(Updated: see the bottom of this post for my brief review of the programme!)
I see that there is a new TV ‘game show’ being advertised that claims to use hypnosis with its contestants, presumably for fun and effect. I haven’t seen the programme yet, but according to a TV critic acquaintance, it is ‘awful’. Having seen the trailer for it, I have to say it looks like it’s going to reinforce all those myths about hypnosis that make Clinical Hypnotherapists cringe, such as:
Myth #1 – a hypnotist can control my mind
Wrong! Nobody can ‘control’ your mind, certainly not without your consent, or – perhaps – the use of strong drugs. Hypnosis candidates who are up on stage/infront of a camera clucking like a chicken, stripping off or eating an onion – guess what, they’re doing it because they want to! At some level, even if subconsciously, they want to be part of the show, they are giving their consent to playing the part. They therefore allow themselves to be ‘suggestible’ (which I feel is another word for obedient) and do what the hypnotist ‘suggests’ they should do. There is hypnotherapy at work though – candidates have hypnotised themselves into believing the power of the hypnotist is real. The stage/TV hypnotist’s biggest skill is in selecting the most suggestible (obedient) candidates to work with.
Myth #2 – you can get ‘stuck’ in hypnosis
Wrong again! I reassure all of my hypnotherapy clients that they can stop the session at any time they wish, and for any reason. All they have to do is open their eyes. Even without my ‘permission’, a client is free, and able, to bring him or herself out of hypnosis at any point. Most prefer to stay with it though, as it is incredibly therapeutic (the clinical type in any case).
Myth #3 – There’s no scientific basis to Hypnosis – it’s just bunkem
The state of hypnosis is a natural state of mind that we all go in and out of every day. It is the stage at which the brain waves slow down and increase in amplitude, known as the Theta state. In this state we can access our ‘deeper’ brain (also called the unconscious or subconscious mind) more easily. We can also access more memories and are in a perfect state of mind for taking new knowledge on board. This activity can be measured by Electroencephalography (EEG), which I have seen in action. EEG studies also show that during hypnosis the left side of the brain calms right down and the right side becomes very active. In most people the left brain is the logical, critical side and the right is the more creative, adaptive side (though this is reversed in a minority of people). Hence, during hypnosis we are able to access deep memories and learn new information, plus we are more reflective and can be more creative. These are perfect conditions for therapeutic change to take place. The Clinical Hypnotherapist is trained to take advantage of these conditions to help the client to achieve their therapeutic goals. Having said all this, I do believe that there is a strong element of the placebo effect at play, but if it helps the clients to achieve their aims, then that’s legitimate in my view.
Personally I use a combination of hypnotherapy and counselling plus NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) in my client work. My approach with each client is always based on their particular needs and whatever works best for them. However, I shall probably watch this new TV show at least once, and will report back here with my analysis.
Update – 19 March 2015:
Well, I’ve watched You’re Back In the Room now and – yes I’m pretty convinced that the contestants were acting out their roles to a large extent, though I’m also sure that they truly believed that they were hypnontised. I’m sure that the hypnotist Keith Barry is very good at what he does, and I’ve no doubt that he worked extensively with the contestants off camera – to prime and ‘train’ them. But you know what, it was all harmless fun – even if it is truly trash TV! I don’t believe that it will harm in any way the ‘reputation’ of hypnosis, if anything it brings awareness of hypnosis to a wider audience, and that’s a good thing!