Is Stage Hypnosis Real?

by Reyveka Pieroni

The young man sitting across from me was a tough looking character.  His crooked nose and the scar on his forehead were indicative of a roughly lived life. After greeting each other and talking for a bit, I asked what he wanted to accomplish with hypnosis.  “Well” he said, “I really need to let go of the anger I have at my family.  I just want to get on with my life and feel better.  But I have to admit, I’m pretty nervous about giving you control over my mind”.

Ah, yes. At least once a week someone in my office admits to this fear.  My website and brochures clearly state that hypnosis isn’t mind control. I always mention the use of Silent Hypnotherapy, in which clients can process their issues in total privacy.  So then, why do so many people still come to my office concerned about mind control?

The answer often lies in the world of hypnotic entertainment. Very few people know that we all enter hypnotic states many times a day. It feels so natural; we don’t even identify self-hypnosis as a special state. For many people, stage hypnosis is the first time they realize how powerful the mind is. Seeing someone else in a state of hypnosis seems amazing; surely the hypnotist is controlling all those people on stage! Why else would they do all that?

But here is what is really happening during the show. First, understand that hypnosis is a natural state that every person experiences. However, some people are able to access this state more easily than others.  This is much like any talent.  Take for instance, athletic skills. In any group of people, about 10% are naturally gifted athletes, about 10% find sports to be very difficult, and most people fall somewhere in the middle.  In a stage show, the hypnotist is performing subtle tests.  There is only enough time to work with those who will experience hypnosis very quickly and deeply. This is why the show might begin with 40 volunteers, and end with only a final 10.

Stage hypnosis is definitely real. Those who remain on stage are genuinely hypnotized. But is the hypnotist controlling the volunteers? No. The participants have the ability to stop whenever they want to. Essentially, what we see on stage is a person acting out what is happening in their imagination. Stage hypnotists usually want participants to imagine enjoyably funny things.  They rarely ask anyone to imagine digging ditches or paying taxes. Stage participants consist of people who are willing to imagine things for the entertainment of others.

So if someone leaves the stage, does it mean they can’t be hypnotized? Certainly not. It simply means the person either wasn’t able to access a hypnotic state at that time, or that something was suggested which the person did not want to do. It does not in any way indicate what they would experience in a hypnotherapist’s office.

Despite some differences, stage and clinical hypnosis are related. In a hypnotist’s office, you are also using your natural abilities to access your subconscious. But instead of using this talent for the amusement of others, you are using it to help yourself.

As a hypnotist, I teach people how to understand and use the power of their subconscious.  And while I may not be asking anyone to squawk like a chicken, the results are just as amazing to watch!