HypnosisReality.com, Op-Ed, June 28, 2020 | Updated July 5, 2020, July 13, 2020

Recognizing the Issue

Hypnosis is a very powerful tool, one that can do a lot of good for people, in many different ways, however, with that said, it can also arguably be the most dangerous tool used against humankind. While it has many benefits and uses for helping people, it also has the ability to hurt people, tremendously.

Hypnosis, of course, does not help or hurt people on its own. It needs someone to facilitate it and direct it. This is where the danger lies. While there are indeed many well-respected professionals who employ hypnosis with the utmost integrity and benevolence toward their patients and clients, there are irrefutably many who have stained the field with perverted, deviant malevolence.

This is the current divide that exists in hypnosis, because those professionals who do conduct themselves in a proper manner are quite understandably very uncomfortable with the notion of hypnosis abuse. They often deny the issue rather than admit it or address it, either out of their own personal ignorance on the subject or perhaps they are afraid of the financial repercussions for their own professional well-being. What they have failed to realize for decades now is that such denial only makes the problem worse. Ironically, those who say that hypnosis abuse is impossible actually end up making it possible, by lulling an unsuspecting public into a false sense of safety, causing them to leave their guard down, all of which clearly helps to enable the deviant hypnotist with the perfect environment to exploit.

For years people have constantly said, "you won't do anything against your will under hypnosis."

Yeah, right...

So look what happened. We now know from all of the evidence, that was absolutely not true at all. People have been horribly abused. (Please see the hypno-predator list on the homepage.)

As someone who cut their teeth in the corporate research world, it is not hard to spot the glaring chasm that exists today in hypnosis. The divide is easy to see for someone outside the field, yet sadly many on the inside have chosen blinders to view their profession in the light they wish to see it. At the same time, others in the field are incapable of comprehending hypnosis reality because they lack the proper in-depth training, experience and/or expertise to understand its true power. As such, the Hypnosis community is arguably one of the most disjointed professions in the world today. It is split between those who have mastered the craft and who understand implicitly the reality of hypnosis, and those who have not and are woefully ignorant of it.

This is a sad testament to a professional field in disarray, for many years.

To see the argument regarding antisocial behavior under hypnosis still linger on to this very day, you just have to shake your head and wonder why the obvious wasn't recognized long ago. To still have a divided camp on this issue, after all these years, is extremely bizarre and really quite hard to believe.

Apparently no one bothered to ever take note of the frequent news on hypnosis abuse. It went in one ear and out the other.

The Reason for the Confusion

There are two reasons for the current divide in hypnosis...

One of the primary reasons why there is so much confusion over the subject of hypnosis is because most of the general public think there is only one level of hypnosis. They errantly believe that being "hypnotized" is the same thing for everyone - and that everyone gets the same level of trance from every hypnotist. This notion is absolutely 100% wrong.  (see Fig. 2 on this page)

The second reason involved in this overall confusion has actually now become the Achilles' heal of the hypnosis community, their long historical division over the issue of antisocial behavior under hypnosis. This very well may have some roots taken from the first reason noted above, however, suffice to say, the diversity of opinion that still exists in the hypnosis field, from educators to practitioners, is stark and it has been crippling to the profession in terms of public perception for hundreds of years. Once again the confusion appears to be centered around a lack of group consensus about the true depth of trance.

As this article will attempt to explain, the level of trance is not always consistent from subject to subject, nor from hypnotist to hypnotherapist.

Today's hypnotists and researchers too often make the critical mistake of staying within the confines of their own clinical experience when trying to assess the potential for hypnosis abuse. The most prevalent point to understand in this argument is that clinical hypnotherapists do not normally take their patients into deep trance, as the deviant hypnotist does. Their clinical breadth of hypnosis experience is typically limited to the upper levels of trance (alpha and theta). As such, this understandably becomes their benchmark for hypnosis understanding and so they fail to realize or recognize the most critical factor in the argument, that the unscrupulous hypnotist operates in much deeper waters, in dramatically lower levels of trance, known as delta. The comparison of alpha and theta to delta is night and day. Clinical hypnotherapists are remiss in recognizing that the deviant hypnotist does not work from a clinical perspective, but rather from a carnal level of desire, with a specific interest in incapacitating their subject. The failure to note this key fact is what keeps many professionals in the field from acknowledging the possibility or reality of hypnosis abuse.

The difference between alpha, theta and delta is literally night and day. Truth be told, that's probably as good a metaphorical analogy as any. It's essentially an apples to oranges difference.

Fig. 1

Suffice to say, most people undergoing hypnosis never make it beyond the theta state because, once again, most hypnotherapists don't have any need to go lower than that. As such, those who say hypnosis abuse is not possible, based upon their own lighter hypnosis experience, don't know what they are talking about because they have no concept of a deeper state of trance. Light trance (alpha, theta) is like a .22 caliber bullet compared to the shotgun shell that is delta. One could also say that light trance is like a light rain, whereas deep trance (delta) is like a huge overwhelming monsoon thunderstorm. Light trance could be likened to small ripples in a pond, compared to the tidal wave that is delta. The overall point to be made here is that hypnosis in alpha and theta is not even close to a coma-like delta trance. Those who have never experienced delta level just don't know the true extent of ultra-deep hypnosis trance.

Not All Hypnotists (or Hypnotic Subjects) Are the Same

This much has to be said up front... not all hypnotists have the same degree of experience or expertise. Some have far more education and experience and as such they are far more skilled than others who have lesser education and experience.

Along with that, it can also be said that hypnosis subjects do not all hypnotize the same. Some can be more resistant to direct suggestion, but the counter to that is this - there are those who are also easily hypnotized, known as somnambulists. (If you are a sleepwalker, you are likely a somnambulist.)

Given these two very important criteria for hypnosis as noted above... to say that everyone who becomes hypnotized is affected the exact same way, would not be a true statement. The skill level of the hypnotist and the hypnotic susceptibility of the subject are of critical value and need to be taken into account when assessing for depth of trance.

The fact is, there is a remarkable disparity in education and training among hypnotherapists and hypnotists. There is a huge gap in what is taught to all and what can be learned by some. The key to understanding the longstanding divide in the hypnosis debate is in knowing this little known fact.

When it comes to being a hypnotist or hypnotherapist, skill level is the name of the game. Like every profession in life, those with the most skill excel in their fields of expertise.

It has to be noted that there is a very distinct professional difference between hypnotherapists and hypnotists, with each having different objectives at hand. The hypnotherapist performs hypnosis with a therapeutic goal in mind, while the hypnotist simply works to put his subject into trance for the sake of doing so, whether it be for stage entertainment or amusement at parties.

This is critical to note and to take into account for a very important reason... the reputable clinical hypnotherapists are simply not taught how to take their clients/patients into a deep, Esdaile-state coma. This particular skill-set is primarily reserved for those who work clinically in the field of medicine, for surgery, childbirth, or dental procedures.

The fact of the matter is, most hypnotherapists generally only need to work at the upper levels of trance, in the alpha-theta range, where they focus primarily on therapeutic modalities.

Conversely, the rogue hypnotist works specifically and deliberately to perfect the deepest level of trance possible, delta, an incapacitated state where a patient can be subdued and abused.

This key distinction has to be a critical factor as to why there is such a misunderstanding regarding hypnosis and trance from clinical hypnotherapists. Essentially what you have are two very different practitioners, each using varied levels of trance for entirely different purposes.

The natural yet tragic end result in all of this is, since the clinical hypnotherapist generally has no experience or expertise in these deeper areas of hypnosis trance, they simply do not understand what the rogue hypnotist does. As a result, the topic of hypnosis abuse has literally become myth for many within the field, with misinformation and ignorance about trance at the core of the issue.

Levels of Trance

The reality is, there are many levels of hypnosis trance. There are four known brain states best suited for trance... alpha, theta, delta and infra-low levels.  (see Fig. 2 below)

Just as there are many levels of trance, there are also many variables to being hypnotized, such as the subject's predisposition (somnambulist or not), as well as the skill-level and expertise of the hypnotist. The most prominent distinction to understand is that there are many levels of hypnosis. To be more accurate, there are many levels of trance.

Fig. 2

As you can see there are many dramatically different levels of trance. Unfortunately, this is what many early research studies seemed to miss or failed to account for. As such, each specific trance level needs to be taken into account when doing hypnosis research. Unfortunately a great many of the studies that were performed over the years were simply based off the fact of, "the subject was hypnotized," with no real effort made to reach a specific level or degree of trance. This has to be considered a flaw in the early research, because if you cannot account for the degree of trance, that becomes a wild-card factor in the study. You would have to question the results, because you truly didn't know just how hypnotized they were.

This would be like testing for drunkenness amongst a group of people, but disregarding how many drinks each of the subject's had drank during the course of the study. If some only drank two drinks, yet others drank well over a dozen, an accurate field for comparison would not exist and the data would be either inconclusive or just flat out wrong. This was a significant flaw in the early history of hypnosis and trance research. Some did try to calibrate and measure trance, while others did not.

The Skills Divide

It has to be said that the diversity of experience and knowledge among hypnotists and researchers is the only explanation for the extreme contrasts in research over the years. The fact of the matter is, the hypnosis community, as a whole, is very disjointed and has not been on the same page from day one. For over two hundred years they have argued on and on and yet there still is no consensus opinion on hypnosis. What this researcher finds interesting is, why hasn't someone addressed that diversity and actually studied the studies themselves, as a group study?

It needs to be noted, that such evolutionary or long-term dysfunction is atypical for most skill professions, let alone a field of educated researchers and practitioners. A lot of the research has been flawed, in so many ways, it's easy to see why there is still very little consensus understanding.

This discernable skills-divide in hypnosis has clearly become an undeniable problem for the profession as a whole, because the ensuing dichotomy of opinion over hypnosis has consequently created a real and present danger to the public. As a result, more and more misinformed women and children are sexually assaulted under hypnosis each and every year. The fact is, there are at least four to six arrests per year for hypnosis sexual assault, but for all those who are caught, there are unfortunately many others who are still slipping by. This is a huge unknown threat for an unsuspecting populace; one that, for the most part, has been told nothing about the risks or danger of hypnosis abuse.

Fortunately there are notable veteran pillars of the profession who understand about hypnosis and are not afraid to speak out on the potential for its misuse:

  • Dr. David Spiegel (Stanford University)

  • Dr. Daniel Brown (Harvard University)

  • Dr. Alan Scheflin (Santa Clara University)

Others in the academic and research field need to step forward as well.

Education on the subject of hypnosis and trance has to be a priority in moving forward. A united, cohesive effort is needed by hypnosis professionals to educate their peers and others within the field on the true power of hypnosis, but also its potential danger to people as well. An accurate understanding of this medium is needed by all who are associated with hypnosis.

A Dire Need for Better Studies

It is surprising how many studies there are about antisocial behavior under hypnosis, however, too few of these tests did not take into account that there are different levels of trance. As a result, those studies should forever be viewed with great caution.

In an ideal study, subjects should be tested at each level of trance, or an effort has to be made to correctly identify the level of trance the subject was tested at.

It has to be noted that there were some studies that did try to note the degree of trance, yet they made the fatal error of asking the subject (someone whose perceptions had just been altered by trance) to assess how hypnotized they were. Needless to say, in the research world, these results are very subjective and thus cannot be considered absolute by any means.

This author has been hypnotized three time in my life. Once I thought I wasn't hypnotized at all, yet afterward found out that I had been much deeper in trance than I originally thought.

With all of this said, it would seem that physical markers need to be looked for to discern the state of trance, such pupil dilation, catalepsy, loss of speech or loss of movement, etc. Relying on the subject to correctly assess their state is entirely much too subjective and holds little research value.

Thus it would seem prudent in all hypnosis research and testing that the following be accounted for...

  • Different levels of trance

  • Susceptibility of the subject

  • Skill level of the hypnotist

  • Objective way to check depth of trance

  • As many subjects as possible to reduce margin of error

These critical components have not been hallmark in all previous studies of hypnosis.

Another factor that has not been addressed properly by previous researchers is arguably one of the most critical assets for a research study, a larger sample base in order to achieve a much smaller margin of error and higher confidence rate for further studies. This is the problem with most of the previous studies, the samples are so low that the margin or error is either beyond tolerable limits or is incomputable. As a result, the confidence level of the study comes into question.

All of these reasons appear to play into why we have had so many inconsistent, differing studies and contrasting views on the subject, all of which has in turned muddied the waters and created diverse opinion on the subject of hypnosis and trance. This historical reality needs to be given fair consideration when assessing the current mess and lack of understanding that we have today.

Summary

Knowing that hypnosis is a very powerful psychological tool that can affect and influence great transformative change in people, coupled with its dark history of abuse, it would seem prudent at this point that more government regulation is needed for a profession that has been known to behave very badly at times. As discomforting as that is to say, the fact is, every profession has their own bad apples, such as lawyers, police, the media, politicians, corporate businessmen and the like. Given the power of hypnosis, it should really be no surprise that men's carnal desires continue to come forth when women and deep trance are involved. More oversight and accountability is needed to help protect people.

Without a doubt, this is irrefutably a problem the hypnosis community has helped to create on its own, in its long tenure of disjointedness over the last 200 years. Given the fact that much of this divide still has to do with the question of antisocial behavior under hypnosis, and given the fact that we now know the answer to this long debate, it should be much easier to finally pull the field together in unison and to address the issue as a whole. The entire hypnosis community, both professional and stage, needs to roll up its sleeves and get to work on a campaign of awareness and transparency. It's time for the hypnosis community to finally own up to the dirt within its own domain and to clean house, once and for all.

Two questions for all licensed hypnotherapists...

1) When did you honestly think this problem was going to go away?

2) Who did you think was going to clean this mess up, the plumbers union?

Epiphanies in life can be harshly brutal.

Catastrophic messes like this generally don't fix themselves in life. It first takes recognition of the problem and then it takes a concerted, orchestrated effort from within to turn adverse, unfavorable conditions around.

Once again, a greater awareness regarding hypnosis is imperative as the profession seeks to move move forward. Just as there is a necessary field-wide need to educate hypnosis professionals, there is an even greater need for better public education. This should be an urgent priority. Consumers need to become aware of the real-life dangers of unscrupulous hypnotists. Society needs to understand the real power of hypnosis and what can actually be done to people against their will. To be certain, not all hypnotherapists are unethical. That would be ridiculous to presume, however, these same ethical hypnotists have to understand that they are the ones that the unscrupulous hypnotists hide behind. For ethical hypnotists to tell people that hypnosis abuse is impossible only makes the matter worse. It creates the perfect environment for the deviant hypnotist to operate from. This is a huge monkey on the back of the hypnosis community and it will forever be an issue with the public until hypnosis professionals do something to address it.

The bottom line here is this... clinical professionals need to quit saying that people can't be abused under hypnosis. The reality is, people can be made to do things under hypnosis that they wouldn’t do normally. (Especially a somnambulist.) Hopefully this website makes this fact abundantly clear to even the most ardent naysayer by finally exposing this crime once and for all through the outrageous number of cases presented, which all stand as direct evidence. This is indeed the main point of this website, to show that hypnosis abuse does exist and to create a necessary public awareness of the problem.

It is long past time for hypnosis professionals to admit a very painful truth. It has been equally as long in addressing the disparity of opinion regarding hypnosis. Only when this is done will they be able to finally work together to make the profession better and put potential future clients more at ease with hypnosis.

Links

The Uses and Abuses of Hypnosis

Unethical Covert Use of Hypnosis to Rape

Sexual Abuse and the Abuse of Hypnosis in the Therapeutic Relationship

Charges Against Hypnotherapist Raise Concerns About Safety of Hypnosis