For the last fifteen years, at intervals ranging from four or five times a week to once a fortnight and to an extent ranging from something akin to a mild toothache to being stabbed - and then having the blade twisted in the wound - I've suffered from a pain in the neck.
During that time, I've consulted physiotherapists, chiropractors, accupuncturists, sports masseurs and general practitioners and have been led to believe that the problem might be the result of a variety of issues ranging from climatic conditions, a trapped nerve to poor posture or stress. In the meantime, I've sought relief using magnets, health-suppliments, heat-creams, heat-sprays, ice-packs, wheat bags (heated in a micro-wave) as well as conventional painkillers.
Recently, having accepted that the most probable cause was some form of stress, I was advised to consider a form of psychotherapy known as Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and, since nothing else seemed to have worked and in spite of the fact it was awfully expensive, I reckoned there was nothing to lose - especially if it could reveal whatever might be the 'trigger-point' which sets off the attacks.
I had my first appointment on Thursday.
From the outset, the therapist has a pleasant and welcoming demeanour - asking, for example. if I would like a cup of tea and offering me the opportunity to 'spend a penny' before the session and enquiring whether there was any time constraint (from my point of view) before suggesting that the session would take 'as long as it needed'.
As we drank our tea, in what seemed to be a preamble to the session itself, he asked me to outline the history of my problem in some detail and to explain what my hopes were as a consequence of the session. He seemed confident that he would be able to help and, in particular (at my request) teach me how to practice some form of 'self-hypnosis'.
With the benefit of hindsight, I have formed the impression that his method involved two fundamental strategies.
Firstly, he tried to get me to recognise 'characteristics' of my own which might cause an element of tension - which, in turn, could (presumably) lead to the attacks. In order for me to recognise the aforementioned characteristics, he would tell 'stories' about meeting 'someone' in a supermarket, for example and, in describing that person's behaviour, I got the distinct impression I was expected to realise that it could well have been me he was describing.
The second strategy, I felt, involved getting me to focus on significant incidents in my past and, while concentrating on the memory of it, I was asked to follow the movement of his hand. I suspect, this was an attempt to induce some degree of hypnosis. It happened three, four, maybe five times and, so far as I could tell, didn't work. From my own point of view, I found it extremely difficult to concentrate on the memory and the movement of his hand at the same time.
Thereafter, the session seemed to be devoted to the first strategy and several examples of my own (sometimes latent and occasionally not very attractive) characteristics came to light and I was starting to get an understanding of what might be my own contribution towards my pain in the neck.
Suddenly, however, at a point where I was becoming really optimistic that a 'breakthrough' might be approaching, in spite of the fact that (at the outset) there had been no apparent time-limit, he suggested that he was concerned that the car parking certificate (which he kindly provided, by the way) was about to expire and that we would have to close the session.
I can't deny I was rather disappointed and I reminded him that I had got the impression that, if nothing else, I might have been given some understanding of self-hypnosis - to which he said he would send me an e-mail.
In the meantime, I presume, I'll have to make another appointment - if for no other reason than it seemed as though I was on the point of discovering 'the 'trigger-point' I've been searching for.