Psychological Chamber of Torture

Weird shit happens to me all the time. Trouble doesn’t just find me, it seeks me out. Murphy’s law governs my life. But if anything goes wrong, it all goes wrong when I’m in front of my computer or phone.

I have a longstanding vendetta with technology. It started approximately two years ago. I’m not one of those people standing on a soapbox preaching we need to unplug and return to nature. I’m no saint. In fact, I’m rather jealous of the general population who seems to be able to browse and social media without an agonizing amount of anxiety approaching them every time. I’m on the verge of buying a VHS player, it’s gotten that bad. For all intents and purposes, I avoid having to do anything online, including brief and informal research. It always comes at a great personal cost, and today I paid.

Yesterday I was in such a dream state while writing that it piqued my curiosity later. I wondered if there was a connection between the state of mind I was in and self-hypnosis. Knowing the history I have with technology, I told myself to not look anything up until it was daylight out, otherwise I’d get scared. I still had a little trepidation about looking up “self-hypnosis” that I did the search while I was on hold on the phone. It was a big mistake. I started crying immediately. Turns out, I don’t think I was on hold at all, and the poor man probably heard the whole thing and assumed I was crying because I couldn’t get a refund back.

Here’s what happened. Here is what always happens to me, and the timing is crucial. Yesterday I wrote the line, not a very rare one, “If seeing is believing, then…” I would venture to say that that line is universally recognized. So I look up “self-hypnosis” and go straight to Wikipedia like any normal 21st century researcher, and right there in front of my face, a quote by some James Braid: “If seeing is believing, then feeling is the very truth.” That’s when I started crying. Synchronous coincidences. 

It happens all the time! It’s a psychological chamber of torture for me without any way to escape the questions without answers.

When I was done getting angry about the conspiracy being plotted against me, I decided to do some research on this James Braid guy, who has been dead since 1865. Of course, since everything is online, I couldn’t find anything. I checked the library catalog, and nothing. It’s remarkable how often the library never has what I’m looking for. I thought about going up to the college campus to be thorough, but I thought I better not push my luck today, what with the internet being broken and whatever.

Wikipedia, the source of information these days, says he’s a surgeon. I thought what in the world is a surgeon doing with hypnosis and trances? There’s a perfectly logical and adequate explanation, turns out. I figured he’d be more into bones and anatomy or something. I went to the library anyways to find an old fashioned encyclopedia to look this guy up. He’s also described as a “gentleman scientist.” First of all, I don’t even know what that means.

I went to my new library. I got kicked out of the Metropolitan Library System because my license changed to a Chicago zipcode. It’s not very big. I found a huge sign with REFERENCE BOOKS above a few shelves that were all empty (totally a conspiracy at this point). I walk along the wall past a dictionary opened to “Mine” and found all the encyclopedias. By “all,” I mean there were a few about Catholicism, the Great American Expansion, and Illinois. Who reads this crap? Anyways, there was nothing to help me. 

I risked going back to my old library, the one that discarded me and my library card on the curb, and checked out their reference section. Even sadder. A book on prescription and nonprescription drugs, one of the new DSM manuals, and a book of Bartlett’s Quotations. I realized that, due to the internet, nobody is probably really printing encyclopedias anymore. I just needed one printed after 1850, and I’d be golden. No such luck.

I ran a few more searches. The Chicago library had nothing on self-hypnosis. The second library did. I found the self-hypnosis books between Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams and Why You’re Not Married Yet. I pulled out the Idiot’s Guide first. Lo and behold! There is a section in the back telling you to check out all the pioneers in the field of hypnosis, and James Braid is one of the first. In fact, he coined the term. I was so relieved this guy was real for one thing. I summoned all my courage and went into the next book. Nothing. A self-help self-hypnosis book with a section for notes and accompanied by a CD with symbiotic messages included.

I opened up a third book, checked the bibliography. Not very impressive. No James Braid. For someone who coined the term, you’d think he’d be included. On the bright side, they were print sources, always a plus because when I opened the last book, the source she gave for James Braid was the very Wikipedia entry I had already read. However, she gave a pretty decent history, even though the Wikipedia entry is completely different (thanks, editors!). The very logical reason James Braid was into hypnosis was that he used it as an anesthetic for his patients. Calling James Braid a “surgeon” sort of reminded me of Stu from The Hangover when he tells everyone he’s a doctor, but he’s really just a dentist. That’s what Braid did. Extractions and root canals. Another source said differently. Who is this guy?

Without going back online, I cannot find anything else out about this guy, unless I do a WorldCat search, and the vendetta I have with technology extends very far back. I have a dicey browsing history, at best. I still can’t explain why these things happen to me. I found nothing that is actually helpful. Not even the books with “self-help” on the spine. I did find out that Freud cried at his first hypnosis presentation because he was convinced this was a breakthrough and major turning point in science. Then again, Freud thought a lot of things we know now that are just wrong. Plain and simple.

At the very least, James Braid is real and today, we communed. I communed with a dead guy.