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Is Hypnosis a Gateway for Demons?

Today I took a call to NBCCH from an anxious gentleman. He wanted to know whether hypnosis could have caused his friend to be possessed by demons. He was frightened for his friend who went to see a hypnotist because she is now in a psych ward “acting like a baby.”

As a psychophysiologist, it first comes to mind for me that many things, other than demons, could land someone in a psych ward. My training would cause me to think of things that would impact her brain, and therefore her behavior. The friend could have had a stroke, onset of a seizure disorder, or a score of metabolic issues could have reached clinical significance and affected her behavior.

But this phone call should be a warning to every person, no matter how well trained in hypnosis, no matter how credentialled, that there is a segment of the population that believes that hypnosis causes a person to become vulnerable to demonic possession. In more rational language, demonic possession could be called malpractice.

This is no laughing matter.

It’s very simple to protect yourself from such an accusation: Videorecord every session you have and keep it password protected on an external drive. Of course, you must obtain permission, in writing, to videorecord a session. Make it part of your consent for treatment. If a person refuses, you might elect to refuse treatment. (Unless you think that treating that person without recording the session could be worth dealing with lawyers in the future.) You can make recording a session more palatable by offering a copy of the session to them, by request.

Now back to today’s call…

The idea that malevolent spirits cause illness and aberrant behavior is woven into history. Fear of demonic possession and exorcism goes back thousands of years into primitive cultures, and persists into modern eastern and western religions. Medicine, as practiced in tents by shaman, and even today by mental health professionals, looks at psychological disturbance as being a force or entity that must be wrestled out of the depths of a person. This means that treatment may require facing one’s demons, so to speak.

The progenitor of psychology, Dr. Freud, was a clinical hypnotherapist, and he believed that at the core of people lurked deeply disturbing, raging, impulses of homicide and molestation. Something nearly demonic, but certainly evil.

This concept that something evil is lurking within continues to thrive. Hence the expression ‘Rotten to the Core.’ And the reputation of hypnosis, as evidenced by this distressed phone call, is that the experience of hypnosis can render a person’s core vulnerable to the rotten forces of the universe.

How does hypnotherapy win such a corrupt reputation?

Where are people exposed to hypnosis in the world? For most, by far, it would be by watching a stage hypnotist or magician. These professionals cause a group of strangers to behave in bizarre ways, or cause confusion, and maybe even (worse) cause “post”-hypnotic behavior.

Of course, we know that successful stage hypnotists are trained in how to select highly susceptible subjects.According to studies using the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale (SHSS), approximately 10-15% of people are highly hypnotizable.

While this may mean that they will quack like a duck when they hear the word green, it also means that they are highly responsive to language. And not just the language of a hypnotist, but also to the language of friends, neighbors, therapists, physicians, ministers, and anyone they respect or find interesting in television, radio, or even social media.

Susceptibility is a result of how people are wired to process information. Responsiveness isn’t an all-or-nothing trait, and that people may exhibit different levels of responsiveness depending on the skill of the hypnotist, and, as realtors say, location, location, location. If the location is a private meeting in the presence of a trained hypnotist, does the situation suggest that the client is going to become more vulnerable than usual?

Could the hypnotist, in a private context, then use hypnosis to install demons?

Trained hypnotherapists know that the human mind processes language in ways that weren’t the intention of the speaker. Imagine that a compassionate therapist says to you, “That must be horrible for you!” That’s something lots of people purr when they don’t know what else to say in the face of something awful. Certainly, the intention is to make you feel better. And you find that, in a way, you do. You feel understood because an area of your brain understands tone rather than words, and locks onto the sympathetic tone of voice.

But in a way, you feel a little bit more helpless and hopeless because another area of your brain that locks onto words and not tone, has also processed those words as literal, stripped of the compassionate tone. They hear the command: “THAT…MUST be horrible…for YOU.” The word “must” implies requirement, obligation, endurance. As in, “That thing is required to be horrible for you, now and in the future. You are stuck with it.”

Unintentionally, and invisibly, that therapist (or friend, family member, minister, or kind stranger) just gave you the evil eye.

Could the words of a compassionate hypnotherapist cause an unintentional impact? The answer is yes. Anyone who speaks to you (or even makes a face at you) could cause your emotions to go to a dark place. To that rotten core that has been conjured to exist throughout history.

Could the words of a hypnotist cause a person to come face to face with a fantasy, a fear, some unacknowledged feeling of guilt, resentment, even panic or rage? Yes. So could the words of a news caster. Or a politician. A cult leader. Words have the power to point the mind at thoughts and ideas that are threatening.

But could the words of a hypnotist install demons?

If a person believes in exorcism, or that there is any ritual that is able to banish demons, then it’s evident that the person believes in the presence of demons. That person, therefore, is also prone to believing that words (or behaviors) could invite demons to take residence in someone’s vulnerable rotten core.

As long as there is cultural or religious support for demonic possession as the source of dysregulated human behavior, there is room for the idea that someone, or something, caused a demonic possession. And as long as there are people who see bizarre behavior as being caused by hypnotists, and there are lawyers ready to take their case….well, take heed.

Next week, I have an appointment with a lovely Christian lady whose daughter warned her to avoid hypnosis because it’s of the devil.

You can be sure that our zoom session will be recorded.

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