I was watching my two boys playing this morning, when I heard one of them shout to the other, I’m hypnotizing you” and the other cry out “aggghhhh you villain” while strutting around like a robot under Machiavellian control. My children are 4 and 5 with little or no understanding of what I do for a living.
If they really believed I was a hypnotherapist and did hypnotize people for a living I’m sure not quite sure what it would do for their toddler psyches!
But where did they pick up the suggestion that hypnosis is evil, controlling and downright villainous? You’ve guessed it – the television. They don’t watch a lot, but it’s been a long holiday and and my eldest has recently graduated from Cebeebies to CITV and CBBC. Which means instead of Noddy, he gets Scooby Doo, Pokemon and Storm Hawks.
Watching a few of them with him I realized that the myth of hypnosis as a controlling force to be reckoned with was omnipresent in these cartoons. In Pokemon there is actually a move called Hypnosis with rules attached. Far too complicated for me to make any sense of but enough to know that there is actually a Pokemon called hypnos.
Evil hypnotists abound in Scooby Doo, here is a clip in which Daphne been hypnotized by an evil clown with a medallion.
I wonder if the script writer had challenged himself to shoe in as many references to evil stereotypes as possible in one sketch – and of course the fact he chose the poor vulnerable Daphne deepens the impact.
Sarah Jane Adventures, the Junior version of Dr Who, recently had an episode where an entire school of children were hypnotized by looking at a band.
All of them without fail have the villain controlling the heroic characters. Ultimately the heroes always manage to break out of their trance, usually using distraction (a hypnotherapy technique for things such as pain management) to defeat the evil forces that threaten civilization as we know it.
So I have spent the rest of the time trying to subtly teach my children that hypnosis is actually a good thing, that it can’t control you and that in fact mummy goes to work and hypnotizes people every week. But sadly I’m no match for the hypnotic charms of Scooby Doo and the television.
And that’s the rub of it, watching television is a hypnotic act, so when, as children, we have watched programmes which incorporate evil hypnotists, we are at our most vulnerable at receiving messages. Children are still building up their belief systems and so anything they learn, especially one that has a consistent message, has even greater impact. Those messages which seem so benign and humorous are actually compounded and are being carrying forward as myths into adulthood.
Nearly every client I see that has come along because a friend has recommended it, knows that their friend talks sense and perhaps has seen the positive effect of hypnosis first hand, but still harbours the underlying apprehension that comes from watching or hearing these myths about hypnosis.
I see crossed arms and legs, people turning away from me in the chair – unable to look me in the eye. Comments such as “this is the last resort”, or “are you going to make me cluck like a chicken” are all things that I hear regularly. If I jest and say “it’s fine, I don’t have a medallion or anything like that”, I can see them instantly begin to relax in their chair.
Most clients are total converts after they experience it, comforted by the fact that they could open their eyes at any stage and the deep sense of relaxation following a session. Nearly all say they could stay there and just go to sleep.
But there is always someone who seems vaguely disappointed that I can’t make them cluck like a chicken, or make love to a broom….