Although Oxford Hypnotherapy has no interest in Stage Hypnosis, we have no judgement to make on the rights and wrongs of its use. Many famous hypnotists over the years have worked in entertainment as well as therapy - for instance Ormond McGill and our own Paul McKenna, a very popular stage hypnotist who, over many years has captured the public's imagination with his well known television and media appearances.
If you want to learn hypnosis yourself, we recommend this free audio course from hypnosis downloads: Learn Hypnosis in 5 Days - Free!
Stage hypnotists sometimes argue that it is seeing people hypnotised on television or on stage that convinces people of its use and that it does indeed work. Sure enough, many people who come to see hypnotherapists, or indeed doctors and psychologists using hypnosis, have seen hypnotism on television and are intrigued. The flip side of this is that it takes quite a lot of time explaining hypnosis correctly, including allaying some of their fears, for example;
In its worst form, stage hypnosis has been accused of being manipulative and exploitative. Most professional stage hypnotists would counter this claim by demonstrating that subjects have volunteered to take part in the show and fully understand what to expect. This is seen by many as a grey area in that stage hypnotists often suggest indirectly that events are beyond the subject's control. Far less debatable is the willingness a client shows when entering a session of hypnotherapy. For a full and open explanation and definition click here for 'What is Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy?'
Film and TV depictions of hypnosis are often grossly inaccurate and can lead to some people developing a fear or distrust of hypnosis. People can be led to believe that the hypnotist can take control of the person being hypnotised, and even make them do something against their will. This is sometimes called the ‘Svengali effect' (after the sinister character in the 1894 novel Trilby by George Du Maurier). While this may make for interesting storylines, the reality is quite the opposite. In hypnosis you are always in control and can choose to follow or ignore the suggestions of the hypnotherapist.
There is a very big difference between clinical hypnotherapy and stage hypnotism. Whilst the former is a therapeutic process for the benefit of the client, the latter is a performance, a show designed purely to entertain the audience. The people who volunteer as subjects for stage hypnotism, are in effect self-selecting themselves, are happy to lose their inhibitions and be the centre of attention (extroverts), and are willing to go along with the show, whether or not they are actually in a state of hypnosis. It could be reasonably argued that the same results could be obtained under the influence of nothing more than a few glasses of alcoholic refreshment.
Throughout history there have been public demonstrations of hypnosis, with the presenters often following their shows with private consultations. However, the reputation of hypnotism was eventually compromised by numerous fakes employing crude routines and paid stooges.
Early in the last century interest was revived with the success of an American stage hypnotist, Ormond McGill. As well as pioneering hypnosis as TV entertainment, McGill wrote what is now known as 'The Bible' of stage hypnosis, his 1947 book The Encyclopedia of Genuine Stage Hypnotism.
In the UK, the revival of stage hypnotism was accompanied by a heightened concern about the possible dangers of stage hypnosis, and the 1952 Hypnotism Act was brought in to protect the public from unscrupulous hypnotists.
In 1994 a panel of experts was set up by the Home Office to examine any evidence of possible harm to people taking part in public entertainments involving hypnotism, and to review the effectiveness of the law governing hypnotism for entertainment. Publication of the expert panel's report was announced in parliament in 1995, which concluded that "there was no evidence of serious risk to participants in stage hypnosis, and that any risk which does exist is much less significant than that involved in many other activities." A link to a home office circular in the resources section below describes legislation and implementation of the Hypnotism act with advice to local authorities in the UK.
Nowadays the hypnosis stage show remains popular as both public and corporate entertainment. There are courses available on hypnotic stage techniques for those who wish to learn stage hypnosis online or on a professionally taught course.