One of the challenges of being a hypnotist is found in movies. And novels. And TV shows. And comic books. And fireside stories. And “FOAF” (a “Friend of a Friend” told someone) tales. And the internet. And in hypnosis stage shows for entertainmnet. They all seem to have a powerful hypnotist making people do things against their wills.
Old advertising image of a hypnotist directing group of people in things that appear to be against their wills.
One man is wearing women’s clothing and a feathered hat.
Another man is using a cane but thinking it is a fishing pole.
The man in the back is driving another man like a horse and carriage.
Made by the Donaldson Lithographic Co. of Â Newport, Kentucky, around 1900.
So when people come to me for hypnotherapy, or when I give a workshop on hypnosis, one of the first things I have to do is give a “pretalk” to eliminate fears due to incorrect and false information they’ve acquired. One of the major fears of some people, as illustrated in the lithograph above, is that once they’re in hypnosis, I’ll make them do something against their will, something that will humiliate them.
I explain that I wouldn’t do that (it would only hurt my reputation), and besides, hypnosis is cooperative. I can’t “make” you do something against your will.
I then give proof of what I mean.
“Relax in your chair,” I say.
“Close your eyes.
“Take a deep breath.
“Raise your arm.
“Put it down.
“Now, jump up on your chair and bark like a dog!“
Inevitably, people open their eyes and laugh. I explain that this response is exactly what would happen if I tried to make them do something against their wills. They agree to and follow my first suggestions because they see no reason not to do so. But when I suggest they bark like a dog, they simply open their eyes and come out of hypnosis. Occasionally, especially in large workshops, a couple of people will jump on their chairs and bark. I point out that they do it for fun and they had no reason not to do so. I wasn’t making them do something against their wills.
I also point out that in the stage shows the hypnotist begins by saying he or she is looking for people who want to have fun and are looking to have a good time. Being silly on stage won’t be going against their wills at all.
So if you have ever thought of being hypnotized but chosen not to out of fear of being “made” to do something against your will, you have nothing to worry about. I can’t make you do anything against your will. All hypnotists will tell you this and it’s completely true.
There’s Always a Catch
Most hypnotists will tell you that you can’t be made to do something against your will and they believe it. I believe it, too. But there is one catch: most people are totally unaware of what their wills are!
Not only that, but peopleâ€”even those who think they have a strong willâ€”end up doing things against their will if someone uses a powerful magick word: Please.
Would you open the window, please?
Will you pass the salt, please?
Will you loan me $50, please?
You may not want to do any of these things, yet you do so, against your will, because someone used that powerful, magick word. There’s also a technique children use to get adults to do things against their wills. Actually, there are two techniques: extreme whining and throwing a tantrum.
The problem in understanding the will is that people assume we make up our minds, call it position A, and everything else is position B. We have strong wills by staying with A and would be doing things against our wills if we went to B.
That however, is not the way the mind works.Â Let me make this clear with the following two diagrams. Remember, most people think the will is an either/or thing:
Will Do Â | Â Won’t Do
The Will: Imagined
But that is not the reality. In the world wherein we exist there is a wide grey area in the middle:
Will Do………………Might Do………………Won’t Do
The Will: Actual
So in that broad middle space, a space that changes depending upon your feelings, mood, environment, new information, etc., it’s quite possible that although you think something is outside of your will, it is actually in that gray “might do” area and very much within the range of your will.
No, I cannot make you do something against your will. But if something is in that gray area and not so strongly against your will, you will go along with it if a hypnotist (or someone else) suggests it appropriately. It’s not forcing you against your will, it’s understanding and working with the true nature of your will.
This is of great value when using hypnosis for changework. You may think there is no way you can stop smoking or improve your relationship with a partner. All I, as a hypnotherapist, have to do is make suggestions that you will accept, suggestions that you agree with, suggestions that are in the grey area, even though you incorrectly think they’re outside of your will.
Some people see this as terrible. “A hypnotist can make me do something against my will if it’s not really against my will!?” Actually, people send messages that make us do things against our wills all the time. Friends ask for favors. Politicians tell us (often deceptively) why we should vote for them. Commercials urge us to buy and consume things we don’t need or could actually be harmful. People constantly try to influence us, change our minds, change our wills.
If you let someone who has not been thoroughly trained in hypnosis lead you into a hypnotic trance, you have no way of knowing if that person would be ethical. Training and professional certification doesn’t guarantee ethics, but it is a large step in that direction. So I would encourage you not to allow someone to hypnotize you unless you trust them completely or unless they are trained with an ethical organization and can present proof of board certification (there are many boards that do this in the U.S.).
Once you realize someone is trustworthy, the information presented here is good news. If doing changework were easy, everyone would be doing it. But people still smoke. People still need help with relationships. The fact that that big center section of your will is a grey area allows a trained professional to help you achieve the changes you want.
This means that hypnosis for changework can be incredibly powerful. Perhaps the person you trust the most (or should trust the most!) is yourself. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend the following books:
- Hypnosis for Beginners by William W. Hewett
- New Age Hypnosis by Dr. Bruce Goldberg
- Self-Empowerment Through Self-Hypnosis by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke and Joe H. Slate, and
- Self-Hypnosis for a Better Life by William W. Hewett
Have you worked with hypnosis at all?
What has your experience been?