A Few Things About Hypnotism

Posted: November 2, 2013 in Living and Life, Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

I was sitting on the couch this afternoon, getting in some much-needed reading. One of the books I was reading was a mystery manga involving mysteries al a Sherlock Holmes. I was enjoying the story…until one thing popped out of me as being really inaccurate. The story involved the protagonist taking on a loan shark who employed hypnotism in some of his more unsavory schemes. Now I can do hypnotism to some degree. And I’m always happy when it’s used in fiction…as long as the portrayal is accurate. And I’m sorry to say that the manga’s author was pretty far off on the portrayal of hypnotism’s accuracy.

Now I know that it’s a manga, taking place in a day when not a lot was known about hypnotism, and that the stories are modeled off actual Sherlock Holmes tales, so it could be based on a story that involved hypnotism, if rather inaccurately. And since this is a manga, I can’t very well tell how much research the author did for her manga, especially this particular chapter. But it kind of gets at me when hypnotism is used inaccurately. So let me take this opportunity while I have your attention to tell you some things about actual hypnosis. With any luck it’ll keep some other author from doing a grossly inaccurate interpretation of hypnosis in his/her next work.

1. Hypnotists can’t do anything unless the hypnotized person is okay with it. You ever see that movie where the hypnotist turns a teenager into a werewolf through hypnotism, whether he likes it or not? Neither have I, but I know of it and I know that’s not how it works. Hypnotized subjects are still conscious while they are hypnotized, and they can’t be forced to do anything unless they want to do so. Which means a subject can’t be forced to murder, do some really inappropriate act, or something along those lines unless they’d willingly do those acts while fully conscious. The only exception is magical hypnosis, and I’ve never seen an actual case of that outside of novels and manga, so forget I mentioned it, okay?

Okay, that just took out 95% of all hypnosis myths right there. And you at home or on your phone or at work or on a plane still reading this when the flight attendant has just told you to turn off your device (shame on you! They don’t tell you to turn off your device just to annoy you, you know), might just be wondering what hypnosis actually does if nefarious villains aren’t using hypnosis for evil schemes? Well, I’ll tell you:

2. Hypnosis is a form of therapy. Hypnotists will talk to a subject, gradually using verbal cues and commands to relax the subject to the point where they are in a state of consciousness somewhere between waking consciousness and sleep. They will then make suggestions that are designed to help a subject to some goal, whether that goal is to lose weight, quit smoking, cure insomnia, distress after a very long day, and everything in between. Sure, it doesn’t work for every person, and even for those whom it works for it doesn’t always work 100% of the time. But in essence, it is a form of therapy.

3. It can’t, however, be used to recall lost memories. You may have seen on TV once or twice someone having lost a crucial memory and going to a hypnotist to retrieve that memory, and then receive that memory, sometimes with aliens. Let me tell you now, memory regression through hypnosis is rarely successful. Sometimes an accidental suggestion from a hypnotist can cause a subject to create memories that never existed. And even if that doesn’t happen, memories brought up through this method may be tainted through outside sources, such as whatever you saw on TV last night or that story you read in high school that you really loved or the disappearance you read about in the news. I’m not saying that memory retrieval through hypnosis is never successful or impossible, I’m just saying it’s rare and difficult to do without unforeseen consequences. Still, it has happened before, so it could happen in a story you write. I just want you to be aware of the facts as they stand.

4. You also can’t claim hypnosis as a legal defense. The reason behind this is because most psychologists aren’t really sure what hypnosis is. Some aren’t even sure it exists, and a few are worried that hypnosis could be used in the wrong hands to cause all sorts of problems, from split personalities to causing more psychological problems. This, and the bit about the hypnotic regression is the reason why hypnosis hasn’t been used successfully in an American court for years.

5. Hypnosis is still being studied. Like I said, hypnosis is still a mystery to many psychologists. It’s not clear what causes hypnosis to work and how it works or why it works. There are studies being performed all the time and the body of literature is growing, but it’s still small. And while that’s still the case, hypnosis will still be controversial and mysterious, let alone something regulated by the American Psychological Association. Yeah, you read that right. Hypnosis isn’t regulated in the States. Better do your research before you go to see a hypnotist for something. You don’t want an actual quack, do you?

6. Hypnosis can’t be done in a single moment. At least, not always. Hypnosis is a process, and it usually takes several minutes to get someone in a hypnotic state the first time around. Sometimes a full hour, depending on the skill of the hypnotist and the goal of the session. There are only a few exceptions to this. First, you’ve experienced hypnotism enough times that a trigger has been implanted by the hypnotist (and with your permission) to put you in full hypnotic trance within a few minutes or even moments. Either that, or you know the hypnotist from a TV show or from shows in clubs, and you’re open to his/her suggestion, which makes it easier for the hypnotist to do his/her work. And finally, you may be used in a live hypnosis show, and you may be faking it for the audience. However, I’m not sure you can actually call that hypnotism, so forget I mentioned it, okay?

7. Only certain people can be hypnotized. This is one of the few things really known about how hypnotism works, and it works best for people who are easily suggestible or imaginative. So authors and artists who were very gullible in high school are at the most risk. Just kidding, but artists, children, and people who think outside the box are more likely than others to be hypnotized. It’s not exactly clear why, but it’s likely to do with how open to suggestion and trusting people without reason you may be.

8. Hypnosis is not an arcane art for an initiate few. In fact, it’s easy to learn. I learned it from a DIY book and watching several YouTube videos on hypnosis. You can learn it too, if you wish.

Well, that’s all I have to say on hypnosis right now. It actually turned out to be a few more things about hypnosis, didn’t it? Well, I said what I had to say and that’s that. I hope you found this information helpful and if you’re writing a story involving hypnotism, you can refer back to this list in order to accurately portray it. And if you’re curious in learning more about hypnotism, you can refer to a number of sources and websites for more information. I personally recommend HypnosisDownloads.com, HypnosisDownloads.org, and NLPmagic on YouTube.

Good night, everybody.

  1. Pat Bertram says:

    I’d read once that a test of who can be hypnotized is to have them fall backward and let the hypnotist catch them. If so, I wouldn’t be a good subject for hypnotism. No way could I ever let go like that!

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