Natasha and Dorothy,
Psychology Lab Partners
Notes Made By Natasha After Thursday’s Class
Professor Edwards began our class session by announcing that we will be assigned lab partners today for the duration of the semester. This is a four-hour college course, so the extra hour of credit is for lab work, or other research projects we might undertake, and of course we will each have a partner.
This is the second meeting of the class for the semester. On opening day he had explained that he preferred that we would not be very well acquainted with our partners, because part of the psychology projects will be to devise ways to get to know individuals better. This is supposed to be a life skills thing, not a preparatory class for pre-professional psychology majors.
During that opening day, the professor explained that he did not particularly care if we already had some hard and fast notions for lab partners. Man-wife teams, boyfriend-girlfriend teams, and so forth will be fine if that’s what we really want, although he thinks we will learn more if our partners are new acquaintances.
Those who wish to do it with pre-arranged partners must have submitted their names as partnership pairs at the professor’s office before this class session, though, for otherwise he will assign the pairings as he sees fit. He also said he prefers opposite gender pairings. However, opposite genders can’t always be worked out, so we must do the best we can with what we get.
So, he arrived today with two lists and some stacks of cards. In lieu of calling attendance role, he read from his pairings list. Presumably, by the time he finished announcing the pairings he would have discovered any absences or extra people who may have enrolled through late registration.
I had no one in particular I wanted for a lab partner so I was willing to accept Professor’s Choice and see how the course goes.
Lab partners are supposed to team up for research projects. Whatever grade the project earns will be shared by the team, for better or woe. This, of Course, encourages the partners to spend some effort getting to know each other and discovering ways to work efficiently together.
The professor called each set of names, and had each pair stand up briefly to identify each other, and later we are to meet after class to get better acquainted. The first list, of course was the people who had submitted their names for pairings. The second list carried a bit of an edge of excitement because who knows what sort of strange person you might get paired up with?
My partner turns out to be a girl named Dorothy, a second- year student, I believe; but somehow she is still housed in the Whittaker Hall, the freshman women’s dorm. She is rather pretty, I think, but her countenance was so overcast, you might think she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. She has long dark hair, arranged in a ponytail, and wears black-frame metal-rim glasses.
In our case, the professor got his wish, or at least part of it. We are not gender opposites, but Dorothy and I are certainly not well acquainted. The professor said that later, toward the end of this class session, he will have more to say about our partnership teams. In the meantime, we are to simply get used to the idea that we have partners and who they are.
Dorothy sat on the front row, near the middle. I think the professor assigned the seat to her because she is nearsighted. We were not sitting close to each other, but I resolved to try to remedy that by next class session.
Most of the class session was devoted to discussion of the subconscious and hypnosis. This is a good starting place, the professor said, because a key development in the history of psychology was the discovery of the subconscious levels of the mind. In fact, he said, without the subconscious, there would be no science of psychology. And without hypnosis, or its earlier names, mesmerism and animal magnetism, among others, there would have been no discovery of the subconscious.
So, hypnosis and subconscious is where we begin, he announced.
Our class meets only on T-Days, that’s Tuesdays and Thursdays. This means the class sessions are rather long, 90 minutes, compared with the 55 minutes on each of the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedules. This is important for a class such as this one because it gives us lots of time to develop interesting discussions. And, oh my goodness, today’s discussions got very interesting.
I can’t share all of it here, for reasons which will become clear later, but maybe I can write around the edges of it.
After a fair discussion about hypnosis, the professor asked for a volunteer to be hypnotized. Well, that’s not exactly how he said it. He asked for a pretty girl who does not want to be hypnotized to volunteer so she might experience a posthypnotic command to do something she does not want to do.
As I understand it, she is to experience this posthypnotic command, and then sweat through the urge to do it or not to do it, then report to the rest of us how it felt. She would be allowed to ask some questions based on her unique experience as the subject. The rest of the class, as observers, could only relate to the experience second-hand, so the comments and questions of the subject would carry much more weight.
The professor reminded us again that classroom participation counts heavily toward our final grades. Simply raising one’s hand in an enthusiastic and serious manner counts as participation, so we need not worry if we are not called on in a particular situation. Those who raise their hands will still be rewarded.
The professor began by asking all females to raise their hands. Of course, this included me, so for a while at least I was included in the pool of ladies who might be subjected to the dreaded and undesirable posthypnotic command. That was an odd feeling. But I determined to remove myself from the pool as quickly as possible.
The professor paused a moment, with a wry grin. “See how easy this is? Already half the class is earning extra points for participation.”
“What about the rest of us?” one of the guys asked. “This seems rather discriminatory.”
“Never to worry,” Professor Edwards countered. “Your time is coming. Sooner or later we will have some volunteer opportunities with a gender bias toward males.
“Or, if you wish, you may lift your hand to be counted among the females. You may be required to prove it, however.” A general giggling crossed the classroom with that remark. All the time during this exchange the professor left us sitting there with our hands raised. I had a feeling he was doing this on purpose. I know it made me feel a bit more drawn into his project.
Still keeping us with our hands in the air, the professor made another announcement. “All you ladies with your hands raised, of course, will be awarded your class participation points, as well as the young man who asked about gender bias. It was a good question. Our final selectee will be awarded double points regardless of whether she actually achieves hypnosis or not, as long as she is willing to give it an honest go.”
As he talked, I could feel my hand raising higher and higher. (Oh My God! I thought. I am still in the volunteer pool. I have a good idea of what might be coming and my hand is getting higher.) I suspect this was part of the professor’s trickery. It’s far easier to hold your hand straight up, balanced on the vertical, than to hold it partway up, with muscles providing support in a cantilever fashion.
The professor thanked us for being so enthusiastic with our show of hands, saying we should all feel very good about it. Then he continued his screening questions. The funny thing is, I did feel good about it, just as soon as he said that. Another funny thing is, the professor told another joke and I laughed because I thought it was funny, even though it wasn’t.
That started to scare me a little. My hand was higher in the air than ever and I realize I am experiencing a bit of an emotion—fear—and strange humor, the non-funny joke. From prior reading I know that emotions are the lubrication which allows hypnosis to work faster and easier.
Any emotions will do—from silly humor to a little bit of fright can go a long way in a hypnosis situation. It’s the stuff which earns fortunes in the 30- second television advertising spots. I already knew this, and yet here I was raising my hand higher and worrying myself about those two unexpected emotions.
And my hand was still in the air.
His joke went something like this. “It’s interesting how the girls are so enthusiastic about body parts which rise up so involuntarily, automatically into the air, so straight and tall. Many of you will discover some new directions for your lives in this class, pointing ever onward and upward. New directions designed especially for you.” What can possibly be funny about that? But I laughed because it seemed to have a hidden meaning. I wish I had read the chapter a little better.
From my position in the top row, back of the room, I could see others’ arms raising up. I let my arm finally reach vertical and then forgot about it until I could find a way out of my predicament.
The professor was asking far too many questions which seemed to be trapping me, too. He wanted female. That’s me, hand up. Good looking. Still includes me. Hand still up. On down the list he went, and I had a pretty good idea where this was heading.
Finally, I extricated myself from the pool in a most surprising way. He asked those few of us with our hands still up who does not want to be hypnotized? Well, I can honestly say, I was willing to be hypnotized if it came down to it. But the quest was to find someone unwilling, so my hand came down, and very quickly after that, my new lab partner was the only person in the room with her hand up.
The professor asked again, just to make sure. You are a pretty girl, you have a tendency to accidentally volunteer for things, and you definitely do not want to be hypnotized in this particular little project?
She nodded her head vigorously and her hand raised higher. So, the professor accepted her as an unwilling volunteer for hypnosis. The only requirement, of course, was that she keep an open mind and cooperate just a little.
Well, so far so good. But then he surprised her by completely avoiding anything which resembled what one might call a traditional, or even an untraditional, hypnotic induction.
There was no Go to Sleep suggestion, nor any wake-up signal; yet he seemed to be talking to a wide awake person most of the time and a thoroughly hypnotized person part of the time. Truly amazing. And she didn’t get it. She thought she was just standing there getting irritated at the whole situation.
When she heard the task he was assigning her, and realized he was serious and expected her to do it, she got huffy, and panicky, and about every other emotion you can imagine crossed her face. And then he quickly announced that not only was she going to do this, but because hypnosis is involved, she will just as quickly forget whether she did it.
That really sent her over the top. And just as quickly, the professor announced that he would simply leave her to work it all out for herself while we continued with our psychology lessons. So, there she stood, for three minutes stewing in her juices trying to figure out what to do.
This is the point where I need to skip a few things. As she is my lab partner, we are supposed to share our classroom notes, and about everything else, to help each other through this very difficult course. People who try to tough out the course as rugged individuals simply do not do as well, the professor had explained.
Yet, part of Dorothy’s assignment is to forget specific target data which was defined during the class. Until that phase is completed, I must be careful about what I put in our shared notes. Sorry, Dorothy, that’s just the way it must be.
The real cool thing about Dorothy’s assignment is that she does not seem to realize she has an assignment. Actually she has two conflicting assignments which seem to work at counter purposes.
Our jobs—that is, my job as her lab partner, and the job of the rest of the class, too,—is to be there for her, provide emotional support if needed and especially observe and report in our journals and daily notes any progress she might make in either portion of her assignment.
It’s an assignment for all the teams to keep a watch on Dorothy and present a written report, well, maybe a text file report, on their observations, without tipping her off that she might or might not be doing a posthypnotic project.
That is part of my assignment, too. The only thing is, I am flying solo on the reporting. But Dorothy is flying solo on her posthypnotic assignment, too.
Since our grades will be shared, the less she remembers of all this, the better my grade. Or, conversely, if she manages to break the amnesia, we can write a report about how that took place and still make a good grade.
It’s probably about time I actually described more about Dorothy’s assignments. As I said, there are two major assignments working at counter purposes:
One is to forget some specific data—completely block it from her conscious level as if it does not exist.
Counter to this, she is supposed to try to remember the forgotten data. Despite very heavy instructions on how to forget something and keep it forgotten, she is to allow her natural curiosity to find a way to dredge up the data.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? And either way, Dorothy wins because as the experimental subject she earns participation points, lots of them, for as long as the project continues. So do I, of course. That gives me motivation as her team leader to encourage her to keep the forgotten material forgotten.
And what has she forgotten? Here it becomes a little more complicated, and we return to the original premise, of hypnotizing an unwilling female and persuading her to do something she does not want to do.
As nearly everyone on our small university campus heard within a few minutes to a few hours after our class session was dismissed this morning, Dorothy did indeed get hypnotized, even though she is totally convinced it did not happen.
Amazingly, and to their credit, practically the whole student body entered into conspiracy to not tell her much about it. Some campus buzz went around real fast at first, and she overheard a lot of it, but she seems to have dismissed it as gossip. Our classmates managed to spread the word that it will be more fun simply to watch Dorothy for the next several days to see what happens.
A phone call to the professor at his home has given me some more guidance about how to handle my running report on this. As my lab partner she is fully entitled to all my notes on our joint projects. If she asks for them, I must give them to her. However, one of the bits of data she has forgotten is, well, is the fact that I am her lab partner. This afternoon she appeared not to even remember my name or face.
The professor gave me leave to edit or truncate the notes I give her, depending upon how much she may have remembered. For example, if she happens to recall something minor, such as our link as lab partners, I may feel free to give her my notes through about the line up there where it says Sorry, Dorothy. If she remembers more, I am to give her as much information as she asks for, quietly without lying. She has a right to demand all of my notes, if she remembers. And I am to provide full disclosure with notes and spoken details, if she asks.
However, our goal is to maintain Dorothy’s amnesia over the weekend and until class meets Tuesday morning.
Specifically, Dorothy had two, or maybe two and a half overt hypnotic assignments to accomplish, and several complicated layers of mental activity to keep well defined but completely out of her conscious range of thinking as if it had never happened.
Her first overt hypnosis assignment was to stand in front of the class for three minutes while she considered how she might strip herself naked for us, despite her very serious desire to avoid this action. At the end of three minutes, and without further prompting from anyone, Dorothy had exactly one more minute to get everything off her body, absolutely everything, and stand there naked.
No one was to browbeat her. No one was to prompt her. Indeed no one was to address her directly. She was to be left to her own devices for the entire three to four minutes. Class members could, however, speak quietly about her in the third person. We could ask Professor Edwards questions about her. And, this turned out to be important, we could speak aloud our observations about her. One delightful moment occurred about one-third or more of her way through her three-minute waiting period, or what some of us have begun to call her self-stewing time.
Someone observed that her pupils dilated each time someone referred to Dorothy in the third person. When they mentioned her pupils, which had indeed dilated some, it was as if Dorothy had suddenly zoned out. Both her eyes opened wide, very bug-eyed wide and both pupils dilated so much you could hardly see enough of her irises to tell her eye color.
Brown, by the way. I made a point of checking later, after she had calmed down. Dorothy has brown eyes. Deep brown eyes. Very beautiful.
Look, I am not into girls, not even slightly bi-curious, but I can appreciate beauty and loveliness when I see it. Dorothy was completely beautiful in a fragile-innocent sort of way in that moment.
I think that was the moment—her reaction with the dilated eyes—that she lost her battle. The fight seemed to go out of her eyes for a moment. I will be curious to read her account of it when she writes it up. If she remembers. I hope she remembers.
Dorothy, when you finally get to read this, I hope you remember. Until then, of course, my task as your lab partner is to help you to earn us both an amazing grade by your failure to remember, or even to suspect any of this.
So far, Dorothy, as we near the end of our first day, you are doing an excellent job of it. Bravo! It’s just too bad I can’t tell you yet.
Oh! One other crucial note needs to be entered here.
About the time Dorothy was experiencing her mega-max-out eye dilations Professor Edwards suddenly asked “Where is Dorothy’s lab partner?”
His question surprised me and my right hand shot up of its own volition right back to where it had been during those minutes I had forgotten about it during the screening questions. I quickly used my left hand to try to pull it down. My right hand and arm remained stuck, extended over my head. I could not get it down.
The professor appeared surprised and delighted when he saw my difficulties with my raised arm. The expression on his face was like someone who had found a treasure chest laying on a beach. Oh My God! I am in for it now, I thought.
“Never mind that, Natasha. Stand up and please just forget about your arm until I talk with you later about it. I was calling on you to make a point with Dorothy. She has managed to dilate both her eyes, that is similar to blushing, something very nearly impossible to do voluntarily.”
I quickly stood up, relieved to have the attention diverted away from my arm. Uh, it was still stuck up high above me, but at least I could forget about it for now,
“While Dorothy’s subconscious is so very active,” Professor Edwards continued, ever the educator, “let’s talk about how quickly she can learn to forget target memories on command. We shall start with data which has hardly had time to imprint deeply on her memory matrix this morning. All we need to do is talk about it and Dorothy’s subconscious will see to it that it happens. Not whole mega memories at first, but tiny bits. Later, using this same method, she can forget the whole scope of a large project which is her assignment.”
“First a definition. Lab Partner. Dorothy is to forget about lab partner, at least for a time. The term lab partner, as far as it is related to this class, is collected and carefully placed in her forget zone where it will stay until I call it back out.”
Dorothy’s eyes are practically bugging out of her head right in front of us, and the professor is talking to me, not to her, about how she is forgetting something,
“Naturally, other data attached to the term lab partner goes in there with that term,” he said, still talking to me, apparently ignoring Dorothy who was standing right beside him.
“Your face, Natasha, your body, your general appearance, as her lab partner, is tossed into the forget zone with her definition of the term; and of course, she forgets that you are her lab partner and she forgets your name and forgets even the concept of lab partner for this class, until I tell her otherwise in a few days.”
And just like that, in so many words, I was wiped from the memory of my new lab partner. I was flabbergasted. I am standing right across the room in front of this girl and she is forgetting about me.
Turning his voice even more toward me the professor continued. “Naturally, you still remain her lab partner and wish to share experiences with her. Here is an easy one.
“Among other things, Dorothy has forgotten the name of her lab partner. Likewise, you, young lady on the top row, have forgotten some data. Among other things which you have forgotten, you too have forgotten the name of Dorothy’s lab partner.”
“What other things have I forgotten?” I challenged.
“Let’s give you a quick list before Dorothy takes us into her next chapter. You have forgotten where your hand and arm are. And now that I have pointed them out to you again, you will soon forget about them again.
“You have forgotten how to lower your arm. And you have forgotten how to sit down. But most amazingly of all, you have forgotten the name of Dorothy’s new lab partner.”
“That’s easy, her lab partner is me,” I said.
“Yes, but who are you? What is your name?”
Suddenly I had no answer for him. I could not remember my own name.
“See me after class and I will help you straighten it all out,” he said helpfully. “But we must press on to other matters. The last three minutes have certainly been busy haven’t they?”
Looking back on it, I am amazed with myself. The kindly professor had offered to help me remember my name, right after class. This was the man who had just robbed me of my name, and he was kindly offering to return it after class. And help me learn how to sit down, too, I thought hopefully.
The professor left me standing there on the top row of the lecture hall. My right arm was thrust high into the air. I could not sit down and I had no idea of my own name.
When Dorothy’s three minutes were up, I figured that would be about the end of it. One course of action open to her might be to refuse to do it. She could refuse to strip and even tell everyone off without fear of damage to her classroom marks. I thought she might fuss about it for a minute before refusing; but I was willing to put my money on it that she would refuse.
However, I had forgotten the little reward the professor had offered to Dorothy in exchange for her compliance. Not the double classroom participation points, those were hers regardless, simply for being the hypnotic subject.
The professor had told Dorothy she would be entitled to two questions. Upon completion of her immediate task, she was to ask two surprising questions, which might disclose something profound about her first person-point-of- view experience as our unwilling subject.
I had not suspected how deeply this idea affected Dorothy. She should have simply waited out the professor’s three minutes and then sat down, showing him up.
However, she was being granted the exclusive right to ask questions which could only occur to a person upon completion of a very difficult posthypnotic assignment. What questions could possibly occur to a person In that sort of situation? Dorothy had to find out.
That was a silly notion on my part, now that I think of it. I was the girl who was standing on the top row, unable to sit down, unable to lower her hand, and unable to remember her name. Entrapped as I was, who was I to expect Dorothy to resist?
Suddenly Dorothy exploded. Or went ballistic. I don’t know the word for it. She had been standing there with a defeated look on her face when she abruptly scowled, showing lots of anger.
Dorothy cried. She cursed. She shouted and pouted and stomped her feet. All the while she was doing this, she was pulling her top garment, a simple polo shirt, over her head. She cast it angrily onto the floor beside her. Her bra soon landed with the shirt.
Next, Dorothy’s hands searched her head. She removed a large rubber band from her ponytail, letting her hair fall freely. She tossed the hair band at the shirt on the floor and pulled her glasses from her face.
“Give me those,” the professor said, halting her wrist before she could toss the glasses to the floor. “I will take care of them for you.”
Dorothy froze. I thought she appeared relieved that the professor had intervened about the expensive glasses. They might have broken. But Dorothy just stood there, stopped in mid-gesture. Nude from the waist up. Brown jeans and shoes and socks from the waist down.
“All right, you may go ahead now.” And just as instantly, Dorothy’s rage resumed.
“How dare you?” She shouted. “Strip naked? Strip naked for your amusement? I’ll show you naked. I’ll show you amusement.”
With that Dorothy began pulling off her clothes from the lower half of her body. This was not the flirty strip tease the guys were hoping for. Dorothy simply unfastened her jeans at the waist and pulled them down, her underpants included.
When the garments reached her ankles they became stuck, unable to pass over her shoes. Momentarily hobbled by the pants down around her ankles, she sat her bare buns directly on the floor to keep from falling over. Immediately, she went to work loosening her shoes and kicked them off.
Then the jeans came off the rest of the way, turning inside out because of the snag-up at her ankles. Even her socks came off with the one movement, remaining inside the legs of the pants. There, prominent in the inside- out upper portion of Dorothy’s discarded jeans were the inside-out panties, white with red outlining the waistband and leg openings.
With absolutely nothing else left on her body which might be removed, Dorothy stood to her feet and glared at the professor. She carefully stepped back to the place where she had stood those long miserable minutes.
Dorothy placed her feet exactly as they had been before, except without shoes this time, and she asked “is this naked enough?”
“Yes,” the professor answered quietly. “You qualify as naked enough.”
“Did I do it fast enough?” she challenged again.
“Yes, you did it fast enough, with fifteen seconds to spare,” the professor confirmed.
“I am so proud of you, Dorothy. And you surprised yourself with your two Questions, too, didn’t you?” he beamed.
“Before I forget it,” he continued, “double classroom participation points for the young men in the back row who came up with this idea. Give them a hand while I attend to Dorothy.”
We still had about 25 minutes remaining in our class session, and quite a bit happened during that time, both interesting and significant. However, I am calling a break with these notes while I make a snack. I’ll put more in a separate file, for easier management.