Hypnosis, obedience, and Entertainment


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Depending on one’s viewpoint, the idea of being hypnotized can be tantalizing or terrifying. Hypnotist Freddie Justice visited campus and gave a performance last week on Oct. 11. As I sat in his audience, I was spurred to action when he began to ask for volunteers. Not only did I emphatically raise my arm, I stood up and motioned for his attention. Recognizing my motivation, Mr. Justice selected me and I took a seat in a row of chairs facing the audience.
Having assumed my position onstage, I eagerly awaited instructions from Mr. Justice. To start things off, he asked that we recuse ourselves from volunteering if we intended to actively resist or if we were convinced that we could not be hypnotized. However, he also requested that we remain on stage and allow him to continue in his attempt if we suspected that he was failing to hypnotize us. He also informed us that he reserved the right to ask any participant to leave the stage at any time and at his sole discretion. I took this to be an unspoken declaration that he would dismiss those of us who failed to be sufficiently enthusiastic and obedient. Therefore, I resolved to follow all commands as promptly and eagerly as I could. This had a great impact on my behavior throughout the night.
I regret to say that I do not believe I was hypnotized. I believe that my suggestibility was a result of my conscious decision to fully cooperate, rather than something which arose due to hypnosis. Alongside suggestibility, momentary disorientation is another hallmark of being hypnotized. At no point during the night did I experience that phenomenon, although I did observe it in other participants. Several of the other partakers hesitated when asked to state their names. During each instance of this, I attempted a mental recollection of my own name and major. Without fail, I immediately recalled that my name is Andrew James Gully and my major is political science. I am no expert upon the subject of hypnosis and so I could certainly be mistaken. However, my lay opinion is that I observed in myself nothing to indicate that I was hypnotized.
Speaking with several audience members after the end of the show, I was amused to learn that many audience members had been convinced I was hypnotized due to my behavior when carrying out a specific instruction. Mr. Justice had asked us to act as though we were washing machines. He had also required us to remain seated in our chairs with our feet staying on the ground. With those constraints in place, I felt that the ways in which I could carry out his instructions were quite limited. I decided to fulfill them by holding my arms above my head, clasping my hands together, and attempting to mime a circular or twisting motion of my arms.
I did this in order to imitate the spinning centerpiece of an upright washing machine. It turns out that my train of thought was somewhat less than clear to the audience and Mr. Justice. When Mr. Justice asked me to “try again,” I once again clasped my hands together and began to undulate my arms, attempting to mimic the vertical spinning motion seen in side-opening washing machines. This was met with just as much, if not more, confusion on the parts of those who observed me. This is my attempt to try to set the record straight: my efforts were merely the result of rational attempts to imitate a washing machine and were not proof positive that I was hypnotized.
Although I do not think I was hypnotized, I nonetheless loved my time on stage. At times I found it difficult to hear Mr. Justice’s instructions over the din of the audience and the volume of the music. However, that is a minor complaint which has far more to do with the acoustics of the room than it does with Mr. Justice’s performance. The steady supply and quality of Mr. Justice’s prompts were more than enough to overcome that issue and guarantee a fun and exciting night for everyone.
If given another opportunity to participate in one of Mr. Justice’s performances, I would take it eagerly and without hesitation. I think the true measure of any event is the enjoyment it provides. Therefore, the question of hypnosis is secondary to the fact that Freddie Justice was welcoming, kind, entertaining, and a positively wonderful host whom I sincerely hope will return for future performances here at SMSU.