A professional hypnotist will pre-prepare his subjects by first establishing whether they are suggestible, then hypnotizing them in a conventional way and including a ‘trigger’ which a short time into the future, helps them to revert to the hypnotized or suggestible state. This can either be the ubiquitous ‘click’ or a trigger word.
Due to stage hypnotists’ showmanship and their perpetuating the illusion of possessing mysterious abilities, the appearance of a trance state is often interpreted as an “effect” of the hypnotist’s “power”. The real power of stage hypnosis comes from the trust the “hypnotist” can instill in their subjects.
The hypnotist has no control over you at all, and cannot make you do things against your will. All hypnosis is really self-hypnosis in that it is self-directed and self-controlled.
How is Stage Hypnosis done? Hypnosis is possible only if there is cooperation between you and your hypnotist. Only you can decide to allow yourself to be hypnotized. Hypnosis can be persuasive, but does not give the hypnotist control over your mind, morality, or judgment. So do not fear hypnosis – it should continue to develop as an effective technique to promote desired change in behavior, thinking, and emotions.
Please take note: It is illegal to hold any form of stage hypnosis in a public venue (among other venues) unless the local authority has issued their consent for this.
The Stage Hypnotist has a selection process
The stage hypnotist is a clever psychologist, quickly sorting out, from the volunteers, those who are most likely to be easily hypnotized and those who will be happy to go along with the act. The hypnotist will easily ‘weed out’ the suspicious, the timid/very shy, the determined-to-prove-they-can’t-be-done, the neurotic, and those who have been dragged unwillingly onto the stage by their ‘friends’, leaving just about the easiest ‘subjects’ to work with. The hypnotist will then choose the best of those that are left. Not that the others can’t be hypnotized, it is just that he prefers to work with the easy ones – and why not? This is entertainment, whether you agree with it or not. The stage hypnotist’s job is to put on a show that the audience will enjoy. It is what his or her future success is based upon. No club or theatre owner will willingly book an act which does not entertain, after all. Once they have been selected, the proficient stage hypnotist will say something like: “Now, you six are the cream of the crop – the best, which is why I selected you. And the ability to accept hypnosis has been proven to be linked with intelligence, so that says something about you all…” Just think about that statement for a powerful suggestion!
People who get hypnotized are weak minded
Wrong! In fact, it is the opposite. Without doubt, it is the people who can concentrate well and have a creative imagination that make the best hypnotic “subjects.” People with these valuable attributes can enter a state of hypnosis with ease. We are all susceptible to suggestion, but it is just a matter to what degree. If someone is offering me something which is useful, then I will work toward achieving it. It would be quite stupid to work against something that can help you, don’t you think? It is therefore totally incorrect to say that people who become hypnotized are gullible or weak minded.
The stage hypnotist vs. the clinical hypnotherapist
Hypnosis is hypnosis, and there are no special varieties for the stage entertainer. But there is a world of difference between the stage hypnotist and the clinical hypnotherapist, besides their job title. The stage hypnotist is a skilled user of ‘razzmatazz’ and relies heavily on the confidence of his approach, showmanship, belief and the willingness of his subjects to perform simple ‘tasks’. The clinical hypnotherapist relies on his or her knowledge of the human psyche, a caring and compassionate manner, an understanding of the phenomena surrounding hypnosis, and a clients who are prepared to accept help with the change they seek.
The psychology of stage hypnosis
Keep the above mentioned principles in mind.
What exactly is happening on stage?
First of all, the stage hypnotist will never call out participants. He will say: “Any volunteers, come up to the stage”. That will be your first clue. Everybody knows he is going to make fun of you. And the fact that you are willing to do that, says that because you want to, he will be able to do it. If you are not willing, the hypnotherapist will be the fool!
Secondly – and this is what you don’t see on TV: he will converse with them. This is to establish whether there is a relationship or not. If he discovers that you don’t like or trust him, or vice versa, you will be sent back to the audience. The same will apply if you are overly critical of him.
Now the moment of truth! He snaps his fingers and says: Sleep. And they go to “sleep”! Well, you know by now it is not sleep. But how is it possible for him to just snap his fingers, and they are hypnotised? This would in fact imply that he has hypnotized them before.
This means the stage hypnotist is familiar with his subjects and thus knows who will be willing to play the game.
As mentioned earlier: hypnosis is a state of mind power. For instance – you are on stage, and the hypnotist suggests to you to dance like a ballerina. You will first check with your internal moral system whether it is okay for you to do that or not. If it is acceptable, you can use your mind-power to remember for instance a TV show where you have seen a ballerina dancing. You will be able to recall the moves, and you will be able to perform them accordingly. You can even use mind power to dance on the tips of your toes and to imagine a steel bar from the tips of your toes to your legs. But if the hypnotist suggests something that is against your principles, you will come out of hypnosis, because you are in control all the time.
When he is finished, he will “wake you up”. As mentioned earlier, you will always come out of hypnosis. And you will remember afterwards what happened. Some people appear to be surprised afterwards. Well, you will also be surprised when you realize how realistic everything was.
Stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy are different but there are similarities too. Well, the main difference between stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy is the expected outcome. So, one’s for entertainment and the hypnotic suggestions are temporary. The other is for long-term personal change and development.
When, on stage, after an astonishingly brief induction delivered by a confident ‘operator’, the participants are told to ‘sleep’. There are not a lot of people who would have the nerve, in front of an audience and under stage lighting, to say to someone who is known by all present to be a hypnotist: “Sorry! It hasn’t worked!” Many will believe it has not worked, but they will not think the fault lies with the hypnotist – they will think it lies with them! Plus, of course, they have been told that the ability to accept hypnosis is linked to intelligence and they are not about to reveal that they are not intelligent after all. So they ‘sleep’, whether they feel as if ‘something’ has happened or not. Now they have done it. They have tacitly accepted that they are hypnotized, and because everybody knows they are hypnotized, they will have to do whatever they are asked to do – within reason. Some will know ‘it’ has worked; they were the ones who believed without question that they would ‘go under’, believed almost without question that some special force is at work. Their belief system ensured that they would have become hypnotized as soon as the hypnotist so much as looked at them. But they will not actually feel so very much different from the others.
At least one in three clients who visit a hypnotherapist for the first time will ask about the phenomena known as stage hypnosis. People are fascinated by the subject. In this article I shall attempt to offer a convincing explanation of the difference between what we do as clinical hypnotherapists and what the stage performer does. If you have ever been to see a stage hypnosis show or seen one on TV, then you will have no doubt seen people doing all sorts of strange things; looking through imaginary x-ray glasses and behaving as if they really ARE x-ray glasses, as though they really CAN see people with no clothes on, eating an apple that the audience can clearly see is an onion, and strutting about the stage like a chicken. Why do people do these things? Well, there is no reason for them NOT to. It really is as simple as that. But to explain exactly how and why stage hypnosis works, let’s start at the beginning…
What is Hypnosis? Hypnosis is a genuine psychological phenomenon that has valid uses in clinical practice. Simply put, hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention or concentration, often associated with relaxation, and heightened suggestibility.