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  1. #1
    Raymond Singson's Avatar :: Lead Forum Manager
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    Sep 2002
    Philadelphia, PA

    Hypnosis or Social Compliance?

    I thought it'd be interesting to pose this debate here. I know a few E members a practicing/performing hypnotists, and/or incorporate similar stunts in their work. What do people feel about the experience of hypnosis? Is it a legitimately altered frame of mind where participants see and feel everything the hypnotist suggests? Or is it simply social compliance where participants essentially just 'play along' with the hypnotist?

    On one hand, we've seen encounters such as Howie Mandel temporarily overcoming his fear of germs and physical contact on AGT through hypnosis. In my mind, this obviously suggests that people experience altered states of reality under trance. On the other hand, however, we've also seen trivial, overblown Vegas stage performances where multiple participants act foolishly onstage. In my mind, the vast majority of the participants onstage are not under hypnosis at all and are simply having fun for the sake of the show. This is further supported by multiple "after action reports" such as this (WARNING, adult language):****/

    As a fledgling hypnotist, myself, I would love to use more robust suggestions in my repertoire. I'm just having issues wrapping my head around the types of things I've seen more seasoned professionals perform. I'm currently studying Anthony Jacquin's material, particularly the Trilby Connection. Although he attempts to rationalize suggestions such as visual hallucinations in his instruction, I'm not fully convinced that subjects legitimately experience what hypnotists suggest...

    Curious about others' thoughts. Here's looking at you, Christopher...


  2. #2
    ChristopherThisse's Avatar :: Moderator
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    Aug 2008
    Fawn Grove, PA, USA
    What's that? Someone mentioned hypnosis? I'm on it!

    Kidding aside ...

    It's a funny thing. I've definitely worked with folks that were not completely 'under' and were still doing everything I wanted them to do, convincingly enough for the rest of the audience. I've also worked with folks that I am 100% were completely experiencing the suggested realities.

    Two quick stories come to mind. The first, one my best hypnotic sessions ever. This was largely brought about by sheer ignorance of what is and is not possible. When I first started I basically had the mentality that anything is possible. So I was doing a session with my roommate, who happened to be an incredible hypnotic subject, and he said he'd always wanted to visit the Black Forest of Germany. So I put him under, did some more standard fare of hypnosis phenomena - hands levitating, name changes, invisibility, etc. Then I put him deep down, and told him when he opened his eyes he'd realize he was in the Black Forest. He opened his eyes and goose bumps immediately shot up his arms and he started shivering. Completely unconscious response. I told him he had a nice thick sweater and lederhosen to keep warm and he stopped shivering. Then I lead him through exploring the forest and he convincingly described streams and wildlife and other features. Then I put him back under and told him he was a tree. At first he wouldn't speak, until I told him he could. Then he spoke really slowly, and wasn't really moving at all. I told him he should extend his branches to the sun and he lifted his arms and swayed slightly, his speech still really slow and deliberate - kind of like Treebeard in LOTR which is where he was probably getting the concept. In the post session interview he said he had lifted his hands way up in the air, in reality he had only lifted his arms to about chest level. It was very interesting from an objective point of view.

    To counter that - I went to a party a while back. I hadn't actually planned to do any performance, but my best friend's wife told me she really liked it when I did mental stuff so I had them announce an impromptu show. I had a room full of Bronys to deal with so I did some basic hypnosis talk and then chose the one who was responding the most to my pre-talk (which involves Buckets and Balloons for those who know what that is). I put her into a trance but I could tell she wasn't fully committing to it. She liked the attention she got from being the subject, but there were physical indicators that just weren't there. However, she still convincingly did everything I suggested - so fine. To the audience, everything went perfectly. To me, that's good enough in that situation.

    There's an old idea that only about 30% of the population is easily hypnotizable, and then another 30% can be hypnotized under the right circumstances/by the best hypnotists. Then the other 30% or so are just not able to be hypnotized. This is complete bunk. I can walk up to almost anyone, in most situations, and get them into at least a light hypnotic trance in under 5 minutes. However, it is useful as a very loose rule of thumb in theatrical situations - about 30% of your audience will be so suggestible that if you just started reciting a hypnotic induction they would go under. I have no science behind that number, it's just an estimation from my experience.

    In the end, what matters is what the audience experiences - and the skill of the performer to frame it so it seems like they always succeed. If someone is just doing what you tell them to do because they feel the need to conform, that's fine. You need to be able to recognize that and frame your work so that later, when they maybe say, "oh, well, I don't know if I was hypnotized ... I felt like I could have stopped at any time," the people they are talking to will say things like, "But he said you'd say that ... then you couldn't lift your hand from your leg. Do you remember that?" "oh, yeah ... well, I dunno, maybe I was hypnotized .." etc.

    So yes - when you do performance hypnosis in front of a crowd - sometimes it's just social compliance, and that's fine, as long as you're aware of what's going on and you're able to throw out some phrases which will make it seem like they were totally under hypnosis. In more intimate settings, this should never be a problem. When you're dealing one on one, this is just a situation of being able to pace and lead their experience. The only reason it matters with a group or when someone is front of a crowd is because it brings in different social dynamics. If that's the case, then you work with what you have.

    I'm happy to discuss that further if anyone wants me to.

    The HP Lovecraft of Bizarre Magic

  3. #3
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    Jan 2015
    I will recommend a book that helped me understand what hypnosis is and is not. I think a big part of it is social compliance. The book is 'Solution Oriented Hypnosis: An Ericksonian Approach.' People react differently to suggestion, so a big part of putting someone under is learning how to talk with them. If you're dealing with someone who prefers to be told what to do, it's better to use that approach. If you're dealing with a skeptical person, it's probably better to approach them with their own options of how they'll go into trance.

    I like comparing hypnosis to daydreams. Daydreaming is a sort of self-directed hypnosis and happens naturally. Sometimes you might catch yourself doing it when someone is talking to you -- they might be pressing the right hypno-buttons? Would you consider that an altered frame of mind? I've daydreamed and had quite vivid experiences -- experiences that made my heart pound. You can call that "playing along" or you could call it vivid imagination. In a group, it's different, like Chris mentioned. You're dealing with different interpretations of what is happening and is going to happen. Yes, some people will just be playing along, but that shouldn't discourage you from using their participation. I think an induction (successful or otherwise) almost always requires willingness. It's your job to direct and cultivate that willingness.
    Stage hypnosis is entertainment first and foremost. You can check to see how your suggestions have been received by layering them. I like to use laughing uncontrollably as a demonstration, because it's easy to layer suggestions and easy to distinguish a genuine laugh from a forced one. It's also infectious and gets people laughing too. With practice it'll bece easier to spot who is just "playing along" and who is giving you their undivided attention.
    Anthony Jaquin's material is a good primer.
    Last edited by MentalMark; 06-24-2015 at 03:26 PM.

  4. #4
    Shawn Mullins's Avatar :: Team Ellusionist
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    Nov 2005
    Check out the Podcast 3 Mentalists, Atlas talks about this a little bit in Episode 2.

  5. #5
    Registered User
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    May 2012
    Chicago, il, USA

    I never believed it...

    I was so against Hypnosis and at some point I just manned up and started making some strong pseudo routines. Then I realized Hypnosis followed it. Now I like a mix of pseudo and real. Both hit harder that way.
    The All Knowing, Scott Xavier

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