Shrieks of excitement erupted from the front rows of the RDS. It spread like wildfire engulfing the other 200 avid spectators, the room beaming delight at a point just beyond the curtain, out of my sight.
The object of their attention stepped onto the stage, acknowledged his adoring fans with a nonchalant shrug, before propping his ample frame onto the solitary chair centre stage.
“Is that him?” I asked a spectator to my right. The tears streaming down her face evidently suggested it was.
“Welcome,” he boomed through the auditorium, throwing his lank pony-tail over his head. “I am Dr. Richard Bandler.”
Bandler is somewhat of an enigma. Celebrated, best-selling author, hypnotist and Co-Creator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), his work in equal measures inspired and divided the public for over 30 years. Hailed a genius for his innovative work on psychology and programming the mind to remove fears and limiting beliefs in mere minutes, today’s seminar was a rare Irish performance .
Mysticism, mind reading and misdirection excite the audience, currently whetting their appetite through TV and stage shows by Derren Brown, and our very own Keith Barry. It is difficult to measure how influential those performers would have been had Bandler not broken the ranks to build such an unprecedented reputation.
Former clients described his innate ability to remove phobias in the time it takes to boil a kettle. Another case study mentioned his apparent impatience extracting the key to happiness from a Tibetan Monk, subsequently dangling him from a cliff to get a summarised version.
Critics quickly dismiss his achievements branding NLP an unethical practice focussed on manipulation of others.
“The key is to have an open mind,” Bandler guided.
Maybe he had picked up on my scepticism.
The following two hours, he weaved hypnotic suggestion with stories confusing the line between fantasy and reality. Bandler used no props, talking through a clip on microphone for the duration of the performance shifting his bulky frame occasionally. He was magnetic, gripping the entire audience as he jumped seamlessly from story to story, and revisiting to neatly tie up the thread.
At one point, he invited an audience member onstage to remove their fear of public speaking. The problem with this common fear, Bandler suggested, was that our own internal voice worked against us. “It’s your own voice. You can tell it what to do!”
A light hypnotic trance made the subject comfortable, before changing his internal images, and voice. The farmer from Cork then opened his eyes as he was brought out of trance, approached the edge of the platform before declaring to the audience:
“I’m Gerry, and I have me tractor parked outside if any single ladies want a lift home this evening.”
Gerry strolled off the stage returning to his seat to a thunderous applause, attracting sudden new interested glances from some nearby. It was to be Bandler’s final act, and the delighted crowd stood to salute their Guru as he left the auditorium and our shores.
N.B. This short story was an entry I submitted to the Irish Metro Herald in 2010 for their competition to find new undiscovered talent as the countries top young journalist of the year. Not sure if I qualified as ‘young’ at that stage being a spritely 27, but it was a huge confidence boost that this entry made it through as one of the twelve finalists out of over 300 entries.