As spring changes to summer, every year it seems that you can’t have a graduation, a fair or a festival without having a stage hypnotist on the schedule. Unlike some of my peers in the hypnotherapy business, I am in favor of these shows, with certain reservations.
Stage shows can be a great way to expose people to hypnosis, but that is a double-edged sword. The displays can be intelligent, educational and extremely funny in the hands of the right hypnotist. They can leave people feeling curious about experiencing hypnosis and positive about what they have seen.
Unfortunately, a lot of stage hypnotists leave people with quite another impression. Without context, it’s easy to walk away from a hypnosis event with entirely the wrong idea. If the hypnotist doesn’t take the time to explain the background, it looks like the people on the stage are in his/her complete control. They look like “hypnozombies” up there. Even worse, often the hypnotist uses bits in his act that are demeaning or even hazardous for the participants.
Keep in mind that when you see a hypnosis stage show, the personality of the hypnotist comes out. What you are seeing is real hypnosis, but without a bit of context, you might come away with the wrong impression. A stage show is only as good as the skills of the hypnotist, and the bits he/she chooses can tell you a lot about the person behind them.
If I could have one wish be granted by the stage hypnosis community, it would be that the shows present hypnosis in a favorable light and be presented in such a way that I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of the year explaining why you will never be asked to cluck like a chicken in a hypnotherapy session.