Is stage hypnosis real? How does it compare to the hypnosis used when working with a consulting hypnotist? Are the participants being controlled? These questions, and more, are addressed in this article by Debbie Taylor.
For many, their first exposure to hypnosis is at the local fair, or during a high school assembly, watching a stage hypnotist seemingly “control” his subjects, to the amazement of the audience.
Many people, when they first meet me and find out that I’m a consulting hypnotist, can’t help but ask, “Are you going to make me quack like a duck?” At first I just chuckled and went along with it, but this has been going on for years now! If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked, “Are you going to make me quack like a duck?” I could retire.
I take my work as a consulting hypnotist seriously. My clients put a lot of trust in my ability to help them, to really listen and assist them to create change in their lives. So I wondered, what is all this talk about quacking? And how is stage hypnosis different from the work I do as a consulting hypnotist? Are those people on stage ‘really’ hypnotized? And if so, how does that work?
So I decided to find out for myself by going to Las Vegas, where I received training as a stage hypnotist, and I’m here to tell you, ”Yes, those people on stage really are hypnotized!”
Hypnosis Takes Place Through Cooperation
To understand stage hypnosis, the first thing you need to understand is this – hypnosis takes place through cooperation. No one can be hypnotized against their will, nor can anyone be made to do anything, say anything, or think anything in opposition to their values, beliefs, or anything that goes against their nature.
The first step toward cooperation, whether you are volunteering to be on stage, or in the hypnotist’s office, has to do with trust. There has to be a level of trust between the hypnotist and the individual. In order for this level of trust to develop, the individual has to be willing to follow instructions from the hypnotist, and to trust that once they are hypnotized, the hypnotist will take good care of them. Again, this is true on stage, or in the hypnotist’s office.
If you have ever been to a stage hypnosis show, the hypnotist starts out by talking to the audience about what to expect, teaching them that no one can be made to do anything against their nature while in hypnosis. That nothing dangerous is going to happen, and for those who volunteer to be in the show they will have no regrets at the end of the evening.
And this is all absolutely true, because when you are hypnotized, you know what’s going on the whole time! When you are hypnotized, no matter where you are or what’s going on, you are never going to do anything that goes against your morals or values, because you know what’s happening.
Now, if you have ever seen a stage show, this may seem to go against everything you witnessed. You may be thinking that you would never act like that if you were up on that stage hypnotized. And maybe you wouldn’t. The illusion that is taking place up on stage is that the people on stage are under the direct control of the hypnotist, that they have no choice about what to do, or how to respond, or whether or not to respond. And this is simply not true, it is an illusion.
Regardless of the situation, on stage or in the hypnotist’s office, people respond only in the way they feel is appropriate for the context.
Let the Show Begin
After the stage hypnotist has created a relationship with the audience, volunteers are invited to go up on stage to be in the show. No one is dragged up or forced to be on stage. No one is up on stage against their will.
Once the seats on stage are full, the process of hypnosis begins. Some volunteers will go into hypnosis, and some will not. Those who do not reach a nice state of hypnosis fairly quickly are asked to return to their seats to watch the show from there. This does not mean they cannot be hypnotized, it just means they did not go into hypnosis as quickly or as deeply as needed for this context.
At the end of this part of the process, the volunteers left on stage are those who knew they would be participating in a comedy show, who voluntarily came forward, have followed all instructions from the hypnotist, and are in a wonderful deep state of relaxation and are feeling really, really, good!
Not only do they feel really good, but they know exactly what’s going on around them. They can hear the sounds in the room, glasses clinking, people laughing, coughing, and so on. But because they are in such a deep state of relaxation, and so focused on what the hypnotist is saying, they have no awareness of other things in their life. They lose that awareness, temporarily anyway. They are oblivious about their problems, their bills, their weight problems, jobs, responsibilities, and so on. No wonder they feel so good! With this clarity of mind, and this depth of relaxation, they are very capable of responding to whatever they hypnotist suggests.
Responding, Not Being Controlled
Remember, hypnosis is about cooperation. When watching a stage hypnosis show, it’s easy to think that the participants are under the control, or the will, of the hypnotist, when all they’re really doing is responding to suggestion. Responding is not the same as being controlled. A good stage hypnotist wants to make themselves, and the volunteers, look good and will only give suggestions that they believe will be followed. If suggestions were made that were objectionable or went against the nature of the volunteers, the show would come to a grinding halt.
An experienced stage hypnotist is careful to never make suggestions that won’t be followed. The volunteers respond freely because they know that the environment is appropriate for their response.
Whether on stage, or in the hypnotist’s office, the same rules apply. People are there, expecting to be hypnotized, either for entertainment (if on stage), or to get help with habit modification. In my office at Intuitive Hypnosis in Portland, Oregon, if I were to give you a suggestion to quack like a duck or bark like a dog, you would have the presence of mind to know that this would be a ridiculous suggestion, and more than likely would not do it. The context of the situation, and one’s expectations, determine what kind of response the hypnotist will get.
DebbieTay Comedy Hypnotist
I do stage hypnosis under the name of DebbieTay Comedy Hypnotist, and it’s a lot of fun! Each year in June we spend a lot of time entertaining high school graduates at their graduation parties. We also enjoy doing holiday parties in December, along with fundraisers for churches and schools year round. When I talk to the volunteers that participate in the shows, they always say they knew what was happening the whole time, and that they felt really good, were aware of what they were doing, but they just didn’t care. This is what it’s like to be on stage in a stage hypnosis show. The participants really are hypnotized, and having a ball! Anyone on stage that is faking can ruin the show, so a good stage hypnotist will get those people off the stage right off the bat.
Conclusion: Yes, Stage Hypnosis is Real!!!
For those who have never been hypnotized, it can be a bit more of an altering experience than for someone who is hypnotized more often. It sometimes feels like being in a daydream. The awareness of what is happening is a little different for everyone and this is what makes a comedy hypnosis show so entertaining. There are always the rock stars, and those who respond with a little less enthusiasm. It is my job as the hypnotist to figure out which ones are which and offer the suggestions accordingly.
The secret to a good stage show is not about control, it’s not magic, and it’s not scary or dangerous. It’s about cooperation, trust, and having fun! To the audience, presenting it as control can make a good impression, it really ups the WOW factor, but when you really understand what’s going on up there, you realize that hypnosis is just a way of relaxing a person to a point where they can loosen up a bit, have fun, be silly, and make people laugh.
If you have never had the opportunity to watch, or volunteer to be in, a stage hypnosis show, you’re missing out on a fun time!