Secrets from hypnotic shows: beyond the smoke and mirrors


The lights fade and a single man on the stage starts the show. Before the mandatory introduction talk about the power of the mind and the hypnologist’s capacities to uncover its hidden potentials and change it at will he has started to convince the public, that has become convinced of being hypnotized. Then the hypnologist will do a little test, with that he will be able to see who is easier to hypnotize from it’s audience just by taking a look for those he finds more predisposed and suggestible. At the end of the test it’s time to test the bravery and volunteerism of the audience, it’s time to ask for volunteers for the show. The volunteers selected by the hypnologist jump on stage, excited and and nervous between the cheers of the others. Frequently the hypnologist will start by hypnotizing an specially willful voluntary, it will be the “guiding thread” that will finally convince the others about the veracity of the hypnotic process, easing the job of the hypnologist on the other participants.

The hypnologist, with a great theatrical pose passes it’s hand on the forehead of the first volunteer and shout: “sleep!” It falls on the chair in an state of profound relaxation. At this moment the show starts; the volunteers will be capable of doing the most incredible things, they believe they are chickens, they don’t feel pain or their bodies become rigid. Before this demonstration the audience is astonished and the hypnologist shows the cake’s icing, the volunteers do not remember what they did. Surprise, cheers, the curtains fall, the end.

In the introductory paragraph we’ve tried to explain in a generic way the typical theatrical performance of a hypnologist in a show. On the following sections the parts in bold letters will be further explained to uncover the strategies the show hypnologists use in stage. Strategies that have sometimes unwillingly filled up the clinical hypnosis of lies.

It’s important to say that the professionals in show hypnosis are great experts with a huge capacity to hypnotize in a very short time and in a direct way using techniques that take lots of years to master and have to be respected.

Introduction, initial tests and asking for volunteers

The hypnologist’s labor starts from the initial point in the show. Before the volunteers get on stage he needs to reassure three things: his image in front of the public, the capacity of the volunteers to be easily hypnotized, and their willingness to be hypnotized.

The image the hypnologist projects in front of his audience is crucial because hypnosis is a voluntary process, meaning that the volunteer must see the hypnologist capable of hypnotizing him in order to be predisposed to be hypnotized. To give a good impression in the initial speech is crucial.

Through the first introductory test (usually based on doing some small activities the audience can make from their seats) the hypnologist polls the ease to be hypnotized from the audience and he will memorize those who had better results. Everyone is capable of being hypnotized as is of getting drunk, but there’s people who get drunk with just a glass of wine and there’s people that need the entire bottle. The hypnologist needs to keep an eye on the hypnotic equivalent to the one that gets drunk with one glass of wine because it doesn’t have much time and the show’s rhythm requires a quick hypnosis.

Before seeing those spectators that are easy to hypnotize, the hypnologist will then ask for volunteers, because dis-inhibition and willingness are crucial for the patient to open his mind to the hypnotic process, even more important when the hypnosis has to be done in a stage in front of an audience.

At this point the hypnologist faces the most crucial point on his show; choosing from the volunteers those who he perceived as more easily hipnotizable on the first test, choosing those who are both easy and voluntary.

Everything is ready to start the show.

The volunteers take the stage

Excited and nervous the volunteers go down the corridor that leads to the stage of the theater, the lights, the hypnologist’s ability to guide and the curious look from the spectators contribute to create on them an altered state of consciousness, like deer dazzled by car lights. Often one of the volunteers has reached a high level of relaxation just with the initial test, he will be the first to be hypnotized and will convince the others to become hypnotized with his example. This subject will be often not a volunteer but someone prepared before the show. Prepared before the show (with previous hypnosis sessions to make him predisposed to the hypnologist and make him easier to reach a deeper hypnotic state) doesn’t mean that the hypnologist is lying, this is just a strategy to accomplish a deeper grade of hypnosis on the other “real” volunteers.

The main body of the show and the big finale

On this last paragraphs the three most typical topics on hypnosis shows will be analyzed: the hypnologist that puts the patients “to sleep”, the “transformations” into other people or animals and the necessary “you won’t remember anything”.

For the first topical from the show hypnosis, there is the moment in which the hypnologist orders the patients to “sleep” to the patients. Really the hypnotic state has nothing to do with being asleep, the patient is always conscious of it’s surroundings. This order is only used as a way to transform the process into something more magical and to make them see the hypnologist as some sort of powerful being capable of ordering people to fall asleep.

One of the most iconic actions the hypnologist does in the show has been extensively reproduced on books, movies, and TV shows; the hypnologist “transforms the subject into a chicken, a dog a child, etc. On the majority of the cases it is not possible to make someone feel like another being by the influence of the hypnologist, but being hypnotized has a deshinivitive effect on the subject that can help the subject to do things he wouldn’t normally do even if he doesn’t feel like it. If the hypnotized is faking being a chicken or a dog how is it that he doesn’t say it before? Here’s where the last order comes into play “you won’t remember anything”.

Not remembering anything is not a consequence of having been hypnotized, but the last order the hypnologist gives the volunteer intentionally. It finishes the hypnosis by saying “now you’ll ope your eyes and won’t remember anything” giving one last order to reach a surprising end and also to be sure the hypnotized won’t be able to tell what was going on in his mind during the show.

Lots of people think hypnosis shows are fake. Truth is that they are a reality that makes us see something that’s not.

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