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Get Out: Hypnosis in Hollywood

We all know movies aren't good resources for information. But still.... Every few years a film comes out that uses hypnosis as a backdrop for suspense, chills or even horror. What is more disturbing, after all, than the prospect of losing control over our own minds, being forced to do things against our wills, becoming terrified shells of the individuals we once were? Except that it is, predictably, complete hooey. And it stands to reason: Hollywood needs a boogeyman, a malevolent force, a mechanism by which a silent and sinister plot is perpetrated. It is just unfortunate that they use the word "hypnosis," because what they are talking about doesn't resemble hypnosis at all. Genuine hypnosis would make for the most boring thriller movie ever. No one can hypnotize you to do something against your will or even without your approval. Seriously. Even stage hypnotists aren't making people to sing like Elvis or cluck like a chicken by force of mind control. They are just really good at picking people who will voluntarily do those things, under the mystique and social expectation of "hypnosis." Of course, stage hypnotists don't tell you that up front - because it is more entertaining to believe (or suspend one's disbelief) that there is such a thing as mind control. Just like a magician won't start a show by point out the fact that "magic" is really just the subtle art of distracting you from what she is actually doing. And we go along with it - because it is more entertaining that way. But it isn't true. That's ok. We don't mind. I've been getting calls and comments about hypnosis since "Get Out" was released - mostly by giddy teens wanting to know if hypnosis is real. And the answer is always disappointing. Hypnosis is totally real. But Get Out wasn't hypnosis - it was Hollywood. Look, don't spoil the movie by thinking that any of it is real. That defeats the purpose of a thriller. Suspend your disbelief, spend an hour and-a-half in this alternate universe, then return to the safety of reality. In hypnosis, you have to want to do what is being suggested. It simply doesn't work otherwise. If it had the power that Get Out gives it, then it would be the most well-guarded secret and most sought-after power ever. Imagine! Being able to covertly force someone to do what you wanted, without even their awareness let alone their consent! What government, corporation, evil empire, entrepreneur or horny teenager wouldn't want that kind of power! The reality about hypnosis is much more bland: one is aware the entire time, one has complete control the entire time, one chooses whether to accept suggestions or not, and no suggestion can make someone do something against their will or morals. Our mind never fully shuts off the critical faculty that judges incoming information. This is actually one of the qualities that makes hypnosis so powerful in a therapeutic setting: the client is using the power of her own mind to help her solve her own problems. The power of our subconscious mind is immense and profound, but it isn't limitless. And, despite Hollywood fantasies to the contrary, it only has the power to do good.

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