Stage hypnosis thrives on the impression that the hypnotist possesses power over other people and by flicking his fingers they are totally under his control. It appears that these people are then in a deep sleep or coma-like state and they have no self-control or are totally unaware of what is happening. The hypnotist appears to be demanding things that the subject seems to be unable to resist.
Appearances are deceiving though!
If the people on stage were really in a deep sleep or coma-like state and totally unaware of what is happening, they would not be able to hear the hypnotist's demands, never mind be able to comply. A person in hypnosis is not asleep nor unaware of what is happening, but awake and totally aware. THE PERSON is totally in control while in hypnosis, and not the hypnotist. Since it is impossible for anyone to force someone else's body to relax or force them to act on suggestions, this confirms that the person in hypnosis is the one in control. The hypnotist could help the person on stage to relax by giving the suggestion, but the person who relaxes does that all by themselves.
The key to stage hypnosis lies in the hypnotist's ability to (1) select individuals who are most likely to be able to enter a relaxed state in front of an audience, while at the same time possessing the need to perform or thrill an audience even though this may be a suppressed need, and (2) selecting the subject's tasks such that they have a high entertainment value for the audience. Also, (3) the hypnotist will take care not to ask the subject to perform any acts that would result in an internal conflict that is stronger than the need to perform. In this relaxed state, the hypnotist can then facilitate the subject's need to perform and thrill an audience. If the hypnotist were to ask the subject to do something that is fundamentally against their principles or creates a danger to them, the subject will recognise it and not play along.
When the subject does not seem to remember his/her actions, it is again simply the result of them having concluded that, by not consciously remembering his/her actions, he/she is continuing to perform and thrill an audience. As a consequence the audience is entertained and the subject gets a positive response after acting on an existing need.
The idea that one is a passive victim of the hypnotist while in hypnosis, with no willpower and fully under the control of the hypnotist, is therefore a total misconception.
About stage hypnosis - in a nutshell...
Stage hypnosis aims to entertain through the mysticism of hypnosis. It is a carefully orchestrated process of selecting subjects who WANT TO entertain an audience, who are happy to ACT SILLY to do so, and who BUY INTO the thought that the audience will be all the more thrilled when they do not seem to consciously remember their actions. They are ACTIVE and WILLING participants playing out their desire to entertain, and have NOT relinquished control.
Dr Lorna Geer
Last updated on 10 May 2017