Does Cecil believe that hypnotism is real

I’m putting this here because the question is about Cecil’s beliefs about hypnotism and not about whether chickens can be hypnotized.

In today’s Cecil’s Classics report

he says:

(holding mine)

This strongly suggests that Cecil believes that hypnotism is real. I’ve just spent the last 45 minutes reading the many threads on the subject and there doesn’t seem to be a clear concensus. Myself, I think it’s BS, hey I’m just a pobe with a pooperhole and an opinion like everyone else.

But if the Perfect Master thinks it’s legit then maybe I need to rethink this. So tell me O Wise One, do you believe? If you are too busy to respond (what with all of your Perfect Mastering and such) maybe one of you underlings or minions who has your ear could answer in your stead?

Moved to Comments on Cecil’s Columns.

General Questions Moderator

PS. Given that Cecil rarely posted at the best of times, now that the column has been discontinued I don’t think a personal reply is likely.

Hypnotism is real, but it doesn’t work the way that most people think it does.

ETA: responding to Colibri.

Maybe which is why suggested an alternative. Though written humorously, my point was does this board, which has as its masthead “fighting ignorance”, officially stand behind the notion that hypnotism is real.

It’s also why I put it in GQ rather than here. Maybe I should have put it in ATMB instead.


There are other threads on the subject. Perhaps open a new GQ thread with a direct question about hypnotism.

Cecil certainly implies that humans can be hypnotized, but that doesn’t mean much since it’s not exactly clear what hypnotism in humans is.

This board doesn’t even have an official stance on whether to leave the toilet seat up or down, but I’m sure if you shut your eyes and count backwards from 100 you will soon hear opinions from all sides of the issue.


Whether leaving the toilet seat up or down is good is an opinion. Hypnotism is either real are it isn’t.

Also to note that the column in question was written in 1982. I don’t have any particular knowledge of hypnotism, but it might also be that conventional wisdom on it (among humans) has evolved over the past 36 years.

Depending on how vague your definition is, some people’s opinions are the it is real, and some that it is not so real.


It is an unequivocal fact that hypnotism is real.

On the other hand, hypnotism is nonsense.

Can I hypnotize my husband to put the seat down? That’s the real debate.

Would you rather we leave the seat up, or leave the seat down?

I want him to lift it to pee, and put it down afterward. I don’t like to sit in the water or pee, please and thank-you.

Whereas I would like it if she lifted the seat when she was done. I don’t like to piss on the seat, please and thank-you.

I think both parties can be accomodated. Simple.

This is a “real snakes or real D.T.s?” kind of question. That there is a real induced psychological state that is generally called “hypnotism” is unquestionable; the evidence is overwhelming. But there are many wacky descriptions and theories and plain old Hollywood goof-ups concerning hypnosis that are not real at all (or, rather, are real only in the sense that they are real falsehoods). So it all depends on what you mean.

I mean people believing they are chickens, people upon hearing an implanted trigger word will act days later, or being told they will not remember what they’ve done while “under” - you know standard hypnotic conceits.

Basically people not just going along with suggestions but genuinely not realizing they are performing as the hypnotist suggests without knowing it.

Having talked to several people who are psychotherapists, the conclusion I have come to is that stage hypnotism is total bunk. You cannot make people do silly things while under “hypnosis”; you cannot tell them they will not remember what happened, or that when they hear a bell, they will cluck like a chicken for days after the experience. Movie hypnosis is also bunk. Nobody under hypnosis will commit a crime for the hypnotist.

However, as a alternate state of consciousness that can be induced by a trained and practiced person, it is what the word means-- a sort of half-sleep. “Hypnos” is Greek for “sleep.” As such, the person “under” hypnosis is slightly more suggestible than usual, and very vulnerable, and someone who, in therapy, is having trouble relaxing enough to function in the therapeutic situation, may benefit from hypnosis. They feel relaxed they way you do right before you fall asleep, and learn to associate that with the therapist, the room where the therapy takes place, the talking with the therapist, and little by little, the therapist can wean them off hypnosis. The same thing could be accomplished with an anti-anxiety drug, but some people don’t like to use drugs.

During hypnosis, the therapist has to be very careful not to ask questions that are too leading, because the person is highly suggestible, and it’s a prime situation for creating false memories, especially because the person may remember things discussed during hypnosis as heightened reality, similar to dreaming, which is much easier to confuse with actual memories than suggestions made to someone fully awake.

I know two people who tried a lot of things to quit smoking, and finally went to a therapist who induced hypnosis, and they claimed that after a session of hypnosis, they didn’t want to smoke anymore, although it “wore off” after a few days, and they needed to go back, but after four or five sessions, they could induce a hyper-relaxed state without the therapist, and would do so when they started to feel overwhelmed with either a cigarette craving, or the kind of stress that usually made them want a cigarette. Once they had been off cigarettes for several months, they no longer needed hypnosis (I guess they were detoxed from nicotine). One person additionally needed a substitute oral “fix” in the form of sugarless gun, and was going through about two packs a day, but it was harmless to everything but his wallet, and at least was a lot cheaper than cigarettes.

I don’t know what the therapist said during the non-smoking hypnotic sessions. Probably just something like “You can relax without a cigarette,” and “You are in control, not the cigarettes.” The same kinds of things you can get from affirmation tapes, but when a person is in a highly suggestible state, they may be more effective, and less repetition is needed.

At any rate, it does work for some people. It has a bad rap because of stage hypnotists and movies, but they have as little to do with real hypnosis as the movie Hackers does with real computer programming.

It’s not really mysterious. It’s possible to use drugs to induce a half-sleep state that makes a person relaxed very suggestible, and accomplish the same thing in less time than it takes to induce hypnosis. But again, some people just don’t want to use drugs. So they are willing to spend the time it takes to let someone induce hypnosis. It actually takes work and time. A person has to learn how to relax, and it takes a practitioner who knows what she (or he) is doing.

Some people meditate. It’s sort of like hypnosis for a lot of them. I know someone who plays affirmations while meditating, because she says she is more “open” when she is meditating. I understand “open” to mean “suggestible.”

That’s it. So I personally “believe” in hypnosis, but all I really believe it that it is possible to become very relaxed so that you are nearly, but not quite asleep, and in that state, your defenses and down. I don’t believe anything state hypnotists do.

If one believes a highly suggestible state exists, then I see no reason why one would think stage hypnotism isn’t real. It’s a guy on stage making suggestions that you play along with what he says, and you do.

The only way it could truly be staged is if all the people involved were stooges and just pretending. But it happens so often that you’d think some disgruntled person would have explained it by now. You’d need even more people pretending that it really was their friend up there who was acting completely out of character.

And, that’s stage hypnosis. You’d need my psychology teacher to have faked it with the girl he hypnotized in class. It was classic hypnosis stuff. You’d need street hypnotists to have stooges that pretend to know everyone. You’d need the small gatherings where everyone knows all the people to be fake. There are schools that bring in hypnotists–and people know all the students who get hypnotized. I’ve even seen a hypnosis birthday party.

And how expensive would all these stooges be? They’d have to change every time or someone who went to two shows would notice. So you’d have so many people paid to fake being hypnotized, to pretend to know the people being hypnotized, to write articles on the experience.

I’m honestly not sure why people so want to believe it is fake. I’d get it if was something someone could trick you into, but they can’t. You can only be hypnotized if you want to be. So why so sure that it must be faked, in the face of all the evidence?