Hypnosis is synonymous with stage hypnotist shows starting in the 18thcentury by a man called Dr Franz Mesmer. He is often given the credit for inventing hypnosis, but research shows that it has been utilised for centuries. He can, however, take the credit for giving it a bad reputation, claiming he could cure illness, andhe was subsequentlydenounced as a charlatan and a fraud. Demonstrating his technique all over Europe, dressed eccentrically, wearing a long silk gown and using a wand, his patients reported that they were captivated by his piercing stare, he certainly used showmanship to good effect.
Although it can be argued that he was trying to promote his magnetism theory for the development of science, modern stage hypnotists’ use hypnosis purely for entertainment. They inducethe audience to believe that they have control over their volunteer subjects and can make them do anything they desire, preferably something stupid like forgetting their own name or believing that they are naked for the humour of the audience.
It’s the performance, the entertainment and the showmanship, not hypnosis, that has power over their subjects. First of all, these people have offered to go on stage and want to participate in the inevitable humiliation, andthey are confident enough to stand up in front of a large number of people. The volunteers will usually have been through a series of suggestibility tests with the hypnotist to assess one thing – are they willing to do exactly what the hypnotist asks them to do. If they fail this test, they’re removed from the group. If they are there to prove they cannot be hypnotised, then they will be deselected. What is left on stage is a group of people who are willing, andthe hypnotist simply allows their extreme behaviour.
In film, hypnosis is a useful plot device. For example it can be employed by the evil baddy to manipulate their victim to commit acrime or even to seduce an unwitting woman. Again, films portray hypnosis as the hypnotist having absolute control over their subjects.
In the 1956 film the She Creature, a woman is hypnotised back to a past life as a prehistoric humanoid form of sea life. She then goes on to revert back to this state unpredictably, committing crimes with an ensuing reign of terror.
More recently in the film Get Out(2017), a man ishypnotised by his girlfriend’s mother who extracts information from him, and then goes on to hypnotise him against his will in order to put the brain of a white person into his body and leave his consciousness in some kind of trapped hypnosis. It’s obviously quite far-fetched but reaffirms the idea that you can control someone under hypnosis and hypnotise them against their will.
The attitude of the client is the most important factor in hypnosis, if they do not want to be hypnotised there is absolutely no way they can be.
Flash Gordan’s(1936) love interest, Dale, is captured by baddy Ming, whothen hypnotizes her so they can marry. Obviously Flash comes to the rescue and, thankfully, her so-called ‘hypnosis’ wears off.
Hypnosis does not wear off; it is not like taking a drug which begins to decline in potency. At any point in a session, if a client wishes to they can get up and walk out: if they decide they are not hypnotised, then they are not.
Hypnosis is often associated with superstition and evil and some fundamental Christians still believe now that thisis the case. They believe that you are opening your mind up, which can allow evil to come in. I’ve even heard of a hypnobirthing class in a church hall being asked to leave because of the supernatural connotations.
Other than film and TV causing hypnosis to be misunderstood, another contributing factor is that there is a lack of standard definition and practices, making it difficult to counter the negative ideas around hypnosis. In the last three decades, it has received interest by the scientific community who are trying to understand it better, however, at the moment, this has had conflicting results.
There are some things that people agree on. One such agreement is that hypnosis is simply highly focused concentration, enabling you to ponder on an image or idea. You are aware of your surroundings, but they become unimportant to you. You won’t feel different under hypnosis, although I like to give my clients lots of relaxation suggestions because it feels nice and gives the body a chance to rest
If your critical and analytical voice is constantly questioning what your hypnotherapist is saying, then you won’t be hypnotised. On the other hand if you arerelaxed, going with the flow, trusting your hypnotherapist, then the messages go direct to your sub-conscious and be accepted. You will become open to suggestions that will benefit you and can simply disregard any that don’t.
If you would like to know more about how hypnotherapy can alleviate symptoms, reduce anxiety and cure phobia, please get in touch.