This is never more obvious than when accepting suggestions given by the stage hypnotist. I have seen homophobes quite happily trying to seduce members of their own sex. Introverted and normally self-conscious people, who wouldn't take their Mac off on a beach, quite happily stripping to their underwear and sometimes, although never deliberately in my shows, beyond!
Please note that I personally have never stripped a woman (hypnotised on stage that is) and have only ever gone as far as underpants with men. I do suggest you are careful here, not everyone likes the constraints of underwear, and some like it a little frillier than you'd suspect. In the case of stage hypnosis the process is a release of normally held social conventions where the subject feels free and uninhibited enough to experience the scenarios given them by the hypnotist, so please do be careful what these are.
To most onlookers it is a demonstration of how minds can be controlled and forced to produce unusual reactions in poor, weak-willed and unfortunate volunteers, by one possessed of amazing insight and wonderful knowledge, (much to their amusement of course). The amazing and wonderful bit I agree with totally, but then I would wouldn't I? Then again those same people probably believe that a sword actually passes through the arm of the magician and that the politicians' promises will be kept. Bless them; they are your best audience.
Stage hypnosis however is a unique and astounding phenomena, and unlike therapeutic hypnosis the effects cannot be produced in the majority of the population all of the time. Only around 20% can be successfully induced into the state usually known as, for want of a better word, somnambulism at any one time... it's a mood thing. If they are in the right mood they will 'go'. However moods can be changed.
That's why virtually all Hypnosis shows start with 20 or 30 volunteers from an audience of 200 plus, and finish with any number less than that at the end. There is of course always the exception that disproves the rule. I worked on one occasion with 32 people in the state when the audience was just under a hundred; I've also ended up, but only in the early days, with one out of five hundred!
While in this state most of the 'subjects' will be experiencing mild hallucinations. Their inhibiting functions are not lost but are lowered considerably. And their imaginations are expanded to the point where they can improvise and role-play as well as, and often better than, the world's most famous actors.
For the last hundred years or so hypnosis has been dogged with an image akin to witchcraft and human sacrifice. Thanks mostly to the voices of derision from the youngest of 'real' sciences, psychology, and to the fictitious film character Svengali, who 'took over' people with mesmerism and got them to do a bit of stealing and murdering for him. Of course most therapists would tell you it is also thanks to we few hypnotists who use the expanded imagination of volunteers on stage, to entertain.
Stage hypnosis is often a person's first experience of the art and it is still the most mistrusted, misunderstood and besieged. The horror stories are of course endless and for the most part without foundation.
The problem stems from the fact that the general public is kept continually and firmly in the dark about the whole thing. Mostly by the hypnotists themselves, who seem to have an intense fear that if the truth is known then they will no longer have a profession. Utter rubbish! Take for instance the case of thousands of magicians whose basic 'secrets' are common knowledge for anyone interested enough to buy a child's book on conjuring.
The basis of stage, and indeed ALL hypnosis may come as shock when you look at it closely, and the importance of this cannot be under stressed - ALL hypnosis is purely the results of belief in hypnosis! Whether it happens behind closed doors or on a stage. It really is the same principal as that used in TV advertising and politics. If the observer believes that they have little biological monsters in their sweat then the soap powder sells, and the dyslexic anarchist plumber becomes mayor!
This may make it sound that the hypnotist can indeed control the subject's mind completely and absolutely. This is NOT the case so if this is your belief, kill it now.
NO hypnotist can force anyone to enter hypnotic state, nor can they keep him or her there against their will. I know - I've tried, although it is possible to hypnotise without the recipient's knowledge if you are really persuasive.
NO hypnotist can make anyone do anything that they do not really wish to do. No more that is, than can any good con-man, or a few pints of falling down water. Some hypnotists would argue that you couldn't get anyone to perform an act that goes against their moral values and / or beliefs. However these morals and beliefs are, in most people, a very thin veneer kept up for social acceptance and can often fall away with other inhibiting factors when hypnotised. It's important that you understand that a person hypnotised on stage very often has no morals for the time they are with you, so moral standards are up to you having some.
A hypnotist is nothing more than a guide. They can show you how to get there and provide blueprints for your imagination to work with. But on the whole, unless the hypnotist has read this book, the results remain as unpredictable as next year's Derby winner or your first attempt at a highly collapsible soufflé. The only person that can in fact hypnotise you is you, if you want to and if you know how to get there. The only difference between you and the hypnotist is that they know how.
In actual fact the art involved in being a STAGE hypnotist is not just learning to hypnotise, anyone can do that and it really can be learnt in minutes, but to make the whole process entertaining. That takes talent, masochistic tendencies and a death wish, fortunately not everyone possess' a combination of all three.
So what is actually happening out on those boards? Stage hypnosis works like this. When you are relaxed you are less inclined to be self-conscious; rather like being drunk. As when you are intoxicated, should someone suggest that it would be a bit of a laugh to pretend to be a Martian, or Elvis, or a ballerina, or whatever, you'll probably try it - why not? It's only a giggle after all. You do try it and it gets a few laughs, so you do it some more because making people laugh is good fun. That fun is intensified by your relaxed state and so you enjoy it more and so on. If the
Hypnotist is adept at helping you retain that lowered inhibition and maintaining a high degree of audience reaction, then the fun of being funny lasts as long as you stay in that state. In fact it can often be so good a feeling that you'll get people just pretending to be hypnotised - how to spot them and deal with them later.
After the show your subconscious can put the blame firmly on the Hypnotist by apparently not allowing you to consciously remember anything that happened on stage! So you appear to your friends and family as a helpless and hapless victim, and the Hypnotist takes the role of wicked villain. Which of course we must be because of the ridiculous things we 'forced' you to do.
Occasionally the routines we use upset the friends or family that have come along with the volunteer, which is unreasonable when you consider that the person on stage was precisely that, a volunteer, and a willing one at that! The strange thing seems to be that if you were smashed out of your skull by an alcoholic overdose and chained yourself nude to a letterbox no one would blame the barman or the box.
The important thing to remember about stage hypnosis is that it is good harmless fun for both the audience, volunteer, and fortunately most of the time, for the Hypnotist. It is also comparatively safe. But also remember that it is very fleeting in effect and you will have to be prepared to work hard to keep the whole thing going.
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Hypnosis is a capital instrument for relaxation and alleviating stress. It helps calm down both the brain and body, giving a useful rest. All the same it can be rather costly to hire a clinical hypnotherapist, and we might not always want one around when we would like to destress.