Early summer 2008.
The other two teachers on the NLP course Bink and I attended together, apart from the utterly charismatic and inspirational Paul McKenna himself, were Michael Neill and Richard Bandler. (I notice Paul and Richard still work together.)
Michael was kindness itself.
Richard Bandler, I quickly deduced, was one of the nastiest and most manipulative bull*******s I’d ever come across. Like Paul, he had impressive stage presence and the audience eating out of his hands.
Unlike Paul, who explained everything he did and how it worked, Richard made numerous and sweeping claims about being able to cure any and every ill imaginable, from demon possession to stage fright; conversely, he also claimed to be able to impose ills, again such as stage fright (or other neuroses), on those who challenged him.
Everyone seemed to consider him a genius.
Undoubtedly, if his claims were true he could help Bink as soon as lay hands on her.
There were over five hundred delegates on that conference. It had cost a fortune. The chance of Bink being called up on stage, if left to chance alone, was small.
So I did what I’d been advised when booking our places, and on my feedback slip at the end of Day One, begged Richard Bandler to invite Bink onto the stage and heal her. I also spoke to one of his assistants and told her how very, very much it would mean to us if he could help.
The next morning I sought her out again and asked how he had received my request.
“He doesn’t like being told what to do,” she said. “I’m afraid he won’t see her, now. It would have been better if you hadn’t asked.”
Compared with the generosity of spirit of both Michael and Paul, such brutality and arrogance took my breath away.
If he really could help a young woman with a terrible illness that was blighting her life and stealing her youth, and actively chose not to – simply because her mother was pushy – it amounted to the most staggering cruelty imaginable.
I didn’t believe it for a moment. His momentous claims were bravado. He couldn’t conquer her OCD any more than she – or half a dozen shrinks so far – could. He didn’t want to risk being shown up in front of his adoring crowd of five hundred devotees.
I was very sorely tempted to challenge him, openly, to give me stage fright. He had thrilled the entire audience the previous day by claiming to have paralysed someone who had crossed him once before.
He could no more have given me stage fright than enabled me to fly.
But I was too broken-hearted to prove my point.
Michael Neill, by contrast, did invite Bink onto the stage. The exercise he tried on her didn’t work particularly successfully, but his kindness meant much.
Perhaps, if Paul had done so too, it might have changed the course of her life? I saw him have remarkable impact on other volunteers. He is a very powerful hypnotist.
It is possible that he alone, of all the healers she has encountered, could have enabled her to believe…
His techniques were astonishingly effective.
Bink had always been terrified of spiders. By the end of a session spent on arachnophobia, to her astonishment and proud delight she held a huge tarantula in her bare hands.
His exercises worked on me, too. Ever since we’d been made homeless by Shaun’s employing Oxford church, I’d been unable to go anywhere near it. I could barely face going into the city I had loved so much for so long, and never visited my college where I was entitled to eat on High Table every term.
After learning the techniques for overcoming trauma and abuse, however, I was able to invite a friend to hear Shaun preach, take her to the church which had hurt us so profoundly and get through the entire service without a wobble.
This was followed by an equally fascinating incident a week later.
One theory about Houdini’s death is that it was caused by unexpected blows to the abdomen, in his dressing room, for which he hadn’t had a chance to brace himself. I had prepared myself for that service very carefully, using all the skills Paul McKenna had taught and explained so well.
The following Saturday, at family supper, Shaun chanced to say, “Now you’ve been to church once, you’ll be able to come with me every week.”
Unprepared as I was, I ran from the room, out into the night and up into the woods above our little cottage, heaving sobs of panic for half the evening before I could return.
(While poor Shaun had no idea what he could have said so wrong…)
By the time we finished the course, on the Sunday evening, Bink was dancing on air. Never before, she said, had she felt such joy. She wanted to sign up immediately for the next, advanced, course... but it was another two thousand pounds.
Besides, she had a place in the Royal Bethlem Hospital waiting for her.
For that brief summer, Bink came off all her medication. She went into the Bethlem free of it, and stayed off it for weeks.
One lunchtime, during that week in London, she and I met up with my literary agent, and the editor from a leading publisher very interested in the book Bink and I were working on together, about her OCD.
Bink looked, as she can when she chooses, a proposition to stun any publisher: blonde, wavy hair half way down her back; slinky red top; figure to stop the crowds; flawless features in her fine face.
The publisher was bowled over – hook, line and all – and went away to consider how generous she could make the advance.
And the high Bink experienced after that NLP course lasted a bare fortnight...