WOMEN and men complain that they don’t know what their partners or spouses are thinking. But, if you were given the chance of reading their mind, would you?
One of the funniest scenes from the film, Now You See Me, which is to be released on DVD next week, and stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher and Morgan Freeman, features Harrelson’s character, Merritt.
Merritt is a mentalist. He is able to read the mind of a man who is cheating on his wife, and learns all the details, like the ‘other woman’s’ name and even where the cheating husband met her.
Merritt stops just short of sharing this information with the man’s wife. Would it be good to live in a world without secrets, where minds could be read at will?
“Definitely not,” says Irish illusionist, Keith Barry, who worked as a consultant on Now You See Me. “It could, in fact, be very dangerous. It is not easy, but it has been proven that it is possible to hypnotise people and get them to do something that is against their morals or values.
“In recent times, the technique has even been used as a tool to rob people, by getting them to disclose their pin numbers, and so on. I did a whole television show on the topic.” Now You See Me centres around four illusionists who mesmerise an international audience with a series of bold and original heists, all the while pursuing a hidden agenda that has the FBI and Interpol scrambling to anticipate their next move. They perform high-tech, high-profile magic shows, first amazing audiences by remotely robbing a Paris bank while in Las Vegas, and then exposing a white-collar criminal and funnelling his millions into the audience members’ bank accounts, baffling the authorities with their intricately planned capers.
Barry worked with Harrelson, developing his character.
“Mentalism,” Barry says, “is, basically, the study of other people’s behaviour, so that you can predict their future patterns.
“Anybody can learn the techniques involved, but to be able to use those skills and put them into practice, you need something extra. You need charisma, you need confidence, and you need to work hard. I’ve been doing magic since I was five.
“I studied chemistry in college and got interested in the science of the mind as my girlfriend, now my wife, was doing psychology. Woody was brilliant to work with. He wanted to learn the craft of mentalism. He has an amazing mind.
“He believes in the power of mind over body, he is a vegan and raw foodist, does yoga and goes on these fasts and silent meditation retreats, where he doesn’t talk to anyone for 40 days at a time.
“So he was the perfect candidate and became the role. We started working on Skype, then I gave him a list of about 40 books, all of which he read, and we had one-on-one sessions in LA and New Orleans.”
Family therapist, David Kavanagh, of www.avalon.com, says that mind-reading would be disastrous, especially for people’s relationships.
“The most common complaint from clients, in our counselling and pre-marriage courses, is a difficulty in communicating with their partners.
“We often have negative thoughts about our partners, but they are fleeting and would not reflect how we feel about them over an extended period of time.
“What good would come of our partner being privy to those thoughts?
“The real problem is that men and women communicate in different ways — women build relationships through talking, but men can sit in a bar together, watching TV, and still feel like they are bonding. It doesn’t mean they are withholding stuff.”
The secret to a successful relationship is communication and an ability to work through conflict, and, it seems, not getting married because you are ‘in love’.
“So many people tie the knot because they are ‘in love’, when, in fact, that is the worst reason in the world to get married. When you are in love, you are not capable of thinking logically. You need to have not been able to stand the sight of each other at least once — but to have worked through things — before you decide to get married.”
But, says Stephen Keogh, MD of privateeye.ie, there is one group of people who would be in favour of reading their partners’ minds: those who have sought the services of a private investigator for matrimonial work.
“If such mind-reading was possible, it would put me out of business, of course. However, I guarantee that if you asked a hundred of my clients if they’d like to have been able to read their partner’s mind, the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’ from every one of them. When we produce evidence of spouses having affairs, our clients are usually devastated, but at least they now know the truth.
“We are out-the-door busy with clients from all walks of life. We are able to save a lot of people a lot of money. For example, one woman knew her husband was having an affair and had spent €35,000 on legal bills, but was getting nowhere. She paid us €1,200 and we gave her the proof she needed in a couple of days.”
But why do people cheat?
Helen Croydon is a journalist and relationship expert, and is best-known for her immersive work.
Her latest book, Screw the Fairytale: A Modern Woman’s Guide to Love and Sex, will explore alternative models of relationships to the conventional, committed, monogamous, 24-7, happily-ever-after fairytale.
She says: “From my research for that book, I learnt that in the early ‘romantic love’ phase of meeting someone, the dopamine levels in our brains shoot up and we behave like addicts — dizzy, elated and not acting normally.
“But, of course, it’s not sustainable, so romantic love ends, followed by attachment and a sense of stability and security.
“The problem is that a lot of men crave both of those aspects — they want the excitement of new love and the security of having a long-term partner.
“And, from all the undercover work I did on marital-affair websites, the men I met said they still loved their wives and didn’t want to leave them.
“But the novelty factor had faded and they wanted someone new, who they could look forward to seeing and going out with, so it isn’t just about wanting sex. When women cheat, there seems to be a more tangible reason — they might feel ignored sexually and want to boost their self-esteem, or, perhaps, they want to get revenge on their husband.”
Does Helen think it would be a good idea to share all our secrets?
“Absolutely not. This idea that we can share everything is quite unrealistic. I’m a proponent of individuality and autonomy and I still find the idea that we can be attracted to one person only, forever, unrealistic and scientifically impossible.
“However, if you do want a lifelong, monogamous relationship, it is going to take a lot of conscious effort to achieve that. If there is a blip along the way, its probably better not to tell your other half.”