What happens if a hypnotist doesn't clear a suggestion?

I was reading this thread:


about hypnosis, and there is an example in there about:

“I’m wondering how a memorable case I saw fits into all this; the subject was ‘hypnotised’ to forget the existence of the number four; when asked to count his fingers, he counted 1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 and was very confused - he could see and understand that he only had five fingers on each hand. When asked to add 2+2, he was utterly perplexed and unable to answer.”

Now I am curious, if the hypnotist did not clear the suggestion, how long would it take for the ‘victim’ to return to a normal state, in this case, remembering the number 4?

Stage hypnotism, as any stage hypnotist will tell you (if he’s drunk enough) is dependent on ordinary people’s enthusiasm to perform, when given an opportunity.

At least, that’s what The Man They Call Raveen told me, and I have no reason to doubt his word.

No need to “clear the suggestion.” Take away the audience and you take away the subject’s reason to obey the suggestion.

Well, if the setting is a situation comedy, hilarity ensues.

“You see, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.”

I attended once a stage hypnotizer show, and he did exactly that. I would tend to assume it wasn’t faked, because a friend and mine were amongst the people the hypnotizer picked for its demonstrations, and he succeeded in “implanting suggestions” in both of us. At least me, and I assume this friend didn’t fake it spontaneously due to some “enthousiasm to perform”. I’m rather skeptical, and I was curious to know if it would work.
Now, maybe the guy who forgot whatever number was an accomplice of the hypnotizer, or faked it for the audience. I obviously can’t tell for sure. Especialy since the hypnotizer did the “stiff body between to chairs” trick, and I believe (though perhaps I’m mistaken) that this one at least require the active cooperation of the hypnotized guy.
After the show, the performer commented about hypnotism, answered questions from the public, and told anecdotes. In particular he stated that he experimented once a “long-term hypnotism” by suggesting to someone drinking milk (IIRC) on a given date during the following year and then calling him (the hypnotizer) back and meanwhile forgetting about the whole milk/phone number thing. According to him, the hypnotized person did so. I have strong doubts about the authenticity of this anecdote, but I still report it since it’s related to the OP’s question.
It didn’t occur to me at this time to ask him what would have happened had he not “cleared the suggestion”. I don’t believe for an instant that this guy would still be wondering why he had 11 eleven fingers or that I would still be staggering around like a drunkard.
For the record, I was perfectly aware of the suggestions he had implanted. I knew for instance he had told me to stagger, but nevertheless staggered. IIRC (it was quite long ago), my friend didn’t remember the suggestions before he acted accordingly. So, being aware or not doesn’t seem to make any difference. However I assume you can’t be aware that you forgot something (like the number four)…though…who knows…the human brain is a weird thing.

Years ago I learned hypnosis from a former stage hypnotist. He happened to be friends with the family of a guy I worked with and several of us from work were invited around to meet him. There were hordes of people in this little suburban home and he started holding court demonstrating hypnosis and giving people suggestions and all of us were participants and audience combined. This went on all day into the evening.

For a group of us this became our regular weekend activity. For weeks we would spend all day, with a varying group of other people, being repeatedly hypnotised, given suggestions, having guided meditations and trying all kinds of experiments.

For economy at the end of the day the hypnotist would put everyone under, remove any stage suggestions he had given and leave some general beneficial suggestions.

Over a period of months these sessions became so popular, by word of mouth, that they had to be conducted at the YMCA. My friends and I had not been for months and some of us dropped in to see how the “new class” was going (and check out the girls - there were always lots).

The hypnotist had some people up on stage and was telling one guy, “Soon I will awaken you and you will feel great but whenever you hear me say the word jungle you will become Tarzan and start beating your chest …”

I was paying little attention but as soon as he said the word “jungle” I was up on my feet beating my chest and making Tarzan’s call. While I was in my now hypnotic state he made a joke about it all and removed the suggestion. Eventually we worked out that some weeks before I had left early one afternoon and not had my suggestion removed in the mass removal.

Many people, including some on this board, will claim that hypnotism isn’t real, and it’s all a fake put on by the willing participants. They are up on stage, and they go along with it because they think it will be fun, or to not disappoint the audience.

But I don’t think they understand what hypnotism is. It breaks down your resistance. What you may normally be reluctant to do, or if you aren’t normally a showy performing sort of person, will all of a sudden seem easy and fun to do, and your thoughts of “I’ll just go along with this just for the fun of it” was brought on by the hypnotism.

So just like you say, I believe it’s real for that reason.

I wouldn’t really say that hypnotism ‘breaks down your resistance’ (and neither would the college professor whose classes I took); it’s really just an agreement for the subject to concentrate really hard on one particular object-- usually the hypnotist-- and the concentration can be so intense that the subject’s awareness of anything else is greatly reduced. It’s like tunnel vision for the brain.

Agreeing to the suggestions made by the hypnotist becomes easier over time (like any trained behaviour), and is why monomania can be an effective tool for behavioural change.

In don’t ask’s case, it’s not that unusual that he jumped up and bellowed in that situation. You went through a lengthy period of agreeing to act upon the teacher’s instructions, and had even specifically been through that routine before, so when it came up, you remembered, and reacted.

Damn you. I was going to go with the phrase “wacky hijinx,” but I suppose yours is acceptable.

Answer to the OP: nothing.

A stage hypnotist gives people suggestions, and provides a safe, relaxed, fun and enjoyable context in which they can go along with or play out those suggestions if they wish to. That’s it.

Okay, thanks for your assertion that anyone who disagrees with you doesn’t know about the subject. Just since this is all about fighting ignorance, let’s swap credentials shall we?

I’m a professional performer myself and a member of the Magic Circle. I’ve never specialised in stage hypnosis, but I have used it occasionally in my work both formally and informally, and I’m well-read in the pertinent literature.

I expect I personally know more working stage hypnotists than you do, and a bit more about what they do and how they do it. I’ve had conversations with several of them, in the UK and the US, spanning many years. I could probably pick up the phone right now and talk to at least 12 friends who have performed stage hypnosis professionally. Your total?

One of my closest friends has earned a living from stage hypnosis for over 15 years, and was called at an expert witness on the subject at a test case legal trial conducted at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, which I attended. I know from having discussed precisely this point with him that he would agree with my answer to the OP.

I’ve read some of the so-called skeptical literature, such as ‘They Call It Hypnosis’ by Robert Baker, and I’ve met some of the leading investigators who have looked into the very point mentioned in the OP, such as Joe Nickell. Baker and Nickell would agree with my answer to the OP.

I’ve also attended and enjoyed many stage hypnosis shows over the past 20 years. I’ve never seen any evidence which would suggest my answer to the OP is incorrect.

But of course, the possibility remains that I’m wrong and you’re right.

I volunteered to be hypnotized at a fair not two weeks ago, and have been wondering about it ever since! I’m surprised I never thought of bringing it up here.
The hypnotist pulled ten of us from the crowd. She told us that some people couldn’t be hypnotized, such as people with a low IQ, people who have been drinking, and people who resist. She then attempted to put us under. I complied to the best of my ability, but as soon as she finished, before she went on with the show, she pulled me and two others and sent us back to the audience. How the heck did she know it hadn’t worked on us?
The show was good, though. Although nothing happened for me personally, I’m still trying to figure out whether or not it was for real. It was very convincing.
Another question: I hadn’t been drinking, and I didn’t resist her…so do I really have a low IQ? Dang, what a way to find out. :frowning:

With sexy results!

Drinking . . . that’s a new one. One of the main techniques a stage hypnotist uses to make their work a little easier is to tell them that people who can be hypnotized are more creative, more intelligent, etc. - in order to make them appear exactly the opposite if they don’t comply. It adds pressure for those onstage to act “hypnotized”.

Well, guess I showed her then…letting everyone think I was a dumb ass!
Hey, wait.

Ian. How does this compare with a suggestion to cut back on smoking or eating - something that is not acted out in a theatrical context?

Also, are you saying that a person will act like a chicken in front of an audience because they have an excuse to make a fool of themselves - the excuse that they were hypnotised?

Thanks. Of all the dopers, I trust you most with the answer to these sorts of questions … I will obey … I am in your power…

ps I will be watching Mark Mayer perform some cold reading this weekend.

Kind of, sort of. Although this is all subjective recollection, the thing that interested me about the experience was that I had no idea that I was “carrying” any suggestion. None of the hypnotist’s other banter affected me at all. When he said jungle I was in mid conversation with my friends and had no sense of remembering anything. I was on my feet so fast I was thinking, “What the hell?”

It was far from being a comfortable setting like it would have been if I were one of the group being hypnotised. Even while I was doing it I felt like a bloody idiot.

As to resisting, I had no opportunity to I was just reacting mindlessly.

Hi Antechinus. Flattery will get you anything.

The OP referred to stage hypnosis, and I happen to have access to more information than most about this subject. Your points refer to clinical or therapeutic hypnosis. I don’t have any specialist knowledge about medical, clinical or therapeutic matters, nor do I ever claim to have.

My guess would be that clinical applications of hypnosis work along the same lines as stage hypnosis, although it’s obviously a markedly different context. I would suggest that clinical hypnosis is essentially a placebo, and that the hypnotist is simply providing suggestions that the subject may or may not choose to follow, such as not smoking cigarettes any more or deciding not to be morbidly afraid of spiders. However, I’m neither authority nor expert in this field.

Say ‘hi’ to Mark from me and I hope he has a good gig!

Just hope you won’t end up like the parents from ‘Big Kids’ :cool: