Despite its movie-inspired reputation, hypnosis is actually a surprisingly conservative (with a small “c”) healing modality because it encourages personal responsibility in all aspects of life. Yet, hypnosis as a concept provides striking insights into the state of the western world today.
A portion of my clients believe a chunk of the country is “hypnotized.” Clients on the right think that about the left; those on the left think that about the right; those in the middle think that about their friends, family and co-workers. Individuals spouting the words “they all” in front of an accusation are statistically wrong; but moreover, they’re likely suffering from some kind of negative subconscious programming. In other words, they actually have been hypnotized.
If you’re a fan of the blog you know, hypnosis employs trance, a natural state of mind, to reprogram the subconscious, resulting in desired behaviors and outcomes. Studies of brain wave frequencies show all humans drift into trance multiple times a day. We’re in trance right before we wake and fall asleep, for example, but we’re also in trance staring at any screen technology, such as a phone or TV monitor. In short, there are times of day in which we let go of our capacity to think and are vulnerable to suggestion.
The subconscious makes up 90% of our thought process. It’s more powerful than the neutral, logical conscious mind, because we need the emotion and memory-oriented subconscious to interpret the world. There are six ways the subconscious can be “programmed” or take on beliefs as true: authority figures, peer pressure, high emotion, repetition, the trance state, and when one says “yes” to an idea.
Saying “yes” is key to acceptance. We have to say “yes” for the programming to work. When we’re children, we say “yes” to authorities, peer groups, etc., because we trust adults and we don’t know how to think for ourselves. When we’re adults, we say “yes” less often. But the fact is, we may lack information, or we don’t always know how to think about an issue, or we simply may prefer to fall into comfortable patterns of thinking. In short, while hypnosis can’t make people go against their core values, it can nudge vulnerable people who want to believe a thing to believe it without any proof.
Ever since 2020 and Covid-19, the world population has been experiencing authority figures, peer pressure, high emotion, and loads of repetition. Under such stress, we can find ourselves agreeing to things without sufficient information.
So, it’s extremely important to stay open minded about all topics until actual facts appear and have been weighed. It’s important to remember politicians and celebrities are humans who not only make mistakes, but also aren’t authorities. Friends and co-workers are often invested in maintaining a peaceful status quo, which inconvenient facts can disrupt. Emotions create a false sense of connection between people and ideals. So, it’s important to keep emotions to a minimum and observe situations until facts reveal themselves. Research news and learn to spot logical fallacies. Repetition alone does not make something true.
That humans have a core self is reassuring; on some level, we always recognize our own truth, even if we allow ourselves to say or do things that go against it. Seeing our neighbors lose civility and reason is scary. If it seems as if they’re living in a dream, they probably are. But there’s no reason for you to join them. In fact, it’s essential for society that you don’t.
According to Mattias Desmet, professor of clinical psychology at Ghent University, Belgium, mass hypnosis or what he calls "mass formation" is a group dynamic that makes even intelligent people incapable of critical thinking. Chapter 4 of his book The Psychology of Totalitarianism explains how mass formation emerges under the following conditions: 1) when many individuals feel socially isolated, 2) when they experience the lack of sense in their lives, 3) when they experience free-floating anxiety not attributable to a cause, and 4) when frustration and anger exist around them.
In our increasingly high-tech world, as people have lost connection to nature, individuals have felt increasingly alienated. Divorce and social mobility have disconnected many from family. And technology has us staring at screens, not people. To prove anxiety, Desmet points to Belgium's population of 11 million taking 300 million doses of anti-depressants annually. Add in things which we don’t understand but which foster anger - like Covid-19 – and soon Desmet’s four conditions are met.
Desmet says, "If under such conditions, a story is relayed through mass media indicating an object of anxiety, and presenting a strategy to deal with it, people will connect their anxiety to this object and follow the strategy presented by the media to deal with [it.]” People use the narrative to "mentally control their anxiety, participate together in a heroic battle to fight this object of anxiety," and restore the social bond.
Restoring the social bond matters because people are innately social. We need each other, and the strategy provides connection. So, people experience a switch from a negative mental state to a positive one. Also, they experience "a strong intoxication - exactly the same as hypnosis." The story can be totally absurd, but they follow it because it provides a bond, a feeling of euphoria, and solidarity. As a result, such people become intolerant and blame those who don’t go along for being bad citizens.
Such people wind up wearing masks while driving in their cars alone.
Mass formation does not require mass media, but mass media helps deepen and maintain the hypnosis. Not only does staring at screen technology induce trance, the content uses repetition, authority, peer pressure and high emotion to plant ideas in the subconscious. Whether you watch Fox News or CNN, if you’re yelling at your screen, you’re vulnerable to suggestion in that moment.
Initially, says Desmet, roughly 30% become "hypnotized." 40% do not, feel something is wrong, yet won't fight the group. Another 30% openly fight the narrative. This group, consisting of all backgrounds, ages, and genders, is so diverse they have trouble uniting against the 70%. But if they do, the 40% in the middle wakes up and changes sides. And that’s why it’s essential to speak up. Participating in debate forces individuals to test their own facts and beliefs. It also helps break the trance state for the vulnerable.
Being a member of the 30% who stand strong has nothing to do with IQ. Even intelligent people under mass hypnosis cannot accept rational argument. Desmet thinks the reason some don't get hypnotized is ideology; as stated above, a person cannot be hypnotized against core beliefs. We all want to think we belong to the unshakeable group, but in fact, where we stand may depend on the issue being tested and how connected we are to our core in relation to that.
In his book, Desmet’s solution to mass formation is “consciousness,” which means being awake and aware of one’s surroundings or the awareness of the mind itself. But the word also has spiritual implications, as in achieving higher levels of consciousness. Hypnotherapy can connect clients to what is called the “superconscious,” a higher state that feels like flow, love, and forgiveness. So, in a sense, a solution to mass hypnosis is a hypnosis that awakens the body, mind and spirit.
Want to learn more?