Hypnotherapy is a powerful and scientifically sound clinical modality that literally helps millions every year with problems ranging from smoking to obesity to anxiety, depression and more. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of hypnosis and its benefits; in fact, they are more likely to be frightened by the idea of hypnosis than they are to be reassured by its record of success.
Why all the fear? In truth, there are many reasons, but for this posting, let’s take a look at a prime culprit–portrayals of hypnosis in popular media. If you’re a fan of looking for needles in haystacks, then you will be overjoyed when you attempt to search for positive examples of hypnosis in movies and literature. Check out this hypnosis scene from The Woman in Green, in which the famed detective Sherlock Holmes falls under the “spell” of a nefarious female who then uses hypnosis in an attempt to murder Holmes.
First we see the evil hypnotress (my own invented word) plying Holmes with drugs to help achieve hypnosis. Actually, early users of hypnosis did experiment with drugs to aid in the hypnotic process, but that certainly doesn’t have to happen today, and to my knowledge it does not. Hypnosis depends on simple suggestion, and the acceptance of that suggestion by the hypnotized individual. The key element is not the “trance” state of the hypnotized, but rather the willingness of that individual to follow the instructions of the hypnotist. That means there must be a deep level of trust in the hypnotist.
Almost nothing in this entertaining film clip is accurate when it comes to the actual practice of hypnotherapy or hypnosis in general. A hypnotized person will not respond to and obey the commands of just anyone who speaks to him or her (like Prof. Moriarty in the film), and the hypnotized individual won’t do anything that conflicts with his or her deeply held values and beliefs. Hypnosis can be used to make one less sensitive to pain, but nowhere in the film do we hear the hypnotress suggesting that Holmes will not feel pain, or even the cold blade of the knife on his skin.
Still, the average person seeing this and many other film portrayals will conclude the hypnosis is something that is used by evil and unscrupulous people for harmful purposes. It would be surprising if anyone viewing this film–a classic in many ways–would permit themselves to be hypnotized under any circumstances.
For a more enlightened view, please see my hypnosis web site and check out the Q&A in particular. Next time, I’ll delve into some more reasons why some people are unnecessarily frightened of hypnosis, despite the fact that it is a positive, healing modality. If you find yourself a bit frightened at the thought of hypnosis, share your concerns here and I’ll do my best to address them!