Carly ‘Bird’ Ptak
Conversation with Hypnotherapist and Radionic Artist Carly Ptak
Heather Hall catches up with hypnotherapist and “idea machine” Carly Ptak, who years ago helped Heather through a prolonged psychedelic experience later diagnosed as schizophrenia. With questions from her diary, Heather asks Carly: What is the ego, and what is the self? What is the difference between deep hypnosis and lucid dreaming? How do you cope with the ability to affect and influence other people’s minds? What happens in therapy sessions dealing with “life between lives,” “past life regression,” and “spirit releasement”? And why should we engage with past trauma?
I first met Carly in 2007 when I was in Baltimore apprenticing with a small synth business. Carly was a friend of the owner and lived nearby, so we would go to her home (Tarantula Hill) for meals and to hang out. At that time, she had just started training as a hypnotherapist, a practice that’s well suited to someone of her nature, who naturally convenes in the collective unconscious. She’s traveled the depths of her own mind, so she’s pretty fearless when going the distance with others too, for better or worse.
Carly Ptak (Czech for ‘Bird’) has been involved in the avant garde/noise scene since the early 90s as a solo artist and with her collaborator and husband Twig Harper as psycho-nautical noise duo Nautical Almanac. Carly is an idea machine. In fact she just started a new website called Idea of the Month Club. I don’t think she identifies with any one craft or medium. So far I’ve seen her express herself in the realm of sound, stained glass, twitter, games, performance, radionic devices, gardening, photography, sewing, herbalism, and web design. Her home is a continual work of art in and of itself, hosting an esoteric library, sensory deprivation tank, recording studio, and beautiful DIY renovations.
A year after meeting her, I had a “psychedelic experience” that put me in an entirely new, and highly confusing mind space. The clarity of my psyche was quickly dissolving and I was diagnosed by those around me as schizoidal. I felt out of my element regarding how to deal with the experience so, while barely knowing them, I reached out to Carly and Twig for guidance. I knew there was more for me in this experience than a hospital visit, and I felt they would be able to safely witness and hold space. They graciously invited me to stay at their home in Baltimore.
For two weeks, Carly and Twig provided me with a space to explore this new, rapidly unfolding consciousness. For those of you who have not experienced a prolonged and extreme state of altered consciousness, this experience is as if you dropped acid daily for two months. Others have experienced this phenomena, and now it is even established in the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as “Spiritual Emergency” –you can read more about it here.
I was pretty ignorant about the psychic terrain I was traversing. One of the things that happened was that voices began to manifest in my aural awareness, informing me that I was in a dire situation that would soon involve me being murdered by Twig, Carly, and their friends. Needless to say, it was incredibly stressful. The voices only got louder, so I had no choice but to flee Baltimore, leaving all my things behind at their home, and ended up in a hospital some days later. This voice, and others, continued for years and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I didn’t speak with Twig and Carly for almost five years, though they were present in my thoughts and sometimes I would even hear Carly’s voice.
I’ve asked Carly a lot of questions in my mind over the years. I even have a part in my journal entitled “Questions for Carly Ptak.” I have answered these questions myself in various ways but I was still curious to know her perspective.
Knowing you has felt pretty challenging, though also beautiful and rewarding. It has enriched realms of my life beyond just our connection. I know it’s me doing the work, but I feel that you definitely acted as a catalyst. I bet people project pretty weird stuff onto you. How do you deal with that?
Yeah I get a lot of stuff projected onto me. I’m okay with being in that role. It’s an important role, and I’ve learned to recognize I have it because I live and operate in the subconscious realm much more than other people. I tend to communicatewith people through their subconscious. Often I don’t realize this in my conscious mind and neither do they, but at some point we become aware of it. Sometimes it’s an agreed upon awareness and sometimes it isn’t.
People are generally fearful of their deeper self. I don’t have a lot of fear of my deeper stuff, I mostly find it interesting. Sometimes issues come up that I’m uncomfortable with but then I work with them and find that experience to be valuable. I tend to trigger this in other people and I think that’s valuable as well. They don’t always think so, or at least it takes time until they do. When something hard comes up interpersonally, I am always open to discuss it. A lot of these discussions are about responsibility, and I do my best to be responsible for all that I feel is appropriate, but also to point out the places where the responsibility rests with others.
Triggering people’s subconscious material is probably a very useful gift to have as a hypnotherapist.
Well yeah, once I realized that was my line of work. When I was a teenager I wanted to be a therapist. I knew that’s what I was suited for. Then I went to college at the University of Michigan for Psychology and Women’s Studies and I found I didn’t want to work with any of those paradigms. I put aside that idea of myself as a therapist.
I didn’t pick it up again until I was 31, when I chose to study hypnotherapy. In between that time, I was often acting as a therapist without embracing the role. That created a lot of discord. Once I embraced the role and had a place to do it, I was able to be more ... free.
Why have midlife crisis when you can have midlife awesomeness? Yes this is my new purple 1992 Camaro pic.twitter.com/RNx8kS5aXa— carlybird (@carlyptak) January 17, 2015
Well, this is the part of the interview where I apologize for accusing you of trying to kill me. [Laughs.] And if you were trying to kill me, I’m sorry you didn’t get to witness my eventual demise and rebirth, it was glorious.
I accept your apology. The reason you were here for that experience is because you were around people who were willing to have it with you.