In two days, I will be conducting a stage hypnosis bootcamp; and the one thing that I reiterate at the start of every hypnosis bootcamp is the importance of being prepared for the unexpected.
When it comes to stage hypnosis, I have run into more than a handful of performers who have absolutely no background in clinical hypnosis. I do not believe that you must be a mental healthcare professional to be a stage hypnotist, but I do believe that you need to know how to handle a number of possible challenges that may pop up in the middle of a stage hypnosis show. More importantly, you should know how to minimize any surprises in the first place.
Let's take a look at a common mistake made by inexperienced and undereducated stage hypnotists...
In contrast to what many people believe or tell you, you can make someone do something against their will. For example, if you have someone visualize that they are in a thunder storm or flying or swimming and this person has a phobia of storms or heights or water; it is very likely that you will induce a strong phobic response on stage. I promise you that it is not the conscious will of most people to feel extreme fear. This does not make for a good show for the people on stage or in the audience, and a situation like this can be easily avoided.
In a stage hypnosis show, there are a lot of things that you must be aware of in addition to performing a great show.
- Is there a subject about to fall off their chair. If so, is there a possibility of injury?
- Is there a subject about to step off the stage?
- Are your subjects in a somnambulistic trance, or are their people on stage simply faking? (addressed below)
- Are you putting your subjects in physical or psychological discomfort (or danger) with the suggestions you are giving?
- Is one of your subjects showing signs of a negative emotional state?
- Are your suggestions inadvertently triggering phobic responses, past traumas, or buried memories?
- Is anyone in your audience in a somnambulistic trance? Do you even look for this?
Do you know the telltale signs that something unexpected is about to happen? You should. If you cannot confidently say you could recognize one or more of the above situations; find a mentor, attend a respected bootcamp, hire another professional to teach you, or stop performing.
Remember what Benjamin Franklin said, "An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Stage hypnotists who flippantly disregard the fact that an intimate, unconscious relationship is established between the hypnotist and the subject should not step foot on a stage. Firstly, it is careless to think that you have no responsibility to the mental and physical well-being of the people on stage; and secondly, people both on stage and in the audience can intuitively recognize a subject who is truly hypnotized from one who is faking. I personally cannot sit through a stage hypnosis show when any of the subjects are faking. If I wanted to see improve, I would have stayed at home and watched "Whose Line Is It Anyway?".
If you are going to be a stage hypnotist, all I ask is that you be one of the good ones.
- Respect the subjects you have on stage.
- Always keep in mind that you are developing an unconscious relationship with each subject.
- Do everything you can to prevent any physical or mental accidents.
- If something unexpected does take place on stage; stay calm, and know how to handle it.
- Remember, you are on that stage to entertain; and your audience came to see a hypnosis show... not improvisational comedy.
Are you thinking any of this is silly or trivial? Do us all in the profession a favor, and stay off the stage; but if you do decide to take the stage with real live people, you better have damn good liability insurance.