A Hypnotist Who Doesn’t Use Hypnosis?

Let’s just say that again in case it didn’t sink in. Martin Taylor is a hypnotist, works as a hypnotist, has been a stage hypnotist for over fifteen years. Yet he doesn’t use hypnosis.

So What’s Going On?

Recently psychologists have dramatically revised their ideas about how hypnosis works, and the modern theory is that of social compliance. Broadly, this means that there is no altered state when you are hypnotised – no trance, no sleep, and nothing mysterious at all. Hypnosis simply works because the subjects believe it will.

On stage, it works through the hypnotist’s skill in combining three factors:

  • Suggestion: when we are told to feel something, there is a strong subconscious force which makes us really feel it.
  • Social pressure: people want to behave the way their friends are behaving; if their friends appear to be under a hypnotist’s power, they will want to act the same way.
  • Simple obedience: people will generally do as they are told, especially by someone in authority.

So how is this relevant to Martin’s show?

Other stage hypnotists still present hypnosis the old-fashioned way as if they were inducing a mysterious state of mind – some even believe it works like this! Martin is totally up-front about what he is doing. His scientific approach means he can tell people there is no sleep, no trance, no zombie-state. That’s why he’s called the hypnotist who opens your eyes – people are ‘hypnotised’ literally with their eyes open! Yet the show still has all the laughs, the wonder, the excitement of any hypnotist show you’ll see anywhere else.

And the advantages?

  • It’s fast. Other hypnotists have to waste time ‘inducing’ a ‘trance’, or at least giving the appearance of one. Because Martin demonstrates there is no trance, there is no time wasted producing one.
  • It’s safe. With media hysteria about how dangerous hypnosis can be, Martin’s show just has to be safe: he makes it clear there’s no hypnosis involved; although the subjects are behaving in bizarre ways, they know what they’re doing, and they can resist if they want to.
  • It’s honest. Students are an intelligent bunch, and they don’t want to be fobbed off with stupid, outdated ideas and gimmicks. As a simple ethical matter, Martin feels it’s morally right to tell them the truth about what they see on stage.
  • It can be performed where trance hypnosis is banned. Many venues have regulations which prevent them putting on hypnosis shows, but there’s nothing to stop them staging Martin’s act, presenting it as psychological illusion and magic.

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