The problem with being partially psychotic at the time I started stalking researching Derren Brown is my memory is kind of unreliable…

After seeing him at a philosophy conference in late 2015, I’m sure my pokings about on the internet brought up an article in which he spoke with infuriating mystery of ‘the five words the brain just can’t handle’. This was around the same time I came across his ‘the wall outside my house is four-feet high’ story. So I’d swear I didn’t imagine it. But a cursory Google search has brought up nada, so who knows?

Anyway, point is, I became obsessed with this (real or imagined) hypno Holy Grail. It seemed to speak to so many of the mad ideas knocking around in my head. Ideas I now find in hypnosis, NLP and persuasion. But at the time I was in a bubble, creating my own ‘What is it you’re not thinking about right now?’* mind-fuckery. (That’s how I dreamt up ‘I can bend minds with my spoon’, incidentally. I’d play with phrases and questions; orderings, wordplays, mispronunciations – to befuddle, confuse, pause and jolt.)

Around this time, a senior colleague asked me, “And are you well?”. There was something in her tone – she delivered it as a statement, yet it invited an answer. It set my mind racing: was I well? More importantly, was I appearing well? No, I was quite, quite mad at the time. I was worried I wasn’t putting on a good show at work… Was she onto me..? What should I say..? Thus ran my internal dialogue in response to that ‘question’.

Before I knew what it was, command language clicked. I reasoned that, ‘And you are well?”, delivered as a statement yet disguised as a question, would be far simpler, kinder and more effective for the recipient. Simply switching two words would’ve silenced my whirring mind. Two words! Imagine what could be achieved with the world’s greatest hypnotist and magician’s five magic words…

I set to work.

I started by mulling unusual combinations. But stringing ‘random’ words together seemed stupid and unscientific. People are anything but random, so I just felt like a jaded pop songwriter, writing hits for a girl-band from the 23rd series of X Factor. Zigazig-nah.

I then got lost on the mind-bending Library of Babel, inputting my word strings through its 104677 potential books in hopes I’d come up with something new.

Next up, an abortive attempt at Deep Writing inspired by this Harry Potter excerpt written by Artificial Intelligence. I figured if I fed a robot all the ramblings I’d written while mad, it would spit out the right abracadabra. Alas, my ability to copy and paste code got me as far as the ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ warning, before I gave up – for fear of accidentally causing the Singularity.

But I struck gold on discovering ‘the brain atlas’, which maps the meanings of words across the brain. I imagined that causing a cognitive pattern interrupt – or, better still, complete mental breakdown – would simply be a matter of selecting words from a, literally, mind-blowing combination of regions. The mental equivalent of this.

I pondered this for another YEAR.

Until, mercifully, I met my Chief Magical Consultant.

I immediately began quizzing him on Uncle Derren’s secrets… Only to have to reluctantly accept that I’d been sent on many a wild goose chase.

However. I could not accept his verdict on The Five Words The Brain Just Can’t Handle.

“Oh, that’ll just be some nonsense Andy Nyman made up to mess with the press and public.”

No. I wasn’t having it. I’d spent TWO YEARS of my life seeking the Holy Grail of hypnosis – and now my boyfriend was dismissing it as bullshit.

I continued to email and text him my theories – and to demand answers. I figured I’d be Aleister Crowley to his Rose, marching him around the ancient pyramids until he finally cracked and produced a satisfactorily magickal answer.

And, finally, I got just that.

Presenting Kev’s genius theory of The Five Words The Brain Just Can’t Handle:

“I don’t love you anymore.”

Beautiful. Intelligent. True. Better than ‘Pants, Sausages, Monkey, Tennis, Etc’.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all!

*I sprung this confusion-question on friend and colleague F. He answered, quick as a flash, “Parental locks”. I hope, someday, he encounters a performing hypnotist and confuses them more than himself. His mind is a veritable tombola.

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