How Can Stage Hypnotists Put Anyone Straight Into A Somnambulist State

With the emphasis in most training schools on progressive relaxation as the responsible, safe and reliable induction technique, and the insistence that nobody can be hypnotized if they don’t want to be, it leaves an elephant in the room that many trainers seem reluctant to talk about in any depth.

Namely, how do stage hypnotists, particularly the big names, seemingly knock anyone they approach into a somnambulist state (the ideal state for working in hypnosis) within moments?

It’s a question that often makes clinical hypnotists feel uncomfortable, and they tend to dismiss stage hypnosis, not want to talk about it… or inwardly question the validity of their own training. But what’s really going on when a stage hypnotist carries out this seemingly instant and indiscriminate hypnosis?

I mean, if a show hypnotist is really putting just anyone into an instant somnambulist state, surely anyone who copied exactly what they saw and heard would be able to do the same with any person of their choice… that’s a scary thought isn’t it? But that just doesn’t happen.

Why not? Because there’s a lot more going on than the hypnotist just saying “sleep” to someone, and the subject immediately becoming catatonic!

Are Stage Hypnotists Better Than Most?

I’m going to give you my opinion on this, and I know there will be folks out there who will probably disagree with me, which is great as I love it when my readers comment on the posts here and we can all debate the points raised, so here it is as I see it…

Firstly, in shows that people go to and pay to watch, there is a subtle pre-talk and preparation that goes on before anyone gets hypnotized. The hypnotist will often talk a little about hypnosis and will include some comments about how people often think that the more intelligent they are, the more difficult it would be for the hypnotist to hypnotize them… but, says the hypnotist, it’s the opposite way around in fact.

More intelligent people seem to find it easier to respond to hypnosis… Well, there’s a nice suggestion slipped in there, isn’t it… if you don’t respond to my hypnosis, it’s probably because you’re not very intelligent! We all like to think of ourselves as intelligent, don’t we, so we’re immediately more inclined to allow ourselves to be hypnotized!

Then there’s the fact that when people go along to a show, they know they’re going to see a hypnotist. They see the posters, have probably read about the hypnotist, or have seen them on TV. They know that this guy can put people into a hypnotic trance.

Their expectations are already clear – if this guy says, “sleep” to me, I won’t be able to resist him, because he’s this big-shot hypnotist and can hypnotize anyone…. The members of the audience are walking through that door already programmed to respond if the hypnotist focuses in on them.

And to make it even more certain that their subjects will respond well and willingly, most stage hypnotists, particularly those of the old school kind will also do one or two suggestibility tests on the whole audience (e.g. making everyone clasp their hands together and suggesting that they’re now unable to release them), and only those who respond positively to these “tests” will be brought up on stage to participate… so that’s not exactly just anybody, is it?

But More Difficult To Explain Are…

the big name hypnotists who we watch on our TVs, who appear to be able to walk up to any unsuspecting member of the public and just hypnotize them straight away – no pre-amble or anything.

I’m not talking about the street-hypnotist who carries out an instant induction after a quick chat with a potential subject… usually they gain either explicit or implicit permission from the subject in those situations.

I’m talking about the TV hypnotist who is seen to just walk up to someone and bang, they’re hypnotized and proceed to carry out whatever instructions they’re given. Now it might just be that the hypnotist is well enough known that the subject recognizes them at some level and unconsciously accepts that this person can make them do anything at all.

But what if they don’t have a clue who the hypnotist is? In this case, I believe that the one very skilled and super-confident hypnotist is making use of an instant induction along the lines of the hand-shake induction, which knocks the conscious, critical faculty off balance for a moment, leaving the unconscious mind open to suggestion.

As long as the hypnotist keeps talking and deepening the level of trance, the critical faculty stays locked out of the way and the subject stays in trance.

That said, it’s my opinion that in most cases, if a completely unacceptable suggestion was made,  that critical faculty would suddenly slam back on, and the subject would break out of trance.

To be honest, I also wonder sometimes about these things shown on our TV’s. How many people do they approach who don’t go into or stay in trance like lambs for them? These are top notch, very skilled hypnotists, so it may not happen often, but are they going to show those on their TV programs? I don’t think so!

But what do you think? How does it make you feel when you see the big name hypnotists seemingly send anyone at all instantly into trance? And what do you think it does for our profession as clinical hypnotists? Now there’s a debate that’s been raging for decades… shall we continue it here? Lines are open!