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.