How Should I Act As A Hypnotist?

There are many preconceptions of how hypnotists should behave. This depends very heavily on the social context, so there isn’t just one way.

Stage hypnotists are working with multiple people and are managing a crowd. They are performing an act for an audience, and must be entertaining above all other considerations.

Street hypnotists must capture and keep the attention of the public that may be doing other things. They must be extroverted, dynamic, and responsive.

In recreational hypnosis, these limitations are not there. Typically, you’ll be at home or in a comfortable and safe environment where you have all the time and attention you need. You don’t need to be entertaining in the same way, and you don’t need to talk nearly as much.

In particular, you don’t need to put on an act. You don’t need to fake confidence you don’t have. You can be honest and emotionally congruent with how you feel in the moment. Some books give the advice that you should not hypnotize friends or family because they "know the real you" and this is just categorically false. You should start with friends and family precisely because they do know the real you.

You do have to learn some skills. Hypnotists generally slow their voices down and speak calmly. Most hypnotists tend to avoid conversational tics that distract the hypnotized person; no uptalk, no joking, no self-deprecation. They are in the driver’s seat, so they tend to state what is going to happen, or provide options to the hypnotized person, rather than ask open-ended questions.

How Should I Behave As A Hypnotist?

Hypnotists care. Hypnotists are always responsible for the hypnotized person. This is something that media portrayal gets very wrong. The media thinks of hypnosis in terms of abused power.

Figure 1. Svengali

Real hypnotists understand that someone who trusts you enough to believe the things you tell them deserve the highest level of responsiblity.

Mr Rogers
Figure 2. Mr Rogers

I’m completely serious. Mr Rogers had a deep understanding of permissive suggestions, and was an expert of persuasion. Meanwhile, Svengali is everything you don’t want to be in a hypnotist.

Imagine that you’re watching television, and Svengali appears on the screen and commands you to cluck like a chicken. Would you?

Now imagine that you’re watching television, and Mr Rogers appears on the screen. There’s a fun game he’d like to play, and you can play along at home. Can you be the best chicken?

For extra credit, you can watch Mr Rogers reduce a sitting senator to tears in less than five minutes.

When you think of how you should act as a hypnotist, ask yourself "What would Mr Rogers do?" and you’ll have an answer.