Hypnotism, how real is it?

Exactly what the title says. My younger stepbrother was in Okinawa and they was telling how there was this hypnotist there doing a big show and doing all of these crazy things to people. Is this real?

Forgive me if there is a previous thread on this, I could not find it. I did find one about hypnotism recalling previous lives, but no luck.

Well, define “real”.

Richard Feynman wrote the best description of being hypnotised I’ve ever read. He said he knew what he was doing when he did all those crazy things he hypnotiser told him to, and he kept thinking that he could stop any time he wanted. But he didn’t. It was like he had permission to act crazy.

I think that’s a big part of it. Hypnotism loosens social constraints.

Okay, example: what about when a hypnotist says something like “Whenever you hear a bell ring, you will quack like a duck”, or in situations where they are trying to recall bad experiences in your life (sexual molestation, etc.)

I’ve heard that a big part of it is – well, look, it’s a guy with a con man’s patter and a psychologist’s brain, and he’s out to convince a suggestible person that only the very sophisticated and intelligent can be hypnotized. Once they buy that, there’s a powerful incentive in play even apart from the fun of being the center of attention or the utility of recalling old memories.

My mom’s OB/GYN used hypnotism on her rather than conventional drugs during the birth of my sister. She didn’t experience anywhere near the level of pain she did with her first two deliveries. There’s something to this “mind over matter” thing.

Regarding the OP, we sort of dealt with this as recently as April.

As regards this:

Claims that attribute analgesic effects to hypnotism are very difficult to assess accurately. This isn’t the time or the place for the fullest possible discussion, but let me just make a few points:

  • the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not data. I’m pleased your Mom’s delivery went well, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the analgesic effect of hypnosis. If you accept anecdotal evidence for this, you have to accept it in support of everything, including (but not limited to) the pain relief afforded by acupuncture, blood letting, herbal remedies, modifying the four ‘humours’, homeopathy, praying to the right ‘god’, aligning ther body with magnetic elements, ley lines, visualisation, myriad medieval and superstitious ‘remedies’ and so on.
  • it’s notoriously hard to separate any analgesic benefit that may arise from hypnosis from the placebo effect. This may be said to make no difference from the patient’s p.o.v., and less pain is always a good thing, but it is important in terms of building an accurate model of how the world works.
  • the ‘post hoc ergo prompter hoc’ fallacy is very common when trying to ‘assess’ things like hypnosis. Just because you were hypnotised and then felt better doesn’t mean that one caused the other.
  • it would have been interesting to see whether your Mom would have reportd the same ‘benefit’ even if the hypnotist had done things that were not part of his ‘genuine’ hypnotic procedure, but had just made up some ritual behaviour which he said was hypnosis. But it’s hard to run this kind of experiment ethically.

Your smartass tone aside, I never claimed that this was anything more than anecdotal. My mom was taught the techniques by her doctor, employed them on her own, and experienced very little pain. What they called hypnotism 46 years ago is much like the “natural childbirth” techniques used today. Concentrating on a single point (and thereby keeping your mind off of what’s going on in your body), and similar relaxation techniques. Mind over matter is what it boils down to. No one said it magically removes pain (not sure where you got that impression…it certainly wasn’t from my post). But if you can get your mind off the pain and onto something else, the end result is less pain. Duh.

I think it depends a lot on the type of hypnosis. The carnival type “you’re hypnotized and will now quack like a duck” seems to be total malarky. Every time I’ve seen an entertainment type hypnosis, everyone involved is the type of person who would do whatever “crazy” behavior they do while hypnotized, whether they were “hypnotized” or not.

As it pertains to psychotherapy, I think hypnotism has a valid use. I don’t know if it’s the same kind of thing, or just helping the patient lower their inhabitions so that the therapist can help them with whatever ails them. This comes from my (positive) experiences with hypnotherapy helping me deal with my parent’s divorce and the death of my father.

FWIW, many years ago I underwent hypnosis as treatment for weight loss. If we put aside the fact that I stopped going and of course regained all the weight I lost and then some, I will tell you for a fact that to the extent I was told that I was unable to raise my arm (this was during the very first session), damned if I was NOT able to raise my arm. I was fully awake, I tried as hard as I possibly could to raise it, because IMO hypnosis was a crock, but I’m telling you, had there been a gun to my head with the demand that I raise my hand, I’d be dead now.

Anyway, that’s my two cents :slight_smile:

PS – yes, I can now raise my arm.

My very limited experience with hypnotism was with a friend and we went to a comedy club to watch Flip Orley. My friend who didn’t believe in Hypnotism volunteered to go up on stage. During Flip’s ‘bit’, my friend was chosen to act out a commercial where he was supposed to take a drink of water and sell it as the best tasting water in the world, but Flip had planted the notion that the was was the most foul tasting stuff on the planet. My friend swears he wasn’t hypnotised, and he says to this day that they put something in the water to make it taste so bad. There were other things that made me a believer as well.

I’m going to totally disagree on this, with nothing but anecdotal evidence to back me up. The danger!!

I’ve never done hypnosis – either as the hypnotizer or hypnotizee – but I have a few somewhat unique experiences that I’ll share.

First off was in college, where I was involved with the school’s program board. We booked the same hypnotist to come to our school for 4 years in a row. Since I booked him for 3 of those years, I got to know him (we’d take the performers out to dinner, etc). I also got to request for a handful of my friends to be put on stage every year, friends who wanted to go up there. He’d also pick out another 15-20 from the audience.

Of the 30 or so people on stage, about half would go under. The rest he’d send back to their seats. First rule, you can’t hypnotize anyone who doesn’t want to be hypnotized. Resistence not only isn’t futile, the smallest amount will keep you from going under. The process has to be voluntary and desired.

Next, the hypnotist – his name is Tom DeLuca, by the way – would allow me to tape the shows for my personal archive, as I said I’d never release or sell them (I’ve kept my word for the past 15+ years).

Now, of my friends who went on stage and were put under succsfully – an ex-girlfriend included – most could not remember what happened when they went on. They usually had to watch the video top believe they did what we claimed they did. This happened year after year.

At the risk of sounding racist – please forgive me – one of the best moments was when he brought one of the school’s librarians on stage. She was a prim and proper African American woman in her late 40’s (based on appearances). Very… shall we say, uptight stereotypical librarian?

When Tom DeLuca said he’d become invisible to her, and then started picking up a chair and moving it around stage, the woman, well, reacted like a gospel singer who had just seen the devil in a Southern church. Over the top screaming, etc. Utterly hysterical.

She came by my office the next day – as prim and proper as she was before going under the hypnosis – saying her friends had all told her what she had done, and she flat out refused to believe it, didn’t remember a thing. Wanted to see the video. (Unfortunately I didn’t have the tape just sitting in my office, and she never came back, so she never saw it.)

Those experiences happened year after year. The participants just didn’t remember what they had done. Note that Tom’s show is very carefully put together so no one does anything truly embarassing. He never makes anyone do anything they’d regret when they were awake. Show never made it past PG-13, in other words.

Nowadays I am an amateur magician, who frequently spends time with some of the biggest names in magic in the world (I work on a magic TV show with them). These guys also do hypnosis as part of their stage act. From lots of chats over beers after work, I fully believe in the stuff. Not that it can make you kill someone or rob a bank or solve all your problems or make you lose weight or quit smoking. But that it’s a legitimate tool that has basic uses that actually work.

To cut down pain in childbirth? Well, the techniques are very similar to meditation. It’s not perfect, but will certainly help.

To do a stage show? I’ve just seen far too much evidence to not believe in it. Some people are more affected than others, but I 100% believe there is something going on other than just people on stage playing along. Again, with limited ‘powers’ and results, and the participants clearly have to want to be involved. Even a basic lowering of inhibitions is still a form of hypnosis, but I have seen much deeper trances to the point of forgetting everything that happened while under the effects. And I repeat, this happened year after year among people who did not know each other, and many reacted the same way.

To stop smoking and induce weight loss? I believe it can help someone who is determined to allow it to help them, I’d never call it a miracule cure that works 100% of the time, though.

But basic hypnosis is, IMO, absolutely real. Anecdotal evidence and all, because I’ve seen too much of it to throw it out completely.

This is what my stepbrother said, that he did not believe what happened until he saw the type. Now, he is not as others in this thread have described the people who are ‘easily hynotized’. He is not steadily outgoing. Actually, most Marines I know, such as my stepbrother and myself (formerly) tend to take pride in keeping their cook.
In my stepbrothers situation, he is hynotized into believing that this guy next to him is super attractive and he should make advances at him, because nobody else is there. Keep in mind, this is an extremely ‘macho’ organization with hundreds of ‘tough’ Marines there. The video is funny, and is totally unlike anything he would do. To the best of my knowledge, it is not something he would do in a normal situation.

SO…I love the stories. But are there any official studies about this? Does anyone know of anything that proves this to be wrong? Let’s say that I go to a hypnotist and my wife wants to know my deepest darkest secrets, but I am tricked into thinking I am going there to quit smoking. Since I am hynotized, is it possible while under hypnosis that I am forced to reveal whether or not I have cheated, etc.? (HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION).

Another anecdote: back when I was a commercial pilot (many, too many years ago) I started practising self hypnosis, mostly from books but also a few sessions with a professional hypnotherapist. At the time my vision was 20/100 left, 20/120 right, corrected to 20/20 with contact lenses. I was also running a lot, but had been stuck at 72 minutes/10 miles for over a year. Started on a course of recording a tape with suggestions about clear vision and more endurance, to play when I went to bed at night. One month later I was running 66 min/10 miles. Three months later I went to upgrade my medical certificate to first class, and checked out on the FAA examiner’s chart at 20/20 uncorrected.
Turned out to be a big mistake on my part, because the FAA compared my past exams with the latest one and assumed that I had to be cheating, so they yanked my medical certificate. By the time I got it back (several months) I had lost my job, but I could still pass an eye exam with 20/20 both eyes.

I believe I’m the only Doper who has college credits in Hypnosis, Suggestion, and the history thereof. (Gotta love the Humanities department)

There are many documented cases of people using hypnosis to deal with pain. After Mesmer worked out his techniques, there were some doctors using hypnosis during surgery. You can be hypnotized to deal with major surgery (such as a c-section), but the training to get that point is likely to be long. Ether was much quicker and a lot more foolproof.

Remember that hypnosis is really a stupid term for monomania, intense focus on one thing to the exclusion of all else. So, when you see a hypnotized person acting like a goofball on stage, that person isn’t really aware they’re in front of hundreds of people – they’re concentrating so intently on the hypnotizer’s voice they’ve forgotten they’ve got an audience.

Hypnotizing your way to a faster mile? Could be – that’s a form of deliberate practice, and a 6-minute mile isn’t exceptional.

But hypnotizing your way to better eyesight? Not unless you had a really traumatic Lasik procedure that you want to forget :wink:

Well, I can’t prove my story is true, forty years after the fact, although I don’t much appreciate your insinuation that I’m lying. Anyway I got lazy after a while and stopped the nightly self-hypnotism sessions and eventually my eyesight deteriorated to the 20/50L
20/60R it is today. But I can still accomplish a few tricks, like undergo a double root canal without Novacaine, and without much distress, and my dentist can testify to the truth of that statement.

Fwiw, here’s what skepdic.com has to say about hypnosis and “repressed memories”.

The key fact about hypnosis is that the hypnotist cannot bring you to do something you don’t want to do.

If you won’t do things you don’t want to do, it follows logically that under hypnosis, you’ll only do the things you want to do. I argue that this strongly supports the widespread view of psychologists that hypnosis is, at root, little more than a special kind of role-playing game between the subject and the hypnotist. Please don’t over-interpret that statement: I am absolutely not suggesting that hypnosis is nothing but acting! For one thing, the heightened suggestibility is very real. Nevertheless, the socio-cognitive aspect predominates the process.

I have been hypnotised several times and each time I clearly felt the role-playing aspect. I did what the hypnotist asked for no better reason than that I didn’t see any reason not to, and I took a certain small comfort in letting the hypnotist “drive” so that I could give my “will” a bit of a rest. And being asked by stage hypnotists to do silly things struck me as nothing more than being given an acting role to play, and how often does that happen to the average person? It’s fun!

As for not having a memory of what you did under hypnosis, I feel more confident in reporting various experts’ findings that that just doesn’t really happen (although I do not doubt for an instant that subjects frequently insist that is true). Read memory expert Elizabeth Loftus’ extraordinary work on memory and you’ll find the idea that people can be made to forget something is simply flat-out impossible. Although I hasten to second Barbarian’s points about monomania and tunnel-vision concentration and how they probably do reduce one’s peripheral memories of such events only because one doesn’t pay attention to them in the first place. But forgetting what one did? I just can’t accept that. It goes against everything we know about how memory works.

There is no question but that hypnosis is “real”, but only in the sense that it sets the stage for what follows: a special and very peculiar type of role-playing under heightened suggestibility.

Ambushed, if forgetting what we did is so opposed to the nature of memory how do you explain such things as Fugue State and Functional Amnesia?

Personally, I forget my earlier actions constantly, whether as the function of the passage of time, or simple inattention. For example when commutting I sometimes experience the latter.

My own WAG regarding hypnosis is that many, if not most people, want desperately to submit to a higher authority and if you ask them in a convincing manner, you can be that authority.

In my view, this explains religion, the war in Iraq, and automobile salesmen as well as hypnosis, although in hypnosis at least someone will snap their fingers and you are once again responsible for yourself.

Aren’t we talking about two different things here…theraputic hypnosis vs. entertainment hypnosis? I believe that if a person can unconsciously block out unpleasant experiences from their readily retrievable memory they can also be trained to block things out, at least temporarily. Isn’t that what we’re talking about here? Stage shows are playing on the power of suggestion, where I think theraputic hypnosis is a completely different animal.