Monday, April 9, 2007

hypnosis in movies

(Plot overview) Prot is a patient at a mental hospital who claims to be from a far away planet. His psychiatrist tries to help him, only to begin to doubt his own explanations.)
This is a wonderful movie about a charming fellow who calls himself Prot (Kevin Spacey) who claims to have come from the planet K-PAX. Upon his arrival in New York City, it doesn’t take long for Prot to wind up in a mental hospital with Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges), who seems to want to believe him, but would rather find a more Earthly reason for his rather eccentric notions about himself and the Earthlings who seem to amaze and confound him.
Then hypnosis enters into the plot. Dr. Powell gets Prot to agree to a hypnosis session so that he can uncover the truth about Prot’s condition, and reveal his more human side, if indeed he has one. Then the movie proceeds to reinforce many of the Hollywood myths about hypnosis, such as hypnosis is a truth serum, hypnosis requires that you tell your subjects that they are going to sleep, that they must wake up from the sleep and that the subject will remember nothing afterward, completely unaware that the session was ever conducted!
There are two hypnosis sessions conducted during the movie. In the first session, Dr. Powell merely counts back from 1 to 3 and his patient goes into into deep somnambulism and able to experience a complete revivification of an experience that he is told to "remember." From a hypnotherapist's point of view, the session is pure Hollywood! While I suppose it is possible to induce somnambulism with such an induction method, it is extremely unlikely that any trained hypnotherapist would attempt it. It just would not be reliable, even with the prestige factor that a psychiatrist may have with a patient. The "1,2,3" induction used in the movie could easily be accomplished on a second session, if a post-hypnotic suggestion for re-induction was installed during a previous session, such as, "The next time we want to do hypnosis together, all I will have to do is count from 1 to 3 and you will return to this level of hypnosis or deeper." On the other hand, I long for the day when I will see a movie which uses the very fast and simple Hand Drop Instant Induction (a la, Dave Elman) that I teach my students, which takes about 6 seconds and reliably creates a deep level of hypnosis!
A well trained hypnotherapist would catch the error of using the word, "remember," when doing a hypnotic age regression. Such a therapist would know that using the word “remember” is a definite “no-no,” because it suggests remembering rather than a re-experiencing of the event. The session is filled with technical errors like this, such as leading the client and mixing tenses. Unfortunately your future clients (assuming that you are a hypnotherapist) who may have seen this movie might expect you to conduct their hypnosis sessions in this fashion (which of course would likely result in a hypnotic dud of a session).
This movie underscores the need for a good pre-talk before you conduct a session with any new client. It is vitally important that you de-program your clients. If you use the word “sleep” (for example) in your sessions you need to tell you clients that you don’t really mean that they go into a normal natural sleep, but that they relax as if they were asleep, and so on.
Now, back to the movie… I liked the movie. And, I was surprised when I spoke to my wife after the movie to find that she had an entirely different take on whether Prot was really an alien or merely mentally ill. The end of the movie leaves room for personal interpretation and discussion, which I like very much. I recommend the movie to hypnotherapists, hypnotists and people interested in hypnosis. But, don’t believe everything you see in the movie, especially when it comes to hypnosis!
Now go and enjoy the movies,
It’s not surprising that much of the public is wary of hypnosis. Hypnosis in films is often presented as scary, dangerous and occult. Unscrupulous hypnotists control and take advantage of people, especially young vulnerable women.
One of the most well-known offenders is “Svengali” based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel. A creepy hypnotist takes control of a girl who can’t sing and transforms her into a fabulous singer.
There have been remakes of the original 1931 movie but who could possibly match the brilliant performance of John Barrymore as the evil, terrifying hypnotist?
It is ironic that the power of movies proves what hypnotists often claim -- that the imagination will outdo reason every time.
It's useless, for instance, to tell a prospective client that she is in control while in hypnosis -- the images in her head of Svengali-like sinister manipulation of the hapless girl outweigh whatever a modern hypnotherapist may say. Only actual experience of being hypnotized will change that.
A generation before Svengali a silent movie "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari" depicted a travelling hypnotist who kept an easily hypnotised man in a coffin-like cabinet. The vile Dr Caligari sent this man on missions of murder.
Deviating heavily from the original Dr Caligari film the 1961 remake, written by respected horror writer Robert Bloch (PSYCHO), retains only the themes of somnambulism from its predecessor.
Dead Again (1991)
An odd shopkeeper hypnotizes a woman and regresses her to a supposed past life which ended when she was murdered by her husband. The movie revolves around the mystery of who is trying to kill the woman in the present, hence the title "Dead Again" although that should end with a question mark.
Stir of Echoes (1998)
Even more preposterous, though undeniably entertaining is this murder mystery in which an ordinary man discovers -- after being hypnotized by his sister-in-law -- that he is able to see spirits and glimpse past and future happenings.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)
A type of Bridey Murphy tale in which Barbra Streisand plays the part of a girl whose psychiatrist uncovers that she supposedly lived before, in 19th century England.
The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
One of the most famous movies to present hypnosis. And fortunately for a change, the inductions are realistic as a psychiatrist treats a woman who exhibits multiple personalities.

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