There has long been a division in the profession of hypnotism between consulting (or clinical) hypnotists and stage hypnotists. Many consulting hypnotists believe that stage hypnotists misrepresent the true value of hypnotism, and some would even say that stage hypnotists hurt the profession with their playful use of a skill set that can help people change their lives. As a hypnotist who keeps a foot in each circle of hypnotism, I believe that there is tremendous value in the work stage hypnotists do, when they do it well. In fact, I would argue that besides the internet, stage hypnotists are the greatest asset that the profession of hypnotism has today.
Our modern culture is obsessed with entertainment. Movies, television shows, podcasts, video games, and social media bring us not a stream, but multiple streams of novelty that can be accessed at any moment of the day, on any day of the year. We crave novelty so much that we have built a digital delivery system that allows us to purchase a book and start reading it immediately, without a trip to the book store, or rent a movie online and avoid a trip to the theater. We want it all, and we want it now.
Unfortunately, consulting hypnotism isn't entertaining to most folks. It's powerful, and fascinating at times, but sitting in a chair in a hypnotist's office and being led through a hypnosis experience isn't something mainstream people are clambering to do. If you ask the average person what they know about hypnosis, the answers you will get will mostly revolve around the ways that hypnosis has been depicted in movies in television shows. The cliche, "cluck like a chicken" reference will usually be followed up with a reference to the brain stealing hypnotist in "Get Out" or Woody Harrelson's character's shady hypnosis moves in "Now You See Me." The drama around hypnotism in movies and television far exceeds how it works in real life.
And yet, it is fascinating.
Stage hypnotists have a wonderful opportunity to play upon that fascination, and when they do so properly, to generate much more interest in the general public about what hypnotism can really do for people and how effective it is in helping people change behavior. And they have this opportunity at a scale that everyday consulting hypnotists simply don't have. That's where the value to the greater profession can be found.
I have spent over fifteen years performing for high schools, colleges, and universities all over the United States. I have performed for audiences as large as 1,600 people. It's this notion of scale that seems to be overlooked by so many in the consulting side of hypnotism. I sat down once and conservatively estimated how many people I had entertained. It was at least 150,000. My shows give me a way to make a living as an entertainer, but they also afford me the opportunity to be an evangelist. Each night that I perform, I focus mainly on getting laughs and bringing amusement to my audience, but I also always work in another angle during my show: raising awareness of the power of the mind.
Yes, it's fun to watch the look on someone's face when they realize that they have forgotten their own first name while in hypnosis, but if you think that's cool, just think of how cool it would be to use hypnosis to quit smoking, or stop chewing your finger nails, or release your fear of flying, to actually create a change that improves the quality of your life. How cool would that be?
The message resonates. There's always someone who approaches me after a show and asks if hypnosis could help them with ____. And the answer is almost always "yes." Then, I tell the individual that if they prefer in-person sessions they can find someone in their local area (there are more hypnotists out there than people realize) or if they think they'd prefer to work with me, we can do video sessions using an online webinar service. If the issue the person is interested in is one that I don't specialize in, I encourage them to do a web search for a hypnotist who does specialize in that area. When I perform, I'm generating leads for other hypnotists.
Not all stage hypnotists have this effect. Some are choosing to brand themselves as "R-rated" or even "X-rated" acts, which involves show content that is risque, even offensive to some. This is what tends to grab the attention of those consulting hypnotists who look down their noses at stage hypnotists. They often voice the opinion that such acts are tawdry and don't show the true value of hypnotism. It's a valid opinion, and I'm not trying to change that opinion. I would simply say that painting all stage hypnotists with that brush would be like portraying all comedians in a negative light because some comedians use a lot of foul language and tell dirty jokes. It's reductionist.
I would even suggest that if you're a consulting or clinical hypnotist, you should get stage training and use those skills to do public demonstrations of hypnotism that bring more awareness to the public. I'm not saying that all hypnotists should be putting on shows, but that when you can give a demonstration of hypnotism that's more interesting than a typical office session, you will capture more attention and bring more interest to what hypnotists have to offer the general public. Hypnosis is a safe, natural, and effective way for people to achieve new mindsets, habits, and lifestyles that will lead to healthier, happier lives. Stage hypnotists are, and should continue to be, a critical part of that effort.