When I was 13 years old I went to a birthday party that had a hypnotist at it. I was very excited and anxious to see whether or not hypnotism could actually work for me so I readily volunteered to participate. As my understanding of hypnosis has recently increased as a result of the Lilienfel text, I now want to go through the six myths about hypnotism to help analyze the experience I had with it over six years ago.
First, let me clarify what hypnosis is. Hypnosis is a means to change perceptions, behaviors, emotions, and thoughts within individuals. Hypnotists generally begin by relaxing their subjects and bringing them into a state of calm. Our consciousness has fascinated us for many years and hypnotism is an important idea because it is one that allows us to play with and stretch out this intangible thing.
Myth 1: Hypnosis Produces a Trance State in Which "Amazing" Things Happen
I vividly remember sitting up front in a chair with the group of volunteers and the hypnotist who began relaxing us. He spoke calmly and slowly and I paid careful attention to his every word. He took careful time to ensure that all of us who were up there were falling into the right state of mind in order to effectively respond to the hypnosis. My experience supports this myth in a couple ways. Firstly, I definitely did not experience any state even remotely similar to trance and secondly nothing "amazing" happened to anybody. Granted this was a hypnotist at a 13 year olds birthday part, but nevertheless we were all given simple tasks/feelings to carry out and nobody's life was changed for better or worse as a result of the procedure.
Myth 2: Hypnotic Phenomena Are Unique
This myth essentially says that the things experience under hypnosis can just as easily be experienced in every day circumstances. The things I did when "under hypnosis", which I will explain a bit later, are nothing unique. They are things that I could have just as easily done in a classroom, in one of my theater classes, or just for fun when being silly with my friends.
Myth 3: Hypnosis is a Sleeplike State
While I felt very relaxed during this hypnosis process, I didn't ever feel drowsy, sleepy, or tired. I can recall the emotions, actions, and feelings I felt during this process and I cannot generally do these things in a sleeplike state, at least not consciously. Like the book says, if we had been hypnotized while doing something active as opposed to just sitting in a chair, the same responses could have just as likely occurred.
Myth 4: Hypnotized People Are Unaware of Their Surroundings
I can guarantee that I was aware of my surroundings when I went through this process. The birthday party took place in a party room at the zoo, the floor was stone and gray, and there were several rows of chairs lined up with my friends and other party guests filling them. I remember walking around the perimeter of the chairs and then coming up back through the middle aisle. I can even recall the people I came into close contact with. In reviewing that, I think it is quote clear that I was very much aware of the surroundings during this process.
Myth 5: Hypnotized People Forget What Happened during Hypnosis
It's been six years and I still remember exactly what I was told to do so clearly, as a "hypnotized" person I have not forgotten what happened during my hypnosis. I previously recalled some details of the place I was in when I was being hypnotized so not only do I remember the process and the actions, but I can also recall the physical space. The hypnotist instructed me to walk around and sell popcorn, cotton candy, and other treats as if I was a circus vendor. I remember him giving me these instructions and I remember carrying them out. Furthermore, I remember being self-conscious about what I was asked to do and therefore held back from being totally over the top. At the end of the session one of my friends came up to me informing me how ridiculous and funny I was as if I had no idea myself what happened. I appreciated that she was amused and entertained by my hypnotic performance, but I remember just as well as she does, if not more so, of what happened and what I did.
Myth 6: Hypnosis Enhances Memory
I certainly don't have any evidence of my memory being any better today than it was six years ago as a result of being hypnotized. At the same time, however I haven't taken the time or steps necessary to measure my memory from then until now. Memory is enhanced by a number of factors, but hypnotism is simply not one of them.
Now that I have gone through these myths and supported all of them through my own experience I wonder if other people who have been hypnotized can also go through the myths just as easily as I did. What I'm really wondering about was whether my own very casual and brief experience with hypnotism was even remotely effective. I also really want to know more about real cases/testimonies of those who felt a stronger connection to the hypnosis process than I did. What are the limitations of hypnotism? When, if ever, can the applications of hypnotism be effective?