Aug 25, 2012

An Evening with a Hypnotist




Like everyone else, I was quite skeptical as I went for a hypnotist’s show. When he asked for volunteers, I raised my hand too. Unfortunately, he did not select me, so I just watched as he started by putting the volunteers to sleep and waking them up.
**
After about fifteen minutes of sleeping and waking up, the results started getting bizarre. “When the phone rings, you go and take the call” said the hypnotist to a girl. “But remember, it’s not a phone, but a shoe phone.” As instructed, when the phone rang, the girl ran into the audience, and yanked the shoes off a complete stranger, and started talking into it.
**
“You are driving you brand new fancy car” he told the volunteers. The volunteers immediately pepped up, revving the engine, checking themselves in the mirror, and showing off their car to their friends. Remember, the car, the engine, the mirror and the friends are all imaginary. “Someone crashed into your car, and broke a big part of it.” The volunteers flew into a rage, cursing and yelling at the imaginary offender. One woman actually took off her glasses, crushed it and threw it into a corner.
**
The hbypnotist got four grown men to pretend they were having a baby. They were rolling around on the stage wailing and sweating. The intense pain on their faces told us that it was not faked. These men really believed that they were having a baby.
**
Finally, he told the men that they had delivered, and they went back to their seats. To one of them he gave a baby doll. The new father immediately started playing with his baby, and even the woman beside him cuddled it. The father became completely engrossed, talking and cooing to the baby and taking even pseudo breast feeding him! “How is the baby now?” the hypnotist asked. “He is learning to clap now” said the dad with such an exultant expression that none of us doubted his affection.
**
“Now you are going to see me naked” said the hypnotist. All the volunteers screwed up their faces and covered their eyes, and the father covered his baby’s eyes. “Now you are going to see the audience naked” said the hypnotist. The girls kept their eyes covered, but the men jumped up with delight and looked at the audience enthusiastically. “Use binoculars, you have them right beside you” the hypnotist encouraged. The volunteers looked absolutely ridiculous, with their thumb and forefingers making pretend binoculars, and staring at the audience.
**
The volunteers looked ridiculous again when the hypnotist said that it was intensely cold, and suggested that the person next to them was warm. Immediately, all volunteers turned to the person beside them and started hugging. Imagine two grown men who had never seen each other before, cuddling in full sight of the audience! Immediately afterwards, the hypnotist suggested that it was blistering hot, and one by one the volunteers started taking off their clothes and flinging them away!
**
He had one guy pretend to be a kangaroo and hop around on stage. Then he asked the guy to feed his baby. The guy pulled the elastic of his shorts, and shoved a whole packet of bread down his “pouch” one by one.
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Probably the scariest part was how he controlled their memories even after they left the stage. “When anyone comes up to you to shake your hand, you will yell YEEHAW and jump up and down.” he said. The he touched half of the volunteers. “Those of you who I touch, will remember everything once you go out of the hall. The remaining half will regain it after 3 days.” 
When the volunteers left the stage, we queued up to shake their hands. Each of them yelled YEEHAW and jumped up and down as the hypnotist predicted. One of the ladies went out of the hall, and came back looking confused. “There is going to be a show here, right? Let’s sit down ” she said to her friend. I assumed she was one of those who would regain memory after a few days. When the other half of volunteers left the hall, we could see from their dramatic expressions that they had just regained their memory.
**
After watching this stage show, I became completely convinced of the power of hypnotism. Who in their right minds would want a smelly shoe so near their nose? Which grown man would like to roll around on stage yelling that they are having a baby? The show reminded me of an experiment called Milgram’s study of obedience, famous in the annals of sociology. The experiment tested participants’ level of obedience when told to do something by an authority figure. Participants were asked to press a switch that would administer pain to another patient. Unknown to them, however, the patient actually did not exist, and recorded screams were played when the switch was pressed. And shockingly, most participants - and remember, these were regular people, not under a hypnotist's spell, - pressed the switch again and again when a doctor asked them to do so, even though the “patient’s” screams got louder and louder, and the indicator showed the pain level to be fatal.
In 1963, this experiment showed how we defer our intelligence to authority figures and reliable sources that we believe to be legitimate. Hypnotism seemed to work on similar principles. The hypnotist was not especially handsome, and neither was his voice particularly attractive. The key was the hypnotist’s position as the authority figure. At the very beginning, he established this relationship words “Listen to me, do what I say, this is going to feel good to you.” every checkpoint, he repeated similar words.
There are myriad instances of how this has been applied in history; we’ve all heard of charismatic leaders who have gathered large followings and coerced subjects into doing unthinkable things under their influence. And even in our daily lives, we can come up with examples of things we do based on instructions from ‘superiors’, that don’t make sense to us personally. It is ingrained in us, the idea of obedience. This was one of the biggest revelations of my evening with the hypnotist—the susceptibility of human nature—where I could see that his position as an authority figure had prompted the volunteers to rally against their personal consciences, and obey him without question.
I feel that faith works on similar principles, where we often do things that do not make sense, simply because we have been told to do so, and authority figures reinforce those ideas. An evening with a hypnotist opened my mind to different possibilities and angles to study culture.  


Reactions:

7 comments:

pramod said...

OMG its real ? amazing.

Unknown said...

Good job with sharing your experience. You mention that faith leads people to do things that sometimes don't make sense. Though i almost agree, I still ask a question - why does everything have to make sense? Some things are better left alone. My faith is unconditional. If science proves beyond doubt(they think they are pretty close) that God don't exist, only then would the question arise if I still believe or have faith. Only then it would be right to say that having faith would make no sense. Now its better left alone- what makes sense and what not. For believers, unbelievers make no sense. For the rest, its other way around. As of today, if I was given absolute proof of God's nonexistence, I think I would still believe. The world always needs its share of craziness, don't it?

Unknown said...

Good job with sharing your experience. You mention that faith leads people to do things that sometimes don't make sense. Though i almost agree, I still ask a question - why does everything have to make sense? Some things are better left alone. My faith is unconditional. If science proves beyond doubt(they think they are pretty close) that God don't exist, only then would the question arise if I still believe or have faith. Only then it would be right to say that having faith would make no sense. Now its better left alone- what makes sense and what not. For believers, unbelievers make no sense. For the rest, its other way around. As of today, if I was given absolute proof of God's nonexistence, I think I would still believe. The world always needs its share of craziness, don't it?

Prakash Subedi said...

I had read Dr. Narayan Datta Shrimali's book "Practical Hypnotism" many years back...your write up brought those memories back...I believe this is one of those areas which has been treated more like a magic, but lacking serious research...If we could do that, I am sure it could be put into better use rather than crazy "magic shows".....

curly locks said...

yes pramod, this is real.

Dear Anonymous, I salute your faith. And I think faith is not a matter for for science to prove or disprove, either you have it or you don't. Faith is always beyond reason or logic. But here I am not talking of having senseless faith, but of doing senseless things, for example, feeding the priest because you believe it is equal to feeding your ancestors. Faith does make you do these kind of irrational things. I do agree that the world needs its share of craziness.

And Prakash Sir, I do agree that hypnotism has been more mystified than it deserves, and it certainly has more dimensions than crazy magic shows

Unknown said...

Dear Sewa, feeding the priest is a medium. You find it senseless because you see it as an end.You can not prove that ancestors who don't exist physically(or not at all) don't get the food that we offer in spiritual form through the priest.

curly locks said...

Dear anonymous. what a pleasure to converse with you. still pondering your last remark...

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