Since Lex is away, I thought I’d procrastinate some more on my exam revision- Uhm... I mean, catch up on some long overdue blog posts! Actually, this post comes with a *slight* hypnotic compulsion behind it. By that, I mean that Parkey wasn’t happy that I’ve not blogged in forever, and I’m now finding that my fingers are running away with me...
Why I oughta’...
The majority of posts on this blog seem to almost follow a diary format: ‘Lex and I shot x amount of zombies today, and then I became a duck....’ and so on. This goes half way to explaining the random spells of post-drought we get, since we don’t think we should bother you all with posts about things you’ve already read before. I wouldn’t want to re-read something I posted last month, so why would you? But aside from Lex’s occasional plugs to his videos and doodles, it’s uncommon that we’ll actually talk of anything outside of the hypnotic diary.
So, today’s post comes after I listened to Jon Chase’s hypnosis radio show last Sunday night. I was listening because Darren Altman was a guest star on the show, who incidentally is one of the nicest blokes I’ve ever met. Second only in hypno-coolness to Richard Skeates - who could probably give a tree a hypnogasm and then sit back nonchalantly with a cigarette. Since I was busy raiding at the time the show was on, I ended up listening to it afterwards as a podcast. Part of me really regrets not listening to it ‘live’, as it seemed Hypno_Parkey was having a good old rant without me. I do hate it when I miss a good opportunity to vent...
If you want to hear the podcast yourself, by the way, just go to jonathanchase.com
Whilst I was really only listening to the show for Darren’s part, the fact that you can’t fast forward the damn thing meant that I listened to all of it. Actually though, I’m glad I did, because this week’s ‘Brain in Gear’ question was the age old “How do you know when you’re hypnotised?” Now, I’ll start off by saying that this is a question hypnotists have been avoiding for years, and with good reason. Hypnosis by nature is so diverse that you can honestly get a hundred different opinions about the same thing. In theory, this question should be no different. But, with all his acclaim as a hypnotist, and the fact that he was having the balls enough to give a go at answering, I sat up and started paying attention.
“Right okay, if you think you are hypnotised then you probably aren’t.”
His opening sentence, I kid you not. I listened on, wanting to hear exactly where he was going with this.
“If you think... erm if you’re thinking to yourself- if you’re in a situation say out in the street and somebody’s just walked up to you and you’re wondering why nothing’s able to move but this seems perfectly okay and you’re happy to go along with it then the chances are that you are erm in a state of altered... urgh perception...”
Now, I’m all for a *dash* of poetic license when a blogger is trying to make their post interesting for their readership, however I wanted you all to hear *exactly* what he said. So, I went back and transcribed the section (please feel sorry for me, since you can only ‘rewind’ to the start of the whole section, no matter how far through the bit you’re at... The things I do for a post, eh?)
One thing I will say is that explaining a concept as difficult as this live on air is not easy. I’ve got the benefit of the backspace key for anything that doesn’t sound quite right. If they could make one of those for everyday conversations, then I’m sure we’d all be polished citizens – and the quotes book I keep of the stupid/funny things my friends say wouldn’t exist! So I’d like to point out that I’m taking the fact that he’s answering this difficult question on air into account.
Sometimes before I write out a post, I’ll open up my notepad and just let any thoughts that are popping around my head out onto the paper. This can be useful for catching any useful points I’m likely to forget when I eventually get around to writing the post up. On the other hand, reading it back *does* make me look like a hot head. I’m glad, at any rate, that I didn’t post the first piece of paper directly onto the blog.
“Now if you find yourself in a situation where time seems to have passed and you don’t remember what you did that’s very similar to hypnosis if that situation has been ermm... imposed... err induced and that just means created- if that’s happened from somebody else... then erm the chances are that that was hypnosis.”
Let’s take the three quotes I’ve just posted so far; I’m going to come back to that first line, and concentrate on the other two first. Mr Chase first states that when ‘nothing’s able to move but this seems perfectly okay and you’re happy to go along with it’ then ‘the chances are’ you’re hypnotised. If ‘time seems to have passed and you don’t remember what you did...[and] if that’s happened from somebody else then the chances are that that was hypnosis.” Come *on*, if you’re going to explain a concept and answer such a crucial question as this, then actually give a definitive answer! Why all of these, ‘the chances are’s and the use of every term *but* hypnosis: altered perception, altered awareness, ‘that’s very similar to hypnosis’ etc.
Now, I’m not going to post the *whole* transcript for you, since you can listen to it for yourselves. But I will mention the areas that I disagree with, and especially the areas he ends up contradicting himself. For example, he opens with “if you think you are hypnotised then you probably aren’t”, and then later says that one of the ‘two types of people’ he gets on stage, are “the people who know they’re in hypnosis but can’t do anything about it”. So, acting on a compulsion that you know is there but you’re unable to stop it apparently isn’t hypnosis, but they’re people he keeps up on stage as a demonstration tool for the powers of it? He also says that “you know you’re hypnotised when you don’t know anything else- when you have either lost that focus on yourself to the point that it just doesn’t matter anymore ... or when you don’t actually know what’s happening at all.” So where do waking suggestions fit into this then? Please, let a subject reading this tell me something different, but every time I’ve been given a waking suggestion (something I’m not overly fond of anyway) I’m still aware of all my surroundings, and everything else. I don’t suddenly lose that because I’m acting upon a suggestion, even when triggered by a PHS. Also, how can he say that you’re unaware of what’s happening at all, when he’s already said that ‘people who are hypnotised are no less or really more aware’?
I understand that Mr Chase’s main area of expertise is stage hypnosis, so I can understand that his experiences will largely deal with subjects who are up for a laugh and are willing to give it a go. He mentions that with hypnosis there is a ‘conscious decision’, but places that decision on the hypnotist, not the subject. I’d disagree there and say that the decision lies not only in the hands of the ‘tist, but the most important one lies in the hands of the subject. Those people getting up on stage for him have already announced their willingness to go into trance simply through their conduct. Now of the course, the ‘tist will whittle down the subjects so that he can deal with the best of the bunch, but that’s the problem, Mr Chase is used to dealing with the best of the bunch However, stage hypnosis isn’t the be-all and end-all of hypnosis itself.
One question that I’d like to ask amidst all this analysis is this:
Why are the hypnotists, often people who have little or no experience as a subject themselves, always given the authority on these matters? Surely inquiring minds should be turning to the subjects for these answers, since we’re the ones that are going into this state every flipping day (I perhaps speak for myself alone in that last bit).
For a hypnotist that isn’t a very successful subject, or has never experienced trance, trying to explain what trance is like seems a little ironic and hypnocritical to me. It’s like claiming you can perform surgery because you’ve seen a description on Grey’s Anatomy or once played Operation.
However, I also know that it sounds pretty fresh of me to disagree with the explanation of someone as renowned as Jonathan Chase and not give you a description of my own. So I’m going to try to give you an explanation based upon my own experiences as a subject. Those of you that know me a little more personally will know that I refused to learn how to hypnotise, and all the theoretical sides to hypnosis for a very specific reason. I didn’t want to learn any more since I didn’t want it to affect my abilities as a subject. I’m analytical enough as it is without adding knowledge of the techniques being used on me into the mix.
Now, there’s a profound difference between experiencing trance and actually knowing when you’ve been hypnotised. The crucial part of it all is actually accepting it. Long term readers of this blog will know the difficulty I’ve had battling away the acting dilemma for good, and it doesn’t seem to be happening. But I began trancing with Lex in June, and it wasn’t for a good 4-5 months that I actually accepted that hypnosis was having an effect on me. I’d been responding perfectly well to his suggestions up until then, and when we first met I had PHS's given to me prior to the date that were used when we met. So, I was acting on triggers I didn’t know were there, and was going into trance fine, however I didn’t believe it. So up until that one day (that I won’t go into too heavily, but let’s just say I did something acting on a suggestion that surprised even me) I doubted that I was going into trance correctly, and still was searching for answers.
Thus, people frustratingly asking others what it’s like to be hypnotised, either because they haven’t been hypnotised yet, or because their experiences with trance haven’t gone as they’d expected, need to take a look at themselves. For those in the former category, if you’re curious enough about hypnosis to be reading this blog and to be asking that question, then why not try it and see what happens? The best way to discover what it’s like is to experience it, as corny as that sounds. I could sit here and say one thing, and your ‘tist could include any manner of feeling-oriented suggestions within their induction patter (..."feeling light and floaty"..."relaxed and dreamy"..."as you find yourself sinking deeper, dropping like a stone...") and then you’d begin to question this entry. So I’m not going to say that there’s one definitive feeling, or a light bulb that comes on in the subject’s mind when they hit ‘trance’. Because the first question I’d be asking is what level of trance would the light come on? Is there a certain level all subjects must meet in order to be a subject? Why should such a level ever exist when every ‘tist and subject combination will be comprised of two very different minds?
Picking the lock to the door of a subject’s mind is going to be a difficult process for some. You’re going to break a few lock picks on the way, but with perseverance and a little skill/luck (delete as appropriate) you’ll get there eventually. Some subjects have the equivalent of Fort Knox, whereas others (such as me and Darren) are on the other side, eagerly handing the ‘tist a set of keys to get in.
But, just as no two locks will be the same, no two minds will be. Sure, there’s a similar process undergone by the ‘tist in picking it, but it doesn’t half annoy me when you see a ‘tist blaming it on a sub because they’re not going under. During one of the Oxford meets there was a guy (relatively new to hypnosis) who tranced a member of the public in one of the student bars we’d gone to, and after about 2 minutes told him that he couldn’t be hypnotised. Now, that poor lad will always be under the assumption that he can’t be hypnotised, because of one silly ‘tist who felt the pressure of a waiting audience and caved too soon.
Back to Mr Chase though, I completely agree that there have been times when I’ve zoned out of the outside world, and pretty much all I’m focusing on is the hypnotist’s voice, or the spiral, or whatever focal point they’re using. However, I will not let you readers think that this happens 100% of the time and that I’m aware of nothing else entirely.
It’s like an analogy Lex often uses when describing varying depths of trance to new models. If a subject is told that when they hear the music, they’ll get up and dance as Madonna, then someone in a light trance will probably get up and dance because they feel inclined to do so, and know it’s almost expected of them to respond that way. Someone in a medium-level trance will feel compelled to get up and dance, almost like an uncontrollable urge. Those in in a deep trance will really believe that they are Madonna; they’ll see their stage, the lights, the people around them as backing dancers, and really go for it.
But why are people placing the expected standard at the deepest level?
All three are hypnotised states.
Yes, all three.
So if you achieve any of them, you’ve been hypnotised. Congratulations! What we as subjects strive for, is often what we ourselves deem to be ‘hypnotised states’ even when we’re currently in one. I know, as I mentioned above, I did the exact same thing. Blinded by the media portrayal of damsels dropping like stones into their seats, or the arms of the hypnotist, and seemingly zoned out to the rest of the world, we want that. We don’t want to settle for half-arsed attempts, and so we kid ourselves into believing that we’re not experiencing trance and frustrate ourselves hoping that one day the light will come on.
For the people in the latter category that I mentioned earlier, those that aren’t happy with their current progress as a subject. Look at your past history with hypnosis. Look at every time you’ve gone into trance. If your sights are at the ‘Troublesome Three’ things for subjects (amnesia, hallucinations and negative hallucinations) then perhaps scale your expectations back a little. The majority of subjects don’t achieve those first time, but look at what you *have* accomplished instead of what you haven't yet achieved. An unconscious twitch as you went into trance, that feeling that your arm really *was* getting heavy when the hypnotist said so, or just feeling so relaxed that you don’t want to move anymore. All accomplishments. All trances. So what if it’s not the troublesome three? Find your way down the spiral path at your own pace, and shake your fist angrily at those seeming to run on past everyone, just like the rest of us ;o)
I'd like to finish by sending out the bat-signal to all those with experience as a subject reading now. Post your experiences of trance, what it felt like, when you realised you'd been going under. Help me prove my point that it's going to be different for everyone, as much of a cop-out answer as that is. Of course there will be similarities, methods in the madness, or so to speak' but everyone's mind is different, and I think it would help others to hear for themselves that when it comes to the finite detail, the diversity really sets in.