bit different?” he asked.
Ellen nodded. She switched positions with him and made herself comfortable as per his instructions.
“Can I touch you?” John asked.
All things considered, Ellen thought she hid her spike of excitement quite well. She nodded again.
John started steadily and confidently speaking to her as he traced a finger lightly up and down her hand. He wanted her to focus on the feeling of the finger going up and down, he said. Ellen focused her attention gamely. That light touch felt really good.
John continued to talk to her, telling her she didn’t have to worry about going into trance or getting sleepy or being hypnotized- all she had to do was focus on his touch. That was a relief- Ellen had historically bad luck with those concepts. She dutifully focused (even as she had some stray thoughts about how amazing John’s voice sounded).
John’s fingers started to move to trace her arm up and then back down, all the while continuing to talk to her about focus and enjoying how the touch felt. Ellen still noticed some of the clever words he said, but the specifics were fading. It was all beginning to feel like a general wave of instruction washing over her. She was vaguely aware he was speaking to her more directly now and telling her how good she was doing and that she could enjoy how pleasant those things were when suddenly-
John’s hand grabbed her arm and pulled it gently downwards. Ellen felt her eyes close as her head nodded forward. Her whole body slumped. Fortunately, John was kneeling in front of her and waiting to catch her. Once he did, he took her shoulder and rocked her deeper and deeper into trance with his words and his touch.
Ellen felt herself melt and respond. It felt amazing- just like she had always hoped that it would. Then John finally stopped rocking and pressed gently on her hand. That gesture felt so right and lovely and perfect that Ellen felt herself quietly moan in response.
And then....she noticed she had done it.
Suddenly thoughts flew back into her mind. What was she doing? Did everyone else hear her? Were they watching her now? Were they realizing what a creepy pervert she was?
Ellen violently sat up, opened her eyes, and yanked her mind awake. Shaken, she took a moment to clench and unclench her hands, reminding herself that she had power over them.
She was up. She had control of herself. She was OK.
After a few breaths, she looked around the room and noticed that no one else seemed to be looking at her. She resisted the urge to cry in relief.
She looked up and finally remembered that John was there, still on his knees and giving her a concerned look. “Ellen?” he asked firmly. “How do you feel? What happened?”
She took a moment to respond. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to....I made a noise and I didn’t mean to be...awkward. I’m really sorry.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” he replied, going back into a more soothing voice. “Being hypnotized feels good sometimes, yeah? It’s ok to enjoy it. Is that what happened? It felt good in..in a way you weren’t expecting?”
Ellen nodded, still looking down. “I’m sorry. I’m..weird, I didn’t mean to be weird,” she replied, still very flustered.
He looked at her gently. “You’re not...you’re not that weird. Listen, I get you might not want to talk about this here but- we could talk about it after practice maybe? I think we may have some things in common. It might be good to talk about with someone?”
Ellen thought about everything she had seen about erotic hypnosis online. All the misogyny. All of the shame and degradation people wrote about. She pictured the sexy stage show she had downloaded and how much the hypnotist seemed to relish in other people’s genuine embarrassment.
She remembered that she didn’t really know John at all.
“No!” she replied sharply.
Then gentler- “I mean, I don’t want to talk about it. It’s OK. I’m OK.”
He nodded. “You are, you know. And it’s OK if you’re....if you’re not ready yet to talk about it. But- “ He made sure she was looking at him as he said the next part. “There’s nothing wrong with you. And- if you do ever want to talk more about it or even ask questions, here’s my card. Call me anytime, ok? I mean it.”
He produced a business card out of his pocket. Ellen hesitated, then took it.
Just then, the leader announced that their practice time was over and moved onto wrapup. Ellen waited for everyone’s attention to be gathered, then snuck out the back on the building. She needed some fresh air. She was done with hypnosis for tonight.
she thought of the card, still in her jacket pocket, the whole bike ride home.