WHY IS STAGE HYPNOSIS IMPORTANT TO CLINICAL HYPNOSIS?
My office in
However, in the last 10 years and particularly in the last 2 years, one of the driving forces in attracting new clients has been the stage shows.† People have been attending stage hypnosis shows in greater numbers than ever before.† Right now, there are many very good stage hypnotists, "One on Every Corner," who do promote the clinical opportunities at each and every show.† At first glimpse, it appears that having so many stage hypnotists will flood the market.† Let me tell you that we, and many stage hypnotists, are busier now than we have been in the past.† Why?† Because when hypnosis is getting public exposure, it whets the public's appetite to see more and many will also seek out a good, certified hypnotherapist.† Even when there is a "raunchy" show, people are prone to go and see another hypnotist performing in the area.† Whether it be curiosity or just to compare??.Ö??? They go.
Stage shows today are generating more discussion and interest amongst people than ever before.† It is a catalyst for the acceptance of hypnosis when done in an ethical manner.
Yes, yes, we do have some idiots running around doing horrendous
stage show, but that is what you will find in just about any profession.† This is
So why is stage hypnosis so popular today?† Because people want to try it, and where can they do it so easily that with a professional stage hypnotist. Then they become curious.
What's happening now in the year 2003 is that the exposure of hypnosis via the stage is, more than ever, calling the public's attention to a viable and powerful source within a person that can be tapped for greater achievements.† Of course, we have fun on stage, but we also we also endeavor to treat subjects with courtesy and respect yet, at the same time, unleash their innermost, subdued talents.
There are more stage hypnotists performing now than in any time in history?and why is that?
The hypnosis show has charm, wide appeal and lets the audience in on what is going to happen.† The audiences love it!† Nothing is funnier than audience participation.† Art Linkletter had a television show called "People Are Funny."† He would put people into funny skits, like we do, and just give them some room to become someone who they normally are not.† He literally gave them a license to perform.
When people volunteer for a show, they put into the stage hypnotist's hands their most prized possession???..t??..their minds.† If the hypnotist is ethical and professional, he/she does everything to ensure that the subjects, as well as the audience, have a great time.
Therefore, we as stage hypnotists have the duty to perform and enthrall those audiences that seek enjoyment, and if in the process we are able to convince a few skeptics, then we get a bonus.
These are some of the great hypnotists that have influenced me in developing the show that I had the pleasure of performing on the award-winning television show "20/20."
Sam Vine, who passed away in 1992, was perhaps the finest stage hypnotist that I have ever had the pleasure to observe, follow and borrow routines from. Sam was my friend and my mentor. He had a unique quality in that he never presented any magic or jokes, just pure and simple hypnosis. He had the ability to put subjects more deeply into hypnosis than I have ever seen in any other stage show.† He was a gentleman.
Harry Arons, founder and leader of AAEH, the Association to Advance Ethical Hypnosis was my first classroom teacher and he really got the ball rolling.† He was a fine man and had many, many years of invaluable experience which he shared with many.
Ormond McGill, the "Dean of American Hypnotists," has traveled the world more than any other stage hypnotist and has authored over 32 books on hypnosis.† It is my distinct pleasure to be teaching with this "Giant." Also, he is such a great humanitarian.
In summation, may I suggest to those hypnotherapists who have not utilized any stage shows, to consider doing lecture/demonstrations that are appropriate for smaller groups like Kiwanis, Lions, K of C, Exchange Clubs, Sons of Italy and many other groups that are always seeking speakers. When you show them just some very simple experiments, you will motivate them to seek self-improvement through your clinical programs.† Try it, it works!
Submitted for the alt.hypnosis FAQ in January, 2005
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Stage Hypnosis FAQ
Written by a former stage hypnotist who wishes to remain anonymous
The following FAQ on Stage Hypnosis was written by a former stage hypnotist who wishes to remain anonymous (because of a career change). He wrote it for reference purposes only. It is not meant as the only word on stage hypnosis. It is only opinion and definitely should not be taken as legal advice about the field.
What is Stage Hypnosis?
Stage hypnosis is where a hypnotist chooses volunteers from the audience, puts the volunteers into a trance using hypnosis, and then has them perform certain silly, funny, or supposedly "amazing" suggestions. This could be like having the volunteers believe they are: drunk; aliens speaking a strange alien language and having another volunteer translate the language; naked or seeing others naked; 6-year-old children; ballet dancers-and the list goes on. All suggestions are temporary and usually only last during the show. When performed correctly, stage hypnosis is basically having fun with the subconscious mind without any serious detrimental side effects. It's all performed for entertainment and with the welfare of the volunteers in mind. A stage hypnosis can be the most entertaining field because it involves "real" people from the audience responding in a variety of ways which usually makes no two shows the same.
What is the difference between stage hypnosis and clinical hypnosis?
First of all, trance is trance is trance-at least how I see it. How you get there and what you do with it varies according to your goals. Thus, for stage hypnosis, the goal is to have fun with the subconscious mind to entertain the audience within an hour or so time frame. Thus, the techniques used by stage hypnotists are more direct, commanding, binding, and group-oriented. You're either in trance or not. The stage hypnotist doesn't have time to adjust his or her induction to each individual.
For therapy, however, the work is done one-on-one (usually) and tailored to the individual. Using cooperative hypnosis, the hypnotist is being lead by the client and vice versa. A hypnotherapist has a lot more delicate things to deal with since your working with 1) a complex individual, 2) something rather serious (a problem they have come to see you for), and 3) something more long-term.
A stage hypnotist works with a group and can "spare" some people who don't go into trance and still be successful. And, you're directly commanding people to do things; you're not trying to help someone solve a complex problem. However, a stage hypnotist does have to know how to appeal to an audience and be entertaining in a show. (Just going up on stage, hypnotizing a group, and giving commands is not really enough.)
How does a stage hypnotist hypnotize people?
As far as how people go into trance during stage hypnosis, that is a bit more difficult to answer since a stage hypnotist works with 10 to 15 people (maybe even more) and they are all going into trance in different ways. There are some similarities though. Some will go into trance because: 1) of the "awe" of a stage hypnotist ("I must be hypnotize because he's a hypnotist and he has the 'special' power to do so."), 2) the innate desire to "follow" commands (authority), 3) the technique itself (persuading a person to subconsciously follow your instructions), 4) the desire to "escape" from reality ("I've always had this desire to get up on stage and perform, but I'm just too nervous and shy."), and 5) others are going into trance (i.e. this is know as 'social proof' discussed in the book "Influence-the psychology of persuasion" and is basically the feeling of "why should I be left behind/different?"). These are the main components, but there are of course several others that are minor to mention here.
The relationship you build with the audience will be crucial in making the above components work. A good stage hypnotist will keep the above components in mind and create the correct atmosphere using the venue, his stage presence (including voice tonality, dress, posture), and pre-show promotion. And, on top of all of this, a stage hypnotist has to build this "hypnotist/subject" relationship quickly and firmly to make sure that the show is successful. He is using the relationship built as leverage to lead the volunteers to a subconscious, suggestible trance state where his suggestions become real to them. Most of those hypnotized end up saying "It's like I knew what I was doing, but I just couldn't stop myself." Why couldn't they stop themselves? Because doing so would break the subconscious relationship that was established.
How do I learn stage hypnosis?
As far as I know, there are no full time schools for learning just stage hypnosis. Most stage hypnotist's probably learned their skills from watching or working with another stage hypnotists along with reading various books. But I suggest that anyone wanting to learn stage hypnosis take classes and training in the basics of hypnosis including history, conscious vs. subconscious mind, trance levels, pre-induction, induction, suggestion, and hypnotic phenomena. Doing so will improve your knowledge and skills in hypnosis in general which will add more depth to your show. But keep in mind that a stage hypnotist is not necessarily skilled in hypnotherapy. (The other way around can also be true.) It behooves the stage hypnotist to stay away from hypnotherapy unless properly trained in the field. Many people will approach a stage hypnotist after a show believing that he or she can "make" somebody stop smoking, lose weight, get rid of a phobia, etc. The stage hypnotist does not have any special powers to do so. A professional and ethical stage hypnotist not trained in hypnotherapy will refer such requests to a qualified hypnotherapist.
Ormond McGill's "The New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosis" (ISBN# 1-899836-02-0, available at http://www.tranceworks.com/) is the supposed authoritative book on stage hypnosis. It is quite thorough and has a lot of examples for methods on hypnotizing and for suggestion. I suggest you use it as a guide, but the best way is to combine that knowledge with the practical experience you can gain from watching other stage hypnotists or having them teach you the "tricks of the trade".
Which leads me to my next point: someone to teach you "the trade". Whether you're studying hypnotherapy or stage hypnosis, there is nothing more valuable that getting a mentor that is willing to work with you on a one-on-one basis. I highly suggest that you find such a generous person. But be minded that these people are jewels-someone not to take advantage of and not easily found. Mentors are dedicated to their students as long as their students take what they are learning seriously. Missing appointments, having a lax attitude towards the subject or mentor, or abusing what you are learning are usually not tolerated and you will find yourself without a person to lead you in the right direction of a successful practice or show. Sure, you can take general classes, but a caring mentor will be able to help you fine tune your skills.
So I have taken the classes, read the books, and went through all the training. What's next?
Now you'll need to get the actual experience of doing a show. Get in contact with various local organizations and ask them if they would like a sample demonstration in hypnosis free of charge or for a nominal fee to just cover your costs (say $100). (They may wonder why you're giving a free demonstration. Let them know that you are using it to promote your services in hypnosis.) This demonstration could be more of a half-talk, half-show presentation. If you promote it this way, you could give a thorough discussion on the subject of hypnosis with a question and answer session (creating expectation), and then carry out a simple demonstration up to the point you feel comfortable with or as long as you're doing well. Use simpler suggestions in the beginning such as eye catalepsy ("your eyes are stuck shut"), arm catalepsy ("your arm has become a rigid bar of steel"), arm levitation ("there is a light helium balloon tied to your wrist"). The idea with these demonstrations is to get use to performing in front of an audience and build your credibility. Try only the suggestions you feel comfortable with keeping in mind that post-hypnotic suggestions with eyes open are the most difficult. Once you have some demonstrations under your belt, you can start to advertise your shows as a professional stage hypnotist stating something like "Hypnotist Tom Stage has performed for various organization such as the ABC Club and XYZ Association." Make sure you have your introduction and routine down fairly strong before you do your first real shows. If not, you may find yourself stumbling around on stage which will lead to a loss of credibility which leads to the loss of people who want to follow your suggestions.
Is stage hypnosis dangerous?
Stage hypnosis in itself is not dangerous. People hypnotized on a stage are not doing anything that is not already built into their own mental mechanisms. Stage hypnotists do not create anything new-we're only building from what the volunteers already know and do. I have heard many rumors on certain dangers of hypnosis, but after further investigation, they turn out to be false or overly exaggerated.
The most frequent one that I have heard is the volunteer's inability to come out of trance. This is simply not true. A person can come out of trance at any time he or she wants. It might be, though, that the person just is so relaxed or having so much fun or is liking the change of reality that he or she just doesn't want to come out of trance. The best suggestion to give to such a person is to say that at the count of three (or whatever cue you want to use) that person will become the prime example of a person who is wide "awake" as opposed to "you'll be wide awake by the count of three". Special thanks to Ray Thompson (Hypnostage@aol.com) for that one.
But let the beginning stage hypnotist beware. Your show is unique in that you are using people from the audience who you have most likely never met before. The more shows you do, the higher the chance you may run into a volunteer that will act very strange (e.g. display totally unrelated emotions like crying, hysterical laughter, etc.). An experienced stage hypnotist will know to remove these people before they start to have the abreaction or what to do if they've already started to have the abreaction. For these type of people, stage hypnosis is just a mechanism that jump starts the abreaction, but most likely that person already had the problem to begin with-hypnosis just gave them the chance to bring it out.
If done properly, stage hypnosis does not create a problem. A stage hypnotist works with a large group and may not be able to spot these people all the time. And, in this day of lawsuits and ignorance about what hypnosis truly is, you may find yourself in a very difficult predicament in trying to explain to a court that stage hypnosis was not the cause of a person's own problem. On top of this, you will also have to make sure that volunteers don't end up hurting themselves on stage by accidentally tripping on something. (It is very difficult and expensive to get insurance for a stage hypnosis show since insurers are not really sure what stage hypnosis is.)
Also, be aware of how you word your suggestions. If you give a person the suggestion "Whenever you here the word 'blue', you'll laugh uncontrollably" and you don't nullify the suggestion before the show if finished, that person may continue to laugh uncontrollably for days, weeks, or months even if someone else says the cue word. Volunteers will take your suggestions very literally. So, be careful on how you word your suggestions during a show.
With all this in mind, for those who still want to join this very intriguing and entertaining field, I wish you the best of luck. Remember, you're not just a hypnotist up on the stage but you're also a showman. Always perform with the intention to entertain while keeping in mind the welfare of your volunteers.
Important Article added to FAQ on February 8, 2005.
Stage Hypnosis FAQ:† last major revision on June 17, 1998
Last minor revisions: December 9, 2010††
Latest hypnosis FAQ revisions completed on December 9, 2010.
Roy Hunter, Certified
Published Author and Professional Speaker/Trainer
Inductee of International Hypnosis Hall of Fame