The Couple Who Became Each Other

Wow, a book so old that I couldn't find an image for the cover on the internet. That is quite an achievement these days! The Couple Who Became Each Other (and other tales of healing from a hypnotherapist's casebook) was published in 1996, clearly piggy-backing off the success of Oliver Sacks and Irvin Yalom's bestselling case studies. The difference here is that David Calof is not a neurologist or a psychotherapist, but a hypnotherapist. He helps his clients with hypnosis.


I've had this book for years and re-discovered it when I dug out those other Irvin Yalom books. I felt quite conflicted reading it. In some ways, these stories mirrored Yalom's psychological case studies; Calof's clients present with similar problems -- troubled adolescents, people repressing childhood abuse, or struggling with a difficult marriage.

But it seems to me there is a crucial difference in approach. While Yalom and his fellow psychotherapists build their therapy around helping their patients to become conscious of their inner conflicts and suppressed memories, so they can knowingly accept and overcome them, Calof relies on the unconscious of his patients to do the work without them necessarily knowing anything about it. In trance, he will summon some inner aspect of the patient, speak with them, and charge them with working on the problem, then wake the patient up and send them on their way, sometimes completely oblivious of what is going on inside. And it seems he gets results -- sometimes spectacular ones. But I can't help feeling uneasy about this knowledge remaining within, still unconscious, still hidden.

It's almost the opposite of the aims of psychotherapy. And a lot of Calof's technique relies on inducing a sense of mystery, a sense that something unusual is about to happen, and the patient distancing themselves from the process, rather than bringing together and integrating warring aspects of the patient's psyche.

Still, anyone who can help a patient endure a five hour facial operation without anaesthetic has earned my admiration.

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