My Three Experiences With
A Firsthand Personal Account on the Reality of Hypnosis
Posted Mar 28, 2019
It's hard to imagine now, as I look back at my first experience with hypnosis, why I did what I did that autumn night in 1977, sitting in a cocktail lounge in a small Iowa town, watching a hypnosis stage show.
Growing up as a kid in the 60's, I was used to seeing hypnosis depicted in TV shows, and I was actually quite interested in it, with no reason to disbelieve its authenticity, yet for some strange reason that night (perhaps it was the eight bottles of beer), I heckled a stage hypnotist from the crowd.
For those that don't already know... nothing good will ever come from such a stupid action. All in all, just a verrrrrry bad, bad, bad idea.
Please don't misunderstand, I did not disparage this person, per se. My sin that night was sitting at a table with two of my best friends and scoffing a bit too loudly at one of the feats performed by this hypnotist. Unfortunately for me, that open display of incredulousness was to be my doom that night.
My First Hypnosis Experience
For the record... challenging a really good stage hypnotist within their own domain is very much akin to running naked through a forest full of bears, while lathered with honey. Sweet mother of pearl, just don't do it.
Such was not the case for me that night. I pulled a Nike-moment... and just did it.
Seizing upon my uncurtailed disbelief, I was promptly singled out by this eager stage-hypnotist who was practically salivating as he called me up on stage for what I can now only look back on as a merciless display of humiliating hypnosis in front of a jam-packed house at the Past-Time lounge. ("Oh the pain Will Robinson. Oh the pain.")
All I can say about going onstage that night is that I was put into a trance so fast, I literally did not see it coming. That was the night I was introduced to "rapid induction."
Long story short, the next thing I remember after shaking this person's hand was waking up later to a packed lounge full of people who were laughing their asses off, all the while an enraged woman was beating me crazily with her purse.
I was in a total fog as the hypnotist smiled quite gleefully and thanked us both for our help, escorting us off the stage as he did so. I made my way back to my table and my two friends. They both had tears in their eyes and were laughing hysterically at me.
"What the hell just happened," I asked both of them, as I was still reeling and shaking the cobwebs out of my head.
When they could finally stop laughing, they told me that the hypnotist shook my hand and put me into a trance instantly. He then called a woman from the audience to come on stage with us. The hypnotist shook her hand also and placed her into a trance as well. (For those not familiar with this infamous hypnotic technique, please see the "covert handshake induction.")
This is when the hypnotist took his revenge on me. He set up a fake wedding between the girl and I, with the hypnotist playing the part of the priest. He told the girl beforehand that she was madly in love with me and that we were about to be married, however, I was told that I had cold feet and didn't want to get married and that when it got to the point of saying "I do," I was supposed to falter and start stammering my refusal. Of course, this is the point where I came to, with this girl crazily teeing off on me.
So much for hypnosis experience number one. At that point, I was an even bigger believer in the reality of hypnosis.
My Second Hypnosis Experience
Years later, I had the opportunity to experience hypnosis in a different way. I was involved in a traffic event where investigators wanted to enhance my recall of what had happened. Having already experienced the power of hypnosis beforehand, I agreed to give it a try.
The experience was 100-percent totally different. The hypnotist used a traditional relaxation method to take me into a light trance state, which was a first for me. It wasn't at all like my first experience with hypnosis, where I was suddenly out cold and then waking up much later.
This second experience was more like being slightly asleep. Even though my eyes were closed, I was aware of the moment and I truly felt cognizant of my surroundings, including all room noise and the people around me.
To be truthful, I actually felt like it was a bogus-hypnosis experience, until they brought me out of the light trance.
My wife commented about my mannerisms and that I was visibly agitated during the session, but I had no recall of that at all. In fact, it was hard for me to believe when my wife said that my knees were actually knocking together as I recounted the event in question.
I remember thinking to myself at the time, how could this be?
I thought I was awake the whole time, answering questions for the investigator, but in fact, I was not as awake or cognizant as I thought I was.
So this was quite interesting to me afterward, that I could think I was awake and aware, yet in reality, I actually wasn't.
My Third Hypnosis Experience
My last experience with hypnosis was perhaps the most common for many people, quitting smoking. It was suggested that I try hypnosis to give up cigarettes. Since I had already had two experiences with hypnosis, I decided to once again give it a try.
This third experience was different from my first two hypnosis experiences.
For this session, the hypnotist used a relaxation method, like the second hypnotist, but he also did things like getting me to focus on light and sound. Then he had me start counting backwards.
It didn't take long before I was in a trance state. This time it felt much deeper than my second experience, although not anywhere close to the first hypnosis trance that I experienced onstage in the 70's.
It seemed as though I was in a much deeper trance state during this third hypnosis session. I remember that it was very relaxing, perhaps a bit more than my second hypnosis session. I also recall hearing the hypnotist talk to me during this session about what a bad habit cigarette smoking was, but the interesting thing is, the memory of this third hypnosis session seems to be more vague in my mind than my second hypnosis session, which I still seem to remember fairly well to this day, over 30 years later.
The truth of the matter is, somehow I think that I remember the second hypnosis session perhaps the best of all, because at the time it felt like a light hypnosis session to me, however there are things from that particular session that I don't remember at all, so that has to account for something.
Maybe the reason I don't remember the third session as well is because I was in a slightly deeper trance, or maybe because this session was simply more mundane, as in, stop smoking cigarettes.
If I had to really think about it hard and compare the last two hypnosis sessions, it's really hard to assess which was the deeper session. I guess I could say I remember parts of each of those sessions fairly evenly, however, the biggest thing to me is that I have very little to no memory of the very first hypnosis session, which was by far the deepest trance state of the three.
That to me is very interesting and quite telling about hypnosis.
Oh, and by the way... I did stop smoking cigarettes after the third session - immediately.
I have had three experiences with hypnosis... and all three were different from the other.
What is apparent to me now is that I experienced three different levels of trance in those three hypnosis sessions. Each seemed to be very different from the other, most especially the first time.
The other thing that stands out to me from those three individual experiences is that the skill level of the hypnotist is key. The technical hypnotic prowess of the hypnotist, without a doubt, absolutely plays a strategic and significant role in the hypnosis process. The better the hypnotist is at hypnosis, the deeper the levels of trance that you can go.
It should also be noted that as a longtime childhood sleepwalker, this was an indication that I was more than likely "somnambulistic," which means that I can be hypnotized far easier than most.
In looking back at these three hypnosis moments, it has to be said that the first hypnotist had some extremely mad skills, because I literally did not see that one coming. It was just boom and then goodnight. It happened that quickly.
Let me just say, it's a very odd feeling when you come to after a hypnotic ambush such as that. It's like going into a very deep sleep, without knowing it until you wake up. It's very similar to the feeling of coming to after passing out, for those that have ever experienced such a thing.
The other two hypnosis experiences were unlike the first one, but were somewhat similar to each other, but only in the fact that the same type of technique was used to get me into the trance. In hindsight, the one difference that really seemed to stand out for me the most was the different level of focus that I was driven to in each of those sessions, which really made all the difference in the level of trance between those last two hypnosis experiences.
All in all, it has been extremely fascinating for me to have three different experiences with hypnosis in my life. Because of this, I've learned a lot about the process of hypnosis and its varying degrees of trance. I've also learned not to believe the naysayers who still think hypnosis isn't real. Like others who've actually tried it, I do know better.
For some people, hypnosis is hard to wrap their head around. (Please excuse the shameless pun.) Unless you've actually tried hypnosis, it's best to hold off on judging this phenomenon, until you've truly experienced it for yourself. That seems to be a pretty fair and reasonable request to make.
There is far more to hypnosis than most people are even aware. James Esdaile proved this in the 1800's through the use of hypnosis as a replacement for anesthesia during surgery, dental procedures, and even for child birth. There is an undeniable mental connection behind hypnosis.
Make no mistake about it, hypnosis is indeed a very real phenomenon - and thanks to Dr. David Speigel at Stanford University, it is now scientifically provable. (See: Stanford Hypnosis study)
It's time for those with no experience or exposure with this unexplained medium to quit saying that hypnosis is not real or possible. Otherwise, there may be a stage-hypnotist in their future inviting them onstage, only to be bullied and humiliated by an enraged woman swinging a purse.
Trust me, if you stick your foot in
your mouth over hypnosis, the laughter can be quite painful.
Neuroscience Gets Serious About Hypnosis