How do stage hypnotists make people do all those weird things?

It can be difficult to understand how you can retain all your normal moral codes and standards of behavior in hypnosis when people do such strange things on stage. So let’s look at this…

Firstly, the stage hypnotist has several tools to identify those who, let’s say, don’t mind a bit of attention. These are the people who perhaps just need an excuse to act the fool. Sometimes that excuse is alcohol, sometimes being in a show where they’re expected to.

Add to that the fact that hypnosis is good for reducing inhibition, just as one or two units of alcohol is. The way hypnosis does this is to help you remain relaxed. Inhibition is essentially just anxiety about behaving in a particular way. If you are able to stay relaxed, you are less inhibited.

So these two factors, plus the expectations of the audience and the excitement of the occasion, make for a heady mix that the most outgoing people can happily take advantage of.

Will I be helpless when I'm hypnotized?

Our co-founder Mark tells a story about when he was first practising as a professional hypnotherapist. His client was sitting peacefully hypnotized in his chair when suddenly, a roof tile came crashing through the window. His client didn’t flinch. When Mark asked him afterwards whether he was aware of it, he said he was but that he knew there was no need for him to do anything so he didn’t.

Because you are still ‘awake’ during hypnosis, you can still make decisions in the usual way, but just with more flexibility because you are less under the control of your automatic reactions. If you hear a fire alarm go off when hypnotized, you will still think “that’s a fire alarm, it’s probably best if I get out of here!” The process will be less jarring than waking up from sleep to an alarm because you are already conscious.

Can only some people be hypnotized?

Most people can use hypnosis effectively. There are a small group of people who may not respond to hypnosis due to their inability to perceive context and implication, which can be an aspect of Asperger’s syndrome. Once you experience the state of hypnosis you will understand why this is the case – hypnosis is simply an engaging and deepening of the brain’s natural ability to focus and imagine.

Are people who can be hypnotized somehow mentally weak?

Hypnosis is most accurately described as a state of mental focus, which is not the sort of capability traditionally associated with ‘mental weakness’ (whatever that may be!) Also, sportspeople at the top of their game often use self hypnosis to improve their focus and achieve the ideal mental state. Are these people ‘mentally weak’?

Is hypnosis the same as being asleep?

o, although some studies suggest that the hypnotic state is similar to the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep state. You need to be awake for hypnosis to work because you need your brain to be processing the words (or in other words, you need to be listening).

When you’re hypnotized, you have an experience in parallel with your conscious awareness. You are fully aware of where you are and what is happening, but at the same time you have an internally-focused awareness.

If you’re repeatedly falling asleep listening to hypnosis, it’s most likely because you’re sleep deprived.

Can hypnosis be used to retrieve memories?

Most definitely not. In fact, because the imagination is so engaged during hypnosis, some studies have show memories ‘retrieved’ during hypnosis to be less reliable than normal recall.

Do 'subliminals' in hypnosis really work?

The short answer? No. Here’s the long answer.

What if I've never been hypnotized before?

In truth, you have been hypnotized, perhaps very deeply. Whenever you are, say, reading a book and you don’t hear someone call your name, or drive somewhere and don’t remember the route, or cut yourself without noticing, these all involve hypnosis to some extent. It usually helps to understand hypnosis when you stop thinking about it as some different, weird state, and start seeing how it is a natural extension of everyday awareness.

Does hypnosis work instantly?

It very much depends on what issue you are addressing. For example, we regularly treat phobias and smokers in one session in our clinic. Some people find they get what they need from just listening once but continue to listen to their selected download to reinforce the changes or because they just love to relax so much.

But, as a general rule, we recommend you listen to your session once a day for a week, then after that just as often as you feel you need to until you get the benefits you are looking for. Once you have got what you want and need from the session, you can listen to it occasionally when you feel in the need of a ‘top up’ or, as I say, simply to enjoy relaxing.