Friday, 29 March 2013

The Hypnotist



I almost called this post “Hypnotism Is Rubbish”.
Almost!
Many years ago I saw a hypnotist live at a Butlins Holiday Camp in Minehead. I was about 16 years old.
I sat in the audience astounded at the antics of the poor victims of this hypnotist, who invited members of the audience onto the stage and, after a little bit of jiggery pokery (he spoke to each of them in almost silent tones, rendering them all “in a trance”), told each of them what they were going to do when he gave them a signal.
One guy was convinced that everybody else in the room had a very disturbing smell that made him feel sick.
Another guy could only speak utter gibberish. The woman next to him was the only person in the entire world who understood the gibberish he spoke and could translate it for our benefit.
Another guy believed he was Tarzan and, on cue, he would run to the stage wherever he was and bang his chest and scream in the greatest Johnny Weissmuller fashion – just like this:


I laughed at their antics but didn’t believe a word of it.
Many years later in the United States, I saw a show where another hypnotist made a young guy think he was Michael Jackson, and a young woman believe she was Madonna. I believed this even less because the two people concerned were rampant extroverts, keen to show off their singing talents; each managed a fairly good impersonation of the artist they were “forced” to portray.
My cynicism told me that they had planned just to be up on stage and show off to anybody who was willing to watch and believe.
I left that show in America utterly convinced that hypnotism, like the so-called ability to communicate with the dead, was an utter farce, a sham – in other words complete rubbish.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago, and I was having a discussion about hypnotism with Mrs PM, who has a mind that is much more open to this kind of thing than mine. I was a total sceptic and argued that hypnotism was totally fake, based solely on my experience of people using it as entertainment.
My argument was that the kind of people who are willing to volunteer to go on stage to be humiliated by a hypnotist are more likely to be outgoing and gregarious enough to love the attention and the laughs generated by their antics on stage.
Mrs PM agreed – well kind of – but then started talking about the real benefits of using hypnotherapy to persuade people to change their ways; not in an overtly and spontaneous way like the victims of a hypnotic entertainer – but in a gradual way by appealing to your inner self.
Of course, I dismissed this and forgot about it - until recently.
I am fascinated by a British entertainer called Derren Brown who seems to be able to achieve unbelievable feats of mind reading and magic with a fair amount of hypnotism to assist his showmanship.
Some of his amazing feats have involved putting people into trances and convincing them that something is happening, when in fact it isn’t. And while I am not fully convinced, I’ve pushed the cynic within me aside and done a little investigation and this has coincided with another little experiment I have been conducting, an experiment to find ways of helping me relax more.
Since almost being overwhelmed by stress many years ago, I have tried to eliminate as much pressure and stress from my life as I can.  I read somewhere that listening to soothing, mellow or relaxing music can help and I’ve noticed that quite a few work colleagues listen to music while they are working.
It seems that listening to classical music or mellow chillout songs can actually help to combat stress. Purely for research purposes, I created a playlist on my iPod which I call Chillout, which is full of peaceful and calming tunes such as:




I started listening to this playlist at a volume just loud enough to eliminate the noise around me but quiet enough for my conscious mind to still be able to function.
I found myself able to work and effectively shut out the world around me such as the background noise in the office, the constant clatter of keyboards and my work colleagues discussing problems, solutions and generally chatting to one another about all and sundry.
It worked but it seemed to work at a subconscious level and, while I was aware that beautiful and relaxing music was playing in my ears, I found, bizarrely, that I was becoming slightly more productive and definitely more relaxed.
And I have continued listening to music as I work. I find that if I need to really concentrate then I have to do so without music; nevertheless, mundane tasks become much easier to tolerate with soothing music in the background.
Taking this a stage further, I also listen to the same playlist in bed sometimes in order to totally relax and drift off to sleep.
It works.
What has this got to do with hypnosis?
Well I read that hypnosis, like soothing music, works on a subconscious level. Your subconscious mind is the driving force behind most of your behaviour and in order to change that behaviour, somebody needs to appeal to your subconscious mind and persuade it to react differently.
A good example I read about discussed phobias. I am terrified of spiders. It is a stupid irrational fear that is driven by my subconscious mind in order to protect me from these evil eight-legged arachnids.
In theory, hypnotherapy could help me to overcome this fear by persuading my subconscious mind that spiders are mostly harmless creatures that cannot hurt me, ergo there is no need to far them. In order to do this, a hypnotist would strip away the influence of my conscious mind by putting me into a trance and suggesting to my subconscious mind that I should not fear spiders.
In my case, he would have to remind me that I don’t live in Australia, where the spiders could actually harm me.
I have actually pursued this further, dear reader, by downloading a free application on my smartphone that has several free hypnosis mp3 tracks.
And I have listened to them.
I think they work.
The tracks I have tried are simply relaxation techniques. The hypnotist speaks very slowly in a really deep and soothing voice, with a barely perceptible musical soundtrack, telling me to slowly close my eyes, breathe deeply and drift off into a trance.
I lay in bed at the end of a hard day and listened to the Deep Relaxation track. I was aware of what the hypnotist was saying but I genuinely found myself lost in thought, almost dreaming. I could still hear his voice yet it seemed like I was floating away in a sea of calm. I saw myself on a beach watching the sun set as waves lapped at my feet. All thought of work and stress dissipated, as instructed by the calming voice.
I fell asleep.
And every time I have tried it, I have fallen asleep and woken up feeling extremely relaxed.
I have concluded therefore that perhaps there is something in this hypnotism fad. I have yet to try anything that would actually involve a lifestyle change, like eliminating my fear of heights, for example (mainly because I am a cheapskate and don’t want to pay money for a hypnotist to tell my subconscious mind that I will not fall from a great height) but my scepticism is waning.
I can, at least for the moment, tell you that hypnotism is not rubbish – or at least it doesn’t seem to be rubbish – yet!
I plan to continue my research (within the constraints of not actually paying anybody any cash) and keep you posted.
Perhaps one day I will be able to climb to the top of the Burj Khalifa, just like Tom Cruise did, and scream:
“THANK YOU HYPNOTISM! YOU HAVE CURED MY FEAR OF HEIGHTS!”
And then, for some inexplicable reason, I will rip off my shirt, bang my chest and scream “ME TARZAN; YOU JANE; HIM BOY!!!” in my best Johnny Weissmuller voice.



16 comments:

Grace said...

I know you are being amusing but hypnosis has long been a reputable and highly effective therapeutic tool. It is especially effective for pain management, amongst other things. My therapist used hypnotherapy in his practice and I benefited from it greatly. It might comfort you to know that people of higher intelligence are easier to hypnotize than those of lesser intelligence. Just sayin'

drb said...

Oh Mr PM, I love Derren Brown!!! He is so charismatic! I think that is an important aspect of being a hypnotist, to appeal to the subject. I cried at the end of the lucky-dog episode. I was hypnotised once for past-life regression in San Francisco. It is worth the money, as through the hypnosis, I actually found my soulmate in real life.

River said...

I sometimes wish a hypnotist could convince me that I am a computer genius who could also speak read and understand several languages. Permanently.
On the other hand I wouldn't like him/her to somehow also convince me that I am also a chicken and then be squawking for the rest of my life.

Elephant's Child said...

I have seen a little bit of Derren Brown - and agree he is incredible. My jury is still out about hypnosis. I agree wholeheartedly with you on the subject of 'hypnosis for entertainment' but have heard good things about 'therapeutic hypnosis' (for want of a better term. Please keep us posted on your research findings.

Pandora Behr said...

I worked with a clinical hypnotherapist a few years ago to work through some issues - one of the most beneficial and productive types of therapy I've encountered. But I admit - I was lucky, I had a wonderful practicioner and it was in a therapeutic setting - this stage stuff is odd. Would never discount it as a way to help with stress.

Good post xx

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Grace,

Being a sceptic is healthy because it makes me consider such things with (I like to think) a balanced viewpoint.

Researching hypnotism has actually led me to believe that it does work - and that is a great thing - because now I am intrigued enough to pursue it further.

Which is excellent news.

:-)

Cheers

PM

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi drb,

Derren Brown is an enigma and I would love to spend a week in his copany, preferably with him spilling some of his many secrets.

I am still sceptical about past life regression - but who knows? It is maybe something that I can research as I delve deeper into hypnosis.

:-)

Cheers

PM

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I would love to be able to quickly learn several languages and if there is a way to do it subconsciously, using hypnosis, I would gladly participate.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

Hypnosis for entertainment is, to me, still a load of old bunkum - what I mean is that people are not as easy to hypnotise as is suggested in these shows.

I was aware of what was being said and I was also aware of the fear I would have had at doing a Tarzan impression in front of 500 people.

i.e. not at all.

I think it needs a peaceful environment and calmness - not a screaming audience of giggling freaks.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

I can vouch for the fact that it helps with stress - it has helped me listening to a stranger speaking slowly and almost melodically as I fall asleep.

Which is why I am intrigued.

:-)

Cheers

PM

Kath Lockett said...

I visited a hypnotherapist several years ago for insomnia, but it just didn't work for me. Neither did meditation or CDs or recordings or .... *sigh*....

Jackie K said...

I've long been fascinated by hypnosis and I've always wanted to try it. Not sure if I believe in it or not. I saw a hypnotist when I was a kid, he came and entertained us at school using school kids in the audience as subjects??!! Times have changed. Anyway there was one kid who definitely was faking, but the rest seemed genuine, and were not all extroverted kids. Afterwards when we asked them they didn't remember much about it. I've never forgotten it, it was pretty weird.
I've used a relaxation hypnosis DVD at home and yes it really does work. and it puts you in a state where you're almost asleep but still conscious, but you're not fully aware of everything around you as you're concentrating on the DVD. But I don't know whether this is "hypnosis" or just deep relaxation/meditation.
I'm off to google more about this!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

I think you need to "want" to be hypnotised.

It works for me - particularly if I'm tired.

:-)

Cheers

PM

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

Let me know if you google anything interesting.

:-)

Cheers

PM

Eldahossë said...

So Tarzan used to get his naked, manly legs stroked but a girl and a cute little boy! Those were the days, eh?

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Eldahossë,

Yes indeed and that was the 1930's too - a little racey for those days I reckon.

:-)

Cheers

PM