The nature of HyPnoTISm

Today I went to a lecture about hypnotism. I am usually quite sceptical about things like this. The idea of someone ‘possessing you’ with a swinging clock watch is rather dated but similar to what I had in mind. Instead the hypnotist today began with an insight into hypnotism itself. He said that hypnotism did NOT exist. He said that hypnotism was only successful because of peer pressure and our obsession with obedience. He said peer pressure from the rest of the audience and perhaps the hypnotist himself convinced people to fulfil the act, e.g. act like a washing machine or to jump around shooting imaginary penguins. He also said that we had an obsession with obedience that had been drummed into us from our youth e.g. when our parents told us to not touch something hot we did and from then on we learnt be obedient and to not do it.

In the second half he performed several acts including making people drink water and then clicking his fingers and they drank it again but they seemed to taste their favourite drink – which ranged from coke to red wine. I was puzzled by this. Do they actually believe this? Does hypnotism really work or where people lying? Even deceiving themselves? Personally I believe that hypnotism involves an element of convincing yourself, whether it is convincing yourself that your feet can’t move or you can’t remember your name. I like the idea that is because of our obsession with obedience and peer pressure that hypnotism works, it seems realistic but it does suggest that hypnotism is really a gimmick. The hypnotist also did one act where he asked people to put their hands together, their hands became stuck and they had to stare at their thumbs for a few minutes before trying to separate their hands. Many people seemed to find this difficult to do. And the sheer strain on people’s faces from trying to separate their hands was astonishing, when the hypnotist then touched them they then separated their hands instantly.  The idea of him touching them before they could separate their hands intrigued me. It reminded me of how evangelical pastors pray and touch people so they can be healed. It was interesting to watch having seen pastors do a similar thing.

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2 thoughts on “The nature of HyPnoTISm”

  1. Very interesting, Mary. Was this part of the Grecians Lecture Series? I had heard about this one before and thought that it would fit into TOK ery well. The thing that I don’t understand is if it is just peer pressure and an inbuilt subservience to authority that makes people do the things they do when they are ‘hypnotised’, why they still do them once they have been told and I suppose therefore ‘freed’ not to be influenced. The link with religion is interesting. Perhaps there is some kind of psychological power that a charismatic preacher is able to wield. However, I am not sure that this would explain all kinds of personal religious experience.

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