Many people, seeing the bizarre behaviour displayed in stage hypnotism shows, might ask themselves is hypnosis real? Could it just be a fraud, involving paid stooges? Other viewers might take the opposite view and assume that stage hypnotists must be exceptionally powerful to achieve such effects. In fact, stage hypnotists have first “tested” the entire audience, to select a few people on whom to work. These people are suggestible extroverts who enjoy being the focus of attention. The power of hypnotism is enhanced by the pressure of the audience’s expectations. Although many hypnotherapists condemn stage hypnotism, some of the early hypno-psychotherapists actually learned a lot from stage hypnotists. During my own extensive hypnotherapy training I myself have learned from stage hypnotists such as James Brown, as well as from hypnotherapists. However we should remember that stage hypnotism is all about creating a powerful impression. They don’t put their failures on Youtube! As I discuss in my review of a recent hypnotism show on Channel Four, stage hypnotists select the most suggestible subjects from a large audience.
The thing I do dislike about many modern stage hypnotists is that they include crude sexual “humour” at the expense of the hypnotic subject. I’m pretty broad-minded personally, but I’m very careful what I say to someone in hypnotic trance. In treating people for sexual problems I’ve often found that these are caused by deep-rooted fears and memories which they might not have disclosed to anyone. Irresponsible sexual suggestions in hypnosis are therefore potentially dangerous, because the stage hypnotist cannot possibly check on past history in the short time available.