In hypnotherapy, we often look at what the individual believes. Those beliefs tend to fuel some of the issues they require therapeutic assistance with.

Perhaps no belief is as disturbing as eternal torture and torment in a pit of fire… This is the image and notion conjured up by the dogma of many religious and non-religious schools of thought… Yet, as many as 70% of Americans and UK citizens believe in Hell.

If I were being Devils advocate today, I might ask whether this was because people would rather dance with the devil than die? What do you reckon? There is therefore some seemingly hypnotic allure about those fiery pits of hell…

gate to hell

I am often confused by how some people consider ideas of Hell. I went to a Church of England school and have had a lifetime of experience with Church celebrations of weddings, christenings, autumn harvest, Easter, Christmas, lent servies, Christingle services, and many others besides… I know what goes on with a lot of Christian ideas.

Most of us would not think twice about rushing to the aid of someone being physically harmed or abused. Yet in contrast, many Christians would just sort of shrug their shoulders at finding out that an atheist died and in their mind, was going to Hell, they were unsaved in some way. The implication is that people seem very ok with endorsing eternal torture, but not Earthly torture. Why is that?

My Mum may have worried in my younger years that I was heading for that place, and I have always been sort of fascinated with the idea of Hell and certainly the imagery of it.

Does the notion of hell actually comfort some people?

Past research has found that when death is primed, people become more prejudice towards the elderly and they also self-enhance – that is, they view themselves more favourably. The idea is that people respond to death by clinging to (or avoiding) things that give them self-esteem, coherance and meaning or enable them to ignore death. They get to sneer in the face of death, so to speak.

Past research has also found that when participants first read an essay arguing that near death experiences prove the existence of a next life, they do not show subsequent psychological defenses when reminded of death. In other words, the idea is that priming an afterlife reduces their fear of death.

When we think about going to heaven, we stop worrying about kicking the bucket.

Across a recent study, participants got to read three essays… People showed the typical response to death when they read the first essay about a control topic (including a riveting essay on online course registration!). Those effects included the afore mentioned ageism and self-enhancement, which subsequently disappeared when they first read the second essay about us all having a heavenly afterlife  that was depicted in a very positive light.

So then they were asked to read the “hellish” afterlife affirming essay… Did it affect people psychologically like the “heavenly” one did? Across 3 studies, the answer was actually “no.” The Hell primed participants self-enhanced and were more negative towards the elderly when death was primed. Hmmm….

I have no conclusions here, just to say that it is fascinating to see how hypnotic notions of heavenly afterlife or eternity in the fires of hell can alter the psychology of someone and their attitudes, isn’t it?