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Hypnosis In Our Culture Movies, Myths, Misperceptions and Beliefs

Man Hypnotizing Woman

Line drawing from the 1800s

Welcome to our "Hypnosis In Our Culture" page. Coming are articles about hypnosis as it is commonly portrayed in our culture. I will be reviewing movies, television programs, books, rumors and all kinds of sources of information and misinformation about hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

Scroll down to read the latest reviews, including the new movie, K-PAX

Svengali Book and Movie

Svengali's Web

Svengali is the mythical and prototypical evil hypnotist in the successful novel published by George du Maurier in 1894.

Misconceptions about hypnosis and hypnotism in our culture can be traced back to du Maurier's book, Svengali's Web, published in 1894, and to the movie, Svengali, released in 1933, and a later movie produced in 1955.

Click on book cover for more details or to get one of your own from Amazon.com.

Svengali Hypnotizing Woman
Svengali movie (1933)

For more info. on these movies or to get the Svengali movie (1933) or for Svengali movie (1955) click on the link.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

CAST: Woody Allen , Dan Aykroyd , Elizabeth Berkley , Helen Hunt , David Stiers , Charlize Theron

DIRECTOR: Woody Allen

GENRE: Comedy

RATING: G

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion Evil Stage Hypnotist

Behold the Evil Stage Hypnotist! As seen in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Our reviews comment on the movie over all, but then focus on how hypnosis and hypnotherapy was portrayed in the movie. Check back to learn how professional hypnotists and hypnotherapists view Hollywood's version of hypnosis. Remember to bookmark this page.

K-PAX

K-PAX movie

One of the BAD things about this movie is...

it completely creates the wrong impression regarding how a hypnotic age regression session should be conducted.

One of the GOOD things about this movie is...

it informs the public about hypnosis being used by medical professionals and how age regression is useful.

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,
Cal

The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate Video

One of the BAD things about this movie is...

that it can lead people to believe that total mind control is possible, and we could become unthinking robots through "conditioning."

One of the GOOD things about this movie is...

that the word "hypnosis" is never mentioned!

Book | Video | DVD

The movie itself was outstanding! There was lots of suspense, drama, the corruption of politics, and even a little romance. Lawrence Harvey, playing the title role as Raymond Shaw, is a stern, unlikeable staff sergeant during the Korean war and arrives home to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his acts of bravery and heroism in saving the lives of most of the men in his troop, as well as his Major (Frank Sinatra). Remember now, this takes place during the early 50’s, the Cold War was just getting up a good head of steam, and paranoia about Communism was rampant. Plus, the Communists had an unfathomed, and therefore frightening, new weapon: Pavlovian Conditioning!

OK, so over the next couple of years, the Major and another member of the troop both begin having similar nightmares in which they are all prisoners of war, and are brainwashed by their captures - the Red Chinese and Russian Communists. This part is very interesting from a hypnotherapist’s perspective - how something imaginary can be made to seem real, and the real made to seem “dreamlike.” In these nightmares (and in reality), Raymond, in a robot-like trance, kills two members of the troop both of whom accept without struggle what is happening to them, since they are also in this robot-like trance. Now, this was a bit difficult to buy! Of course, I’m thinking “hypnotized;” supposedly they had been “conditioned” (brainwashed) using a “technique for descent into the unconscious mind, part light induced and part drug.” Good. I don’t want anybody thinking this is what happens when you’re hypnotized! Still, much of this technique bordered on hypnosis. For example, there was a trigger (playing solitaire) and post-hypnotic suggestions that were activated when the Red Queen of diamonds was turned up. These post-hypnotic suggestions were still big and strong after more than two years, however - one more thing that seemed beyond believable to me!

Another very interesting aspect of this plot was Raymond’s mom (Angela Lansbury). The implied working hypothesis of the Communist captures was that Raymond would be most susceptible to this conditioning since he had been brainwashed all his life by dear ol’ Mom. The mother-son relationship had some decidedly Freudian, love-hate twists to it, which I found fascinating.

I’m not going to give away the ending, ‘cause I hope you’ll watch it yourself, if for no other reason than being able to explain why it is NOT describing hypnosis!  And besides that, it IS very entertaining!

Well, that was a movie review from this hypnotherapist's point of view, Samadhi Wright, PhD

Dr. Samadhi Wright is a Licensed Developmental Psychologist & Licensed Mental Health Practitioner. She is Graduate of Banyan Hypnosis Center For Training & Services' NGH Hypnotherapy Certification Program (5-PATH Practitioner) , practices Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy and teaches in a college in Lincoln Nebraska. She provides HypnoBirthing™ Classes and is the moderator of a Yahoo! group for professionals using hypnosis in childbirth. She is also a Ascension Teacher, and an Ishaya Monk. To contact her you can email her at samadhi4@yahoo.com

Dead Again

Dead Again Video

One of the BAD things about this movie is...

some people are not going to like this movie because it deals with past lives and it's affect on those who live now.

One of the GOOD things about this movie is...

it is a suspenseful and exciting movie, providing some good information about hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

One of the things that I liked about Dead Again was that it was a movie full of surprises! I was surprised by the twists and turns in the plot. I was surprised when I saw Robin Williams in this movie, playing a psychiatrist who lost his license for sleeping with his clients.

Let me start from the beginning. There is this beautiful young lady who has amnesia. She doesn't know who she is or remember her name, and a private investigator, Mike Church is called in by a priest to help her find out what her identity is. It is made more complicated because for some reason, she cannot even speak. I don't want to tell you too much, because this is a suspense mystery that owes much of its success to how you learn little bits of the puzzle as the movie moves along.

Yes, it does have hypnosis. The hypnotist in this film is also a antique dealer, who doesn't do hypnosis as a profession, but rather as a side interest. The hypnotist enters the picture after Mike Church gets his friend to run her picture and a story about the mystery lady in the newspaper. Then the hypnotist offers his services to help learn her identity by using hypnotic age regression. Under hypnosis, the lady with no name spontaneously regresses to a past life in 1948 where she begins a romance that ends in murder.

In the first instance of hypnosis, the hypnotist induces hypnosis by stroking her hand while suggesting that it will become lighter, and somehow from that mere suggestion she spontaneously regresses to a past traumatic event and screams. Later on, the hypnotist uses a candle for eye fixation, and asks his subject to imagine going down stairs and to tell herself that she is going deeper and deeper into hypnosis. The hypnotic induction is feeble, so as usual Hollywood has provided the movie's hypnotist with a "blow down" for a subject. ("Blow down" is a technical term, meaning very easy to hypnotize.) He instructs her to walk through an imaginary door that will take her back to where it all began.

Through a series of hypnosis sessions the story is revealed. When she is in the regressed state the story is shown in black and white, reminding you of an old movie, appropriate to the 1940's. I liked the technique of switching back and forth between color film and black and white film. It helps you to keep track of where you are in the two stories.

The age regressions were fraught with errors, but done fairly well for a hobby hypnotist. Too many times the hypnotist leads the client. He does not stay consistent with where the client is in time. In doing an age regression, the therapist should maintain present tense, as if he or she is there with the client in the regressed state. He even calls the client who is in a state of regression by Mr. Church (yes he gets hypnotized too). Normally, I would consider doing that a slip up and can take the client out of revivification (reliving of the experience). As a matter of fact, much of the age regression is not done in revivification, which is the preferred therapeutic technique for helping someone overcome a trauma (in this case, being murdered in a past life). Rather the amnesic client is instructed to distance herself from the experience and to just watch it happen. But, she tended to slip into revivification from time and he has to remind her to distance herself from what is happening. (Usually the challenge is reversed and clients will tend to want to distance themselves and the therapist will have to work to keep the client in revivification) But in this case, the hypnotist wants to protect her from re-experiencing the trauma, and only uncover information that will lead to learning about her identity.  

Overall, hypnotherapists benefit from this movie, because the psychiatrist gives credibility to the use of hypnotherapy by mentioning that he used it in his practice (before he lost his ability to practice medicine), there is mention of an English doctor treating stuttering with hypnotherapy, and hypnotherapy is generally represented in a positive way. Some will not like the idea that past life regression is part of the subject of this movie, but I have to tell you that from time to time, clients do spontaneously regress to what they will experience as previous lives. Is there such a thing as past lives? I believe that each of us have to figure that one out for ourselves. But I do believe that all hypnotherapists need to know how to handle one, if it should happen in the course of doing therapy.

This is another, "Must Have" movie for the hypnotherapist. At least, you need to rent these movies and see them, because your client have seen them, and may ask your opinion of them.

Well, that was another movie review from a hypnotist's point of view,
Cal

Stir of Echoes

Stif of Echoes Video

One of the BAD things about this movie is...

the misinformation in this movie could cause the general public to expect you to be some kind of a fruitcake if you call yourself a hypnotherapist!

One of the GOOD things about this movie is...

on the other hand, while this movie may frighten some, it may also generate some interest in using hypnotherapy to unlock hidden talents.

If you liked The 6th Sense and you are interested in hypnosis, then you will probably really like Stir Of Echoes. In this movie the lead character, Tom (Kevin Bacon) is a fellow who is dissatisfied with just how average and normal his life has become. It seems that wanted to be a popular musician. Then, one evening he and his wife goes to a neighborhood party, where Lisa, his wife's sister hypnotizes him. Because she believes him to be too closed minded, she gives him the hypnotic suggestion that is meant to open up his mind. It is that suggestion that opens up his mind to his "latent abilities," in this case, to his psychic abilities.

As a result he becomes psychic and the suspense and mystery starts to unfold, as he begins to get psychic flashes about a murder. As it happens, his young son is also psychic and able to see the ghost of the girl that was murdered (she even speaks through him on one occasion).

I had mixed feelings about how hypnosis was presented in the movie. Lisa (the hypnotist), is a beer-drinking, pot-smoking, Newage fruitcake, who says that she "almost" has her "license in hypnotherapy." First off I don't believe that any state currently offers a license in hypnotherapy (but there may be one or two, let me know if you hear of one). At present, certification in hypnotherapy is the highest available credential in hypnotherapy. (This misinformation can cause your potential clients think that you must have a license to practice. Or, even worse, your potential clients might expect you to be a fruitcake like Lisa.)

Another thing I didn't care for is that, Tom was made to look foolish as a result of his "hypnosis session." After the hypnosis was over, his group of friends teased him about how he revealed an embarrassing situation during an age regression while in hypnosis. They also frightened him by telling him about how his hypnotist had stuck a pin through his hand and he didn't feel it. Overall hypnosis is portrayed has a powerful but frightening experience (which could both keep clients away, or cause them to seek services with unrealistic expectations).

I did like the way that the movie showed Tom's experience of the hypnosis from his point of view, as the hypnotist instructed him to imagine sitting in a movie theater, staring at the movie screen. Another thing that I liked about this movie is that it mentioned that hypnosis can be used to open people up to latent abilities. Truly, hypnosis cannot make people do what they don't want to do, but it can help people do what they want to do. If you have abilities that you are not using (and most of us do) then hypnosis is a great way to start using them (i.e., creativity, concentration, memory, confidence, and if you have psychic abilities that you are not using, I believe that hypnosis could open that door, too).

It even makes sense that on some level Tom may have wanted to have all of these things happen to him, because it made him feel special, and helped him overcome his feeling of normalcy that was bothering him so much. I say this because, at first glance, it appears that he did not want all of these strange to happen to him, but once it started, he really did not want to stop them.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that I liked the movie, and now I have seen it two times. I got more out of it the second time. If you are a hypnotherapist or hypnotist, you need to have and view all of the popular movies that portray hypnosis in them. You will be asked about them. And, these films affect what the public thinks about you and hypnosis.

Well, that was from a hypnotist's point of view,
Cal

Mesmer

Mesmer Video

One of the BAD things about this movie is...

it is a rather dark and moody film, that borders on being an unintentionally funny "B" movie at times.

One of the GOOD things about this movie is...

it reminds us (hypnotists and hypnotherapists) of how not enough attention is paid in our field to the idea of suggestibility in the "waking" state.

Mesmer was kind of a strange film. I'm not surprised that I had never heard of it before I found it at the video rental shop. It is rather dark and borders on being a "B" film. But from a hypnotist's point of view, it was very interesting. There are a couple of plots going on throughout the movie, one being Mesmer's relationship with is bitter wife, another with Mesmer and his patient (the young lady behind him on the graphic above) who come to him blind. And, lastly her relationship with her father, which caused the blindness.

Interestingly it starts off and finishes with Mesmer's "trial" of sorts. His story unfolds as a witness tells it to the Royal Society of Medicine.

From a Hypnotherapist's point of view I found the movie very interesting, and I'm thinking about showing it to my classes. Not enough attention is paid in our field to the idea of suggestibility in the "waking" state. This was Mesmer's greatest contribution to medicine, science, psychology and of course hypnotherapy. He was branded a Charlatan because his theory of Animal Magnetism was judged to be false by his contemporaries. That the only thing that was operating was his patient's imagination.

I recommend this movie. It's not for most people, but then you are not just anybody. You are a hypnotist or hypnotherapist (or want to be). When you watch the movie, notice some important issues such as, how his patients need to want to be healed for the Animal Magnetism to work. Furthermore, study the idea of how the mind of his patients tend to experience what they expect to experience. This was especially well played out in the scene in Paris, where Mesmer says, "and don't be surprised if you swoon" and sure enough some of the women do. (There are many other examples of this in the movie.)

Well, that is it for my first review. I hope you found it to be interesting and useful. Send your suggestions for other movies, books, etc. that you would like to see reviewed in the future.

Well, that was from a hypnotist's point of view,
Cal

The Manchurian Candidate Book
Book of Interest

Hypnosis Humor

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