In the last century, stage hypnosis contributed significantly in keeping hypnosis current and in the public eye. However, the downside of this is that hypnosis is also misunderstood and been perceived incorrectly by a great swathe of the general population. These innacurate misconceptions about what hypnosis is and what it isn't alienates many people from all it's positive applications. The comparison between stage and therapeutic hypnosis therefore continues to be rather unhelpful on occasion, despite a general decline in hypnosis for entertainment purpoes and a move by hypnotherapy to the mainstream. As a result, much of the work of today's hypnotherapists is explaining and reassuring the public that the two, stage hypnotism and hypnotherapy, are quite disimilar.
Since the growing popularity of entertainers such as Derren Brown, the public is being educated in a different way as to what hypnosis is and the intrinsic links between it and an individuals belief systems, expectations and cognitive processing.
Hypnotherapist do owe a lot to the stage hypnotist with therapists utilising rapid inductions and instant hypnosis in their practices, and in conducting group sessions. Furthermore some of the more progressive thinkers in the world of hypnosis, initially trained as stage or street hypnotists before refining their skills for the therapy room.
How stage hypnosists work
Many stage hypnotists are very accomplished at their art and knowledgeable about hypnotism and the workings of the human mind. On top of this many are very gifted at orchestrating shows, consisting of a number of simultaneous variables and moving parts keeping the show energetic and the audience enthralled. Of course there is however, a wide range of quality among show hypnotists and many stage hypnotist unfortunately, work at a rather low level of skill or professionalism. But it is wrong to condemn all stage hypnotists, because of the actions of a few.
Both calire of hypnotist will generally use the same approach - firstly they will know, through experience and clearly structure proceses how to select the appropriate people who are able to enter a deep trance quickly. Spectators who do not want to participate cannot be forced to do so, even if some participants on stage do things that appear to be astounding to the audience. Nevertheless, it never ceases to amaze what people are willing to do in order to be the center of attention. Interestingly it is not just the exhibiitions who volunteer, but also the shy and reserved who see it as a great opportunity to behave out of character and then use the excuse that “the hypnosis made me do so”.
The induction for hypnosis is usually conducted in groups. Subsequently there are often effects of hypnosis demonstrated that make the audience laugh or astonish it (i.e. cataleptic bridge) or that are supposed to provide the impression of “external and absolute control”. Good stage hypnotists try to go without risky effects or embarrassments for their subjects and rather highlight the specialties and possibilities of hypnosis.
Among the ranks of stage hypnotists you will also find skilled clinical hypnotists who do shows in their free time to promote their business, the profession or raise money for charity. Many hypnotherapists, who later became known as acknowledged personalities in hypnosis, started their career this way, such as Dr Dwight Damon the current President of the NGH.
Certainly, reputable stage hypnotists will consider both the need to entertain but also to improve the image and disseminate the positive effects of hypnosis.