Tell me about non-stage hypnosis!
December 26, 2003 11:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm kind of interested in hypnosis, both as a thing in it's own right and as a method of losing weight. Probem is, I'm skeptical as hell.

Has anyone had experience of non-stage hypnosis? And has anyone found a decent web resource that will tell you how and why hypnosis works, and how to turn your friends into mindless slaves hypnotise others?
posted by twine42 to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used to hypnotize people when I was younger. I was never all that good at it, and it only seemed to work with people who were very susceptible. But it's pretty straight forward in practice. However, the "suggestion" never lasted long. I would be dubious of claims that it could help weight loss.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:21 PM on December 26, 2003

Slate has an article on hypnosis today.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:25 PM on December 26, 2003

I have worked with a hypnotist (they tend to prefer "hypnotherapist"). In my experience, hypnosis works best for very specific outcomes such as losing weight, or stopping a specific behavior such as smoking. My father once had a habit of drinking more than 2 liters of Pepsi a day, and went to a hypnotist to gain control of the habit before he blew out his pancreas. It seemed to work just fine; the habit vanished and never reappeared. I have also had a couple of musician friends who sought hypnotic help for their performance anxiety...with mixed results.

It doesn't necessarily matter if you are skeptical--what matters is that the hypnotist develops a strong enough rapport with you.

I think it is unlikely that people can be forcibly changed by hypnosis, if they don't want to change in that direction already. Values and beliefs are very deeply imbedded in the subconscious mind--it's a rare person who will abrogate their deeply held beliefs under hypnosis. I once came fully awake, out of a very deep trance, at the merest whiff of a suggestion with which I did not agree. A good hypnotherapist will normally be willing to tell you what sort of suggestions he/she will be giving.

Hypnotherapy is typically brief, lasting a few weeks or months, perhaps with the occasional "top-up" session afterwards. Some, but not all, hypnotherapists will define outcomes with you at the beginning of treatment, and only accept payment when you achieve your outcome (say, losing a specific number of pounds, or staying smoke-free for a specific amount of time).

I haven't spent much time on the net researching hypnosis, but as far as books go, anything by or about Milton Erickson has usually been pretty helpful to me.
posted by Tholian at 12:31 PM on December 26, 2003

Hypnosis as mindless submission is a common fantasy that has nothing to do with the reality of hypnotherapy as it is practiced.

I've worked with hypnotherapists out here in the Bay Area. Here's the web site for one of them, Maggie Phillips. You might want to check out members who are certified with the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis , or the other big body of hypnosis certification, related to Milton Erickson, who was a very charismatic, influential, and apparently highly effective hypnotherapist. Michael Yapko is also an author on hypnosis whose approach I find to be helpful.

I haven't tried it to lose weight, so I can't give you any insights onto how helpful it is for that problem in particular. My advice is to choose a credentialed person, see if you like them/feel like you can work with them, set up some goals for weight loss, and then give it a try. You'll know within a few weeks whether you're meeting your goals or not.
posted by jasper411 at 1:12 PM on December 26, 2003

Response by poster: Shouldn't have thrown that comment about slaves in there - made it sound a tad too flippant... Oh well.

Ta for the comments so far. What about self hypnosis, both the $10 tape from the back of a magazine and self induced trance-y type thing? NB: I know nothing about these two at all.
posted by twine42 at 1:25 PM on December 26, 2003

I've never tried using pre-made tapes so I have no idea if they're useful. I would tend to think they wouldn't be as useful as an actual meeting, t because a lot of trance induction has to do with the therapist and patient going back and forth a lot so that the therapist can learn and mirror your own words, symbols, and phrases back to you. For example, it's common to help people relax and induce trance by having people imagine that they're slowly walking or floating down stairs. But if someone, let's say, had an awful experience in a basement, the "going down" imagery is going to make them frightened, not help them relax. Obviously a pre-made tape won't be able to account for preferences or aversions that a particular patient might have.

Sometimes hypnotherapists will make tapes for their patients to help them practice between sessions. Self-hypnosis is another type of between session practice that therapists will also recommend. But again, there is a range of approaches that we're talking about here.

My own "learn how to hypnotize and create slaves" fantasy comes from ads in the back of comic books when I was a kid, as well as movies from the 50s and 60s. Lots of people kind of know it's not true, but also have fears about submission that keep them from trying hypnosis out. (Of course, as someone who has hypnotized patients, I *would* say that, BWAHAHAHA)...
posted by jasper411 at 1:52 PM on December 26, 2003

For what it's worth, I once tried hypnotherapy to help quit smoking. It had no effect at all, far as I could tell...
posted by normy at 3:57 PM on December 26, 2003

I'm glad you asked this - a hypnotherapist set up shop right down the road, and after bottoming out with Zyban, negative reinforcement, cold turkey, and I had a vague, niggling wonder if it might be effective. Great responses, too, thanks!
posted by headspace at 4:17 PM on December 26, 2003

My advice, for what it's worth: don't do it.

Seek to control yourself. Don't submit to the influence of someone else in order to get yourself to do something that you want.

By all means learn how to strenghthen your own resolve, but do it mindfully and consciously.

Don't make yourself the patsy of some controlling voice. Don't try to similarly control others.

I have this feeling that the karmic consequences of hypnosis are pretty bad, unless you're incredibly pure of heart, and even then, the whole submission of free-will-thing seems like a pretty nasty area to be getting into, in and of itself.

Like I say, for what it's worth.
posted by Blue Stone at 4:32 PM on December 26, 2003

Blue Stone, I think you're misunderstanding what the idea of hypnotherapy is. It isn't to let someone else control you - you're making a conscious choice to change some particular habit and working with someone to achieve that goal. Like behavioral therapy, or just psychotherapy, having someone external to you help you with whatever problem you're trying to solve doesn't mean you're "under their control" or anything. It simply means you're using another person's talents, suggestions or techniques to assist you in the process. We've become so committed to individuality that we start worrying that help from anyone reduces us to slaves but it doesn't. If you're a strong person, you know what you're intending to do; with certain habits, we feel conflict between what we intellectually know we want and what some part of us, some more subconscious, bodily part of us feels like it wants, and it can be hard to break those habits because of those cravings. Hypnotherapy is just a tool to help people overcome those cravings.

I've never tried it, but I wouldn't be worried about karmic repercussions or accidently being turned into a zombie. Just like sometimes it's easier to get a project finished if you have external deadlines or expectations, I think having an external "mental personal trainer" could be useful.
posted by mdn at 7:24 PM on December 26, 2003

My girlfriend recently underwent hypnosis to quit smoking. It was a one-shot deal, and it was part of a group session. That, and Nicorette, are working beautifully for her. I can't speak of how directly this relates to weight loss, but with smoking there are two components to addiction- the physical and the psychological. The Nicorette handles the physical cravings she gets, but it's the hypnosis that, she says, has tremendously helped with her psychological addiction.

Basically, the hypnotist planted suggestions in her to do other things when she got the urge to smoke- the kind of urges that come with associations, like having a cig after you wake up, after a meal, after sex, etc. When you're hypnotized, you hear things like "It's a better idea to go take a walk/drink a glass of water/do some situps instead of smoking" and instead of your instinct to go "Yeah, whatever," you think "Hey, that's a good idea." Hypnosis will not cure physical addictions. So, actually, it may be ideal for something like weight loss, which is (generally) a purely psychological thing.

You do need to be very willing to go through with it to make it work. If you're skeptical, you're subconscious will reject the suggestion. You can't hypnotize someone to do something they don't want to do.

Good luck!
posted by mkultra at 8:00 PM on December 26, 2003

Isn't mkultra the code name for the secret LSD mind control experiments by the CIA?

posted by mecran01 at 9:40 PM on December 26, 2003

A friend of mine who has been smoking a vast amount (40 - 60 a day) since the age of about 16 and who has hitherto NEVER tried to give up before, got hypnotised several weeks ago. He's a DJ and producer and works in smoky environments, and can normally be seen puffing away whenever he's spinning the discs. But he hit 40 this year and a friend of his was hypnotised and thought 'hey, let's give it a go'. He's not had a single cigarette since, despite working in smoky clubs and being surrounded by smokers - and going cold turkey after twenty-odd years of heavy smoking seems fairly impressive to me. Of course, YMMV, but if it worked for Norman, then we both believe it can probably work for anyone!
posted by kitschbitch at 1:28 AM on December 27, 2003

mdn, I just think letting someone influence you like that, rather than strengthening your own will, is a bad habit in itself; the whole idea of using someone elses' will rather than one's own in order to achieve something, I find a bad idea, and a behavioural pattern to be avoided.

I'm of the opinion that compromising one's will through hypnosis, even hypno-therapy, is something to be heartily avoided, for spiritual and psychological reasons that far outweigh the kicking a habit of some indulgence.

As for the bad karmic repurcussions thing, zombification wasn't a concern. I was referring to mostly to the desire to practice hypnosis on others, if done with an impure mind, but mentally relying on others to make yourself behave yourself and act in your own best interests doesn't seem to me like a good karmic trait to have, either.

I also don't think it's an issue of rampant individulaism, so much as the ideal of "being the captain of your own ship"; conciously and alertly investigating your own traits, strengths and weaknesses, and modifying your behaviour as appropriate; not going to someone who can whisper what you should be thinking for yourself to you and being dependent on someone else to make you take responsibility for yourself.

Of course this takes more time than hypnotherapy's quick-fix approach.
posted by Blue Stone at 8:15 AM on December 27, 2003

there are many different people in the world, blue stone. personally, i agree with you - i wouldn't take hypnosis (simply couldn't - the idea of giving way to someone else's control, which is how it appears to me, is abhorrent).

however, i'm less sure that telling other people not to do it is a good idea. first, this place was meant for giving help, not discussions (i know, i'm doing that too). second, it's obvious that a lot of people don't work this way. i'm the first to admit that my attitude - while it makes me very self-reliant and moderately successful - also has some problems. i'm not very good at collaborating with others. i don't share problems. i get stuck/frustrated if the task requires skills that i don't have. and often, doing everything myself, i simply don't have enough time.

i believe a more group-oriented approach to life can work just fine. indeed, if you find that right group i don't see why it can't be more successful than someone like me (us?), since a group of people has a larger pool of resources.

so i wouldn't dismiss hypnotherapy for others, even if i know it wouldn't work for me. you've found your own way - good for you - but that doesn't mean it's right for others. indeed, in my view of a self-reliant philosophy, telling others what to do seems out of place. i live my life how i want and i expect others to respect that; in return i'll let them choose their way.

sorry if this seems all happy-clappy, but i read your first response some time back and thought all these things then (starting with agreeing with you, then wondering whether it was appropriate). your second response provoked me to put them to paper...
posted by andrew cooke at 9:54 AM on December 27, 2003

I just think letting someone influence you like that, rather than strengthening your own will

What do you suppose people are doing when they go to a hypnotist? "Strenghthening their own will," perhaps...
posted by kindall at 11:53 AM on December 27, 2003

i used to work in an studio where we produced tapes and CDs for 3 different hypnotists. Smoking, increase romance, all the usual stuff.

we used the same intro and outro for each one, and then in the middle they just made stuff up.

I think the only reason those tapes work for some people is because they are Trying to do something, and the tapes give them moral support.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:21 PM on December 27, 2003

In the aftermath of a regrettable youthful indiscretion I was once, as they call it, a "ward of the state." During my incarceration there was this guy, Vinnie (picture every cliche about guys named Vinnie in prison and multiply them by a factor of ten) who spent several years ordering books about hypnosis.

He was convinced that he was going to hypnotize his way out of prison. From time to time we would see Vinnie standing in the sally port, and hear his quiet and carefully moderated voice as he told the CO's that, "Vinnie B. is an innocent man falsely accused of a crime he did not commit and should be released immediately." Most times they managed to keep a straight face and would pretend to be in a deep trance as their hand hovered over the gate controls -- eventually Vinnie became an attraction with officers from all over the joint coming by to walk around like zombies and each time Vinnie believed he was mere seconds from freedom.

He never hypnotized his way out of prison, but he never lacked cigarettes and new sneakers either.

Not particulary helpful, but it's not a story I get to tell often.
posted by cedar at 12:43 PM on December 27, 2003 [5 favorites]

mdn, I just think letting someone influence you like that, rather than strengthening your own will, is a bad habit in itself; the whole idea of using someone elses' will rather than one's own in order to achieve something, I find a bad idea, and a behavioural pattern to be avoided.

yeah, I still think you're misunderstanding the point of hypnotherapy. Is it weak-willed to have a personal trainer at the gym? Or to go to college and have professors teach, guide, and demand papers of you, instead of just reading and writing on your own? Or if you're reading other people's books, are you already letting yourself be guided by their thoughts rather than your own? Hypnotherapy isn't some magic voodoo that gets inside you and changes who you are. It's simply a relationship with an external authority who you choose to go to, in order to help you re-train yourself toward or away from certain habits you want to change.

If you know at your core who you are and what you want, you can gain from allowing others to teach you. It doesn't make you weaker to learn from other people. The only thing that makes you weaker is being a weak person. I have no doubt that I have a strong identity and therefore would have no worry that a hypnotherapist would have any effect on me that wasn't in line with my own intentions. If you're concerned that you're a little undifferentiated or malleable, or just in a place where you don't know what you want or who you really are, or if you don't trust the hypnotherapist, then yeah, don't do it. If those aren't issues for you, then I don't see what the problem would be.
posted by mdn at 6:57 PM on December 27, 2003

For what it's worth, my hypnosis story goes like this. I was dating a guy who wasn't a smoker, and I kinda sorta wanted to quit but not really really. My office at the time offered us a one-time-only choice of free smoking cessation methods - I picked hypnosis mostly because I thought there was no chance in hell it would work.
While I was under, I was actually making fun of the hypnotist, cracking wise etc, sure this was all just ridiculous. I left the place sneering. And I didn't light another cigarette for three months (the guy dumped me and I needed comforting.)

One thing I always wondered about was the way the session ends with the hypnotist telling you that when you "wake up" you will feel terrific. I really did. Simply wonderful. For many hours. Would it be lame to go to a hypnotist and just ask to be made to feel terrific? Shouldn't hypnotists pimp themselves as Prozac alternatives?

(also, love that Vinnie story Cedar)
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:48 PM on December 27, 2003

I posted this on the Metatalk thread about this thread because I thought it relevant here too :

"Blue Stone - It's my sense that this may be a misunderstanding of how hypnotherapy works - I hardly think that it involves somehow borrowing or being subjected to the will of another. This view of hypnosis - which comes mainly from film and television depictions of enslaved hypnotics subjects and depicts hypnosis as a form of enslavement. From the Cabinet of Dr. Calgari onwards, the hypnotized zombie-slave is a constant motif.

But - correct me if I am wrong, please - I don't believe that it is actually possible to force or command hypnotized subjects to perform acts against their will [ in the strong sense, as enslaved subjects ], though hypnosis can certainly implant suggestions. But I doubt that common hypnotherapy could be put to seriously nefarious ends.

As it is commonly practiced, certainly, hypnotherapy is actually about strengthening the subject's will by enabling the subconscious elements of the subject's mind, or being, to act more in concern with - and to support - consciously stated intentions - such as quitting smoking, whatever.

I've been hypnotized and I can report that it did not - for me anyway - involve any surrender of my will, nor any loss of consciousness. It was an external reinforcement towards behavior changes that I already wanted to make.

Bear this in mind - any external stimulus which escapes our conscious notice will still be noticed by our subconscious minds. Thus, television, advertising, the speeches of presidents and politicians, and indeed any sensory stimulus whatsoever - but especially human sensory stimulus - has hypnotic elements, that which we see, feel, hear, smell (all sensation, or sensory input) but do not consciously notice will by definition exert "hypnotic" effects.

But the fields of advertising and propaganda are based explicitly on methods which amount to mass hypnosis. Hypnotherapists are usually working for the benefit of their patients (at least overtly) - but advertising and propaganda serves to advance agendas which the victims of these black arts would not necessarily choose. It is not for nothing that professionals working in PR, advertising, and propaganda have been dubbed "Captains of Consciousness". "

posted by troutfishing at 10:38 AM on December 28, 2003

What a great story Cedar. And thanks everyone else who shared their experiences...some of the stories have made me reconsider my initial skepticism.
posted by dejah420 at 9:15 PM on December 28, 2003

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