One of the reasons I have a regular slot in my Hypnosis Weekly podcast entitled ‘Hypnosis In The News’ is because I think the media portrayal of hypnosis tends to influence opinion of the public greatly and provides the public with the majority of their education on the subject.
The public’s general understanding about hypnosis is typically incorrect or ill-informed at best. The truth is, the public are mainly unaware of the depth of research that the field of hypnotherapy has to support it. Many applications of hypnosis have undergone research studies that meet strict criteria, I wrote about Hypnosis as an empirically supported treatment a few years ago and you can read that to see some of the research the field of hypnotherapy has that bears up to scientific scrutiny.
That is why on my Facebook page and on my Twitter feed I offer up a weekly evidence based meme of the week and ask for people to share it, and why my training college attempts to close up the chasm that exists between the front line of hypnotherapy and academics and researchers.
With so much misinformation, inaccurate portrayal, myth and misconception about hypnosis in the media, it is tough for the public to know what is correct and what is not. How do you sift through all the nonsense if you don’t have a vested interest?
That is why I think Keith Barry is doing a massive disservice to the field of hypnosis by issuing a press release whereby he was interviewed and has made a number of statements about how he apparently uses hypnosis.
Keith Barry is the hypnotist on the ITV series You’re Back In The Room, whereby he stars alongside Phillip Schofield and a number of people who get hypnotised to do silly things to entertain the viewers during a primetime network TV slot.
The recent news release quotes Barry “admitting to using hypnosis to avoid speeding fined from the police.” That’s right, Keith Barry claims that he uses hypnosis to “get out of speeding fines by fooling police officers.”
This is what I want to say on this subject:
1. Hypnosis does not ‘fool’ people. A classic piece of research by the prolific hypnosis researcher Theodore Barber (1969) showed that the ability to experience hypnotic phenomena does not indicate gullibility or weakness.
Additionally, hypnotic subjects retain the ability to control their behaviour during hypnosis, to refuse to respond to suggestions, and even to oppose suggestions (see Lynn, Rhue and Weekes, 1990). A police officer would easily be able to choose not to respond to anything Keith Barry is suggesting is hypnosis, in particular if he was being given suggestions to overlook the very law he or she is employed to uphold.
2. Hypnosis does not work in a way that is being portrayed by Barry, he is promoting gross misconception and myth. Hypnosis is collaborative. Hypnosis depends more on the efforts and abilities of the subject than on the skill of the hypnotist (Hilgard, 1965).
Barry might be being influential, or charming, or persuasive, or perhaps he flashes his underwear provocatively and wins over the police officers, but that is not hypnosis. Hypnosis is not done ‘to’ or ‘on’ someone. Hypnosis is a verb, not a noun (White, 1941) it is something the recipient is actively engaged in, not passively responding to.
Why do so many people want to portray hypnosis like it is some sort of a magic power that you exert upon others?
3. If what he says is true. If hypnosis could be used this way, what about the ethics of this? He refers to “fines” – that is plural. So he is merrily showing complete and continued disregard for speeding laws firstly. Secondly, he is saying that on the (plural) number of times he has been pulled over by police for speeding, he is quite happy to attempt to evade the correct legal consequences.
Speeding limits are generally in place for a reason, I guess most people nip over them from time to time, but to repeatedly have the police pulling you over for it? He states “I’m not a mean person, so I don’t go around doing evil things to people” so I’m guessing he has not yet had an accident and damaged property or caused anyone any harm with his speeding, and let’s hope that if he is continually speeding he does not ever collide into a pedestrian. Some might consider such flagrant disregard for the law as being mean if it had resulted in such an occurrence.
I may be coming over as a ‘jobsworth’ here, but this sort of stuff harms this field and I know it upsets many of us that are trying incredibly hard to have hypnosis portrayed with some sort of accuracy and become regarded as the credible field it is.
When ITV’s You’re Back In the Room TV show first aired, I wrote about it (almost a year ago to the day), and you can read that article to get my full response to it; I’ll not repeat those same points here as much as I feel inclined to. ITV’s Latest Hypnosis TV Show ‘You’re Back in the Room’ – What Did I Think?
What saddens me is that when the field of hypnosis gets some limelight, the show simply tries to appeal to the lowest common denominator, it misleads and does not educate properly about what hypnosis is and how it works. You could do that and still entertain.
Hypnosis is simply not something that can be wielded like a Jedi in Star Wars. If it was, that is the only thing that could make me love this field more than I do currently.
However, the ITV show is not happy with just portraying hypnosis in this misleading light though, oh no…. It also then dishes out this even more misleading press release suggesting hypnosis can be used to get out of speeding fines and can be used to dupe police officers. Just to try and plug the show (I’m guessing).
Can hypnosis really do that though?
If so, why is the world not descending into anarchy? I mean, is Keith Barry the only single human being on the planet who knows this stuff? Not at all, all the nonsense he espouses is rehashed in poor quality book upon poor quality book and upon numerous websites perpetuating the same myths and nonsense.
Yet I don’t see hypnosis wielded in this fashion on a daily basis around the world. Banks are not being regularly robbed using hypnosis. Criminals are not evading the long arm of the law using hypnosis (despite what Keith Barry is claiming he does). Wars are not being won thanks to hypnosis. It is simply not something that is wielded in this fashion.
Keith Barry, why not release a press release about something kind, loving or healthful that you have used hypnosis for? Why not read some research and use your elevated status to educate correctly about hypnosis and it might stand a chance of moving beyond it’s current perceptions, the ridiculous joke status that your show gives it and be able to develop some credibility on the back of the empirical findings we already have and the sterling work being carried out by quality hypnotherapists around the world?
Thank you for continuing to maintain our profession’s reputation – hard fought for by those who are committed to the scientific evidence behind hypnosis . Ignorance is everywhere and in every profession !
Thank you Linda, best wishes to you, Adam.
Thank you Linda, my best wishes to you, Adam.
The report is full of weasel words. He might or might not do something that might or might not always work but he drives quickly sometimes and has a clean licence. I expect a lot of people with a clean licence drive quickly sometimes.
Personally I wouldn’t extend him the oxygen of further publicity. That said I don’t think it does us any harm at all. Patients do not come to us because of Erickson or Elman or Eason or Thain. The public has never heard of any of us. They come precisely because McKenna and Brown and Svengali give them the idea we can make them fall in love with a mop, so they assume we can make them fall out of love with their fags.
You make very valid points Barry, thank you, Adam.
Adam, do you realize how this comes off to people like Keith?
I am not sure I understand this question, could you explain a bit more for me? I don’t want to assume to know what you mean and respond in a way that is way off track.
Thanks very much, Adam.
The way I read this post is basically that Keith is on the “hypnosis is mind control” side of the spectrum and you’re saying that he’s wrong to be, that hypnosis isn’t like that, and citing some of the literature to back your point. It comes off like you see it as a debate that’s been settled and Keith is just behind the times/hasn’t done his homework. Furthermore, it comes off like you see it as so *obvious* that you can’t really empathize with someone like Keith who thinks he can hypnotize his way out of speeding tickets – as if in your worldview he must be either dishonest or delusional – at best, foolishly conflating his natural charm with hypnotic abilities.
Without taking a stance on the object level issue, it *looks* to me like Keith sees things which you don’t see (even if ultimately misleading), because if you did I would have expected you to pace them. However, I hate to presume that I’m not the one missing something without checking first, so I was asking if you actually did see these kind of things and chose not to pace them for some reason.
Hello Jimmy, thanks for that, I appreciate you explaining and clarifying.
Re: “It comes off like you see it as a debate that’s been settled and Keith is just behind the times/hasn’t done his homework.”
Well, that was not wholly my intention. Adhering to science is not really about ‘being right.’ It is more about examining what the majority of the evidence says, then being able to make predictions based upon those results. However, we’ll always yield in our stance if something supercedes the evidence we’ve been adhering to. SO it is flexible and dynamic.
As far as I am aware, and it is worth bearing in mind that I read academic papers under parasols for fun when on holiday with my family, there is no evidence to support the stance insinuated by Keith Barry. My article is attempting to be an intelligent critique of the claims made, the subject matter and not about him as a person.
Re: “Furthermore, it comes off like you see it as so *obvious* that you can’t really empathize with someone like Keith who thinks he can hypnotize his way out of speeding tickets”
It may seem that way, but I have not said as much and it was never my intention to suggest that. It is “obvious” to me because I am very familiar with my own stance and with the current evidence base supporting our field.
Re: “as if in your worldview he must be either dishonest or delusional”
Again, in relation to his stance on hypnosis, I do not think this at all. The only leaning I have regarding anything “dishonest” here is in relation to knowingly breaking the law.
Re: “if you did I would have expected you to pace them.”
Ok, again, my intention here was to offer some intelligent critique and not really make friends with him or his stance. With regards to “pacing” his stance, I am not sure why I would ever do that if I simply disagree with it.
Re: “so I was asking if you actually did see these kind of things and chose not to pace them for some reason.”
No, not really, I don’t adopt his stance or attempt to see things from his perspective and it is not really something I consider; to “pace” something which I vehemently disagree with.
I do recognise that Keith Barry is an entertainer and so has a different set of objectives than me when it comes to how we wish to portray hypnosis to the public, that does not mean that I agree with that portrayal of hypnosis.
Finally, I would add, part of the way I present myself and my college, is one that likes to froth at the mouth a bit about matters such as these. Whereas this is a trivial issue to many of my professional peers, I like to pick up on how hypnosis gets portrayed publicly, and heck, I market myself accordingly and would LOVE to have the stage that someone like Keith Barry has when it comes to being able to communicate about this subject matter to the masses.
Best wishes to you Jimmy, I hope I have answered your questions. Have a great day, Adam.
“Finally, I would add, part of the way I present myself and my college, is one that likes to froth at the mouth a bit about matters such as these. Whereas this is a trivial issue to many of my professional peers, I like to pick up on how hypnosis gets portrayed publicly, and heck, I market myself accordingly […]”
Haha, awesome. Thanks for the straight forward, honest, and in depth answer.
I do think we were talking past each other a bit, as I actually agree with almost everything you said above. That’s to be expected though.
For what it’s worth, I find pacing to be *most* worthwhile for views I vehemently disagree with – but not as an attempt to “make friends”.
Cheers, and a good day to you as well
Cheers Jimmy 🙂
I think that you are just envious of his skill. He is obviously such a powerful hypnotist that he prevent the various array of cameras which are used to monitor our roads from actually detecting him, or else he can prevent the autmated process of issuing a ticket from happening. can learn sooo much from him, so I nominate Keith Barry for interview on Hypnosis Weekly!
You have got me bang to rights Tony. 🙂
I’d love to have him on Hypnosis Weekly though, he’d get treated with the utmost respect as everyone does on the show – as long as he does not use his skills to ‘fool’ me, as he does to the police.
Best wishes to you, Adam.
Thank you for your blog post. As a hypnotherapist I feel people often believe I can control their minds. …which I explain I cannot! Hypnotherapy is absolutely a collaboration which can have powerful results. .but it’s not magic. Thank you for your blog
Thank you for taking the time to write and say so Joanne.
My very best wishes to you, Adam.
your ‘self control’ is admirable Adam!
Thank you Linda, best wishes to you, Adam.
Interesting, raised the question once more for me, what is hypnosis? Google defined (Not necessarily the authority, agreed!) as ‘noun’
– the induction of a state of consciousness in which a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction. Its use in therapy, typically to recover suppressed memories or to allow modification of behaviour, has been revived but is still controversial.
synonyms: mesmerism, hypnotism, hypnotic suggestion, autosuggestion
It seems to me that the nature of hypnosis rests within this definition,in the word ‘apparently’ and also the suggestion that it is not a therapy, simply a tool or skill available to therapy. One does not, therefore need to be a therapist to use the tool of hypnosis. Therapy does not own hypnosis, and yes within therapy there is hopefully a collaborative relationship. Still, it is I find, often simply the intention behind the use of the tool of hypnosis that creates a meaningful outcome. In the broader sense, perhaps we are subject to hypnotic messaging that impacts our behaviour, and history points to the devastation that may result. Perhaps, this person does serve hypnosis in reminding us of our personal responsibility when using it , although I do not support his actions as stated.
Hello Caroline, thank you for taking the time to respond.
Re: “Google defined (Not necessarily the authority, agreed!) as ‘noun’
– the induction of a state of consciousness in which a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction. Its use in therapy, typically to recover suppressed memories or to allow modification of behaviour, has been revived but is still controversial.”
It would probably be remiss of me, as a teacher of this subject, to use google or dictionary definitions as a source of guidance or tuition for my field.
Strong scientific evidence from the fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology as well as specific hypnosis research has rendered virtually every component of this google description incorrect and misleading.
Though a discussion on the definition of hypnosis is something we simply cannot do justice to or even attempt to exhaust here in a soundbite on a comments section of a blog, for those reading this wishing to get into it and see the huge diversity in attempts to define hypnosis, then visit this thread at my hub and join the discussion: http://www.adamshypnosishub.com/topic/9/defining-hypnosis
Re: “also the suggestion that it is not a therapy, simply a tool or skill available to therapy.”
Absolutely. In fact the prolific hypnosis and placebo researcher Irving Kirsch even suggests that hypnosis not be used by anyone not trained in a separate therapy and then hypnosis be used as an adjunct to that therapy and not necessarily be a stand alone field at all.
Re: “One does not, therefore need to be a therapist to use the tool of hypnosis.”
Quite right, and no such suggestion has been made here at all.
However, I am a hypnotherapist, researcher in the field of therapeutic hypnosis, author of hypnotherapy related books, hypnotherapy podcaster, broadcaster, hypnotherapy trainer and lecturer, so it makes sense that I’d comment upon the impact of media representations of hypnosis upon the world of hypnotherapy, no?
Re: “In the broader sense, perhaps we are subject to hypnotic messaging that impacts our behaviour, and history points to the devastation that may result.”
Hmmm… I’m not so sure. Again, this implies that we are not capable of rejecting suggestions delivered in hypnosis and I believe the evidence currently available to us as of today suggests to the contrary of this.
Also, what devastation are you referring to that has been caused directly by hypnosis? I.e. Not the ill-intention/behaviour of the hypnotist, but hypnosis per sé?
Re: “Perhaps, this person does serve hypnosis in reminding us of our personal responsibility when using it”
I think that is incredibly charitable and generous of you Caroline, and a great positive way to frame it.
With my best wishes to you, Adam.
Your post came across as always as factual rather than just your opinion. I think shows like this are misleading and scare some potential clients into believing that during hypnosis they will not be in control and may be “made” to do something they are not aware of. I have certainly had a number of clients that despite coming to a Hypnotherapist are reluctant to relax and enter fully into the experience for this reason. I have also had plenty more that believe I will have some magical skills that mean I can solve their problems and they wont have to play any part in the process. Either way it may be hypnosis as an entertainment but it really bares no relation to the therapy of the same name.
Thank you Alexa, that was/is my aim. Thanks also for sharing your experience, I have been inundated with messages from hypnotherapists sharing similar experiences and thoughts.
My best wishes to you, Adam.