Hypnotized expat

The psychologist’s job in MSF (and probably in Papua New Guinea specifically) is always full of new, surprising challenges....

Sometimes for example one needs to promptly train a staff member in a new therapy technique to treat an especially traumatized patient. Sometimes one needs to wipe out blood from one’s office after a chopped patient’s visit. Sometimes one needs to bake chocolate chip cookies to make stressed fellow expatriates feel less stressed. I feel that not much can surprise me anymore when it comes to unusual work tasks. But I was wrong.

One morning I was having my morning coffee outside our expat house. Out steps a fellow expat, a funny American guy who I like doing pranks with and who usually gives the impression that nothing is impossible, he’ll get through anything, “let’s rock this day” kind of guy. This morning, however, he seems quiet and puzzled. He comes to me and says he needs my professional opinion on something. He tells me he has lately been listening to self-hypnotization tapes before going to sleep. Each tape contains a number of relaxation exercises. He says the exercises make him deeply relaxed and helps him sleep. The last exercise ends in the voice on the tape saying: “After this exercise you will wake up” and our friend wakes up. Last night though, he says he fell asleep in the middle of the tape and never heard the voice wake him up from the hypnosis.

“Does this mean I am still hypnotized!?” he now asks me with disbelief.

There are certain moments that determine one’s level of professionalism. Moments where one needs to put one’s own urges aside and do what is ethically and professionally right. This was not one of those moments.

With a dramatic voice, I tried my best to hypnotically suggest my friend.

“You are a turtle! Homer Simpson… no, Mr. Burns! Arnold Schwarzenegger!”

My friend gives me a long look and laughs out. Luckily he is one of those sweet guys that don’t really get angry over the mental health officer sometimes making a little fun of him. Even when he does not receive the professional support he was requesting for.