Five Things You Should Know About Subliminal Messages [Videos]

Superlimial: Rigid Tool catalog picture of a model draped over a lathe.

Figure 1. Superliminals are everywhere!

Do you wonder if there’s anything to this “subliminal messaging” thing, where you’re being influenced in ways you don’t detect? Well, you are! But not in the ways you think.

People think about subliminal messages in terms of images that flash on the screen too fast to notice consciously, or words spoken too softly to notice consciously. The idea is that the message will be picked up by the unconscious mind (or subconscious mind—same thing), but the conscious mind doesn’t notice. Sort of like hypnosis, but in a context where, instead of getting assistance with the issue of your choice, you’re ambushed by someone else’s agenda.

So here are five things you should know about subliminal messaging:

1. Before Worrying About the Subliminals, Notice the SUPERliminals

For an example of the superliminal vs. subliminal issue, look at Figure 1. Because this pinup calendar picture was distributed to machine shops and garages across the country, the depiction of a lathe is relevant and sensible. But the scantily clad young woman doesn’t belong there! (If she did, she’d be wearing steel-toed shoes, not ballet slippers). The concept of superliminals is to add an element that is powerful yet irrelevant, hoping for a response like: “What a great company, to put out calendars featuring two things I like: scantily clad ladies and brand-new machine tools!” With superliminals, all subtlety is cast aside. You’re supposed to notice. Continue Reading...

Is Hypnosis Real?

Short answer: You can see the hypnotic state on a brain scan, so yes, hypnosis is real. Long answer … read on!

Hypnosis is Real: It Shows Up on Brain Scans

As you can see in the picture, the normal waking state, hypnosis, and faking the result all use different parts of the brain, and this can be picked up on a brain scan. Even without a brain scan, you can usually tell a hypnotized person from someone who isn’t.

From Science News

Your Brain on Hypnosis. Science News, “The Mesmerized Mind,” Sept. 25, 2009.

Is That Other Person Hypnotized?

Since most of us don’t have a brain scanner handy, we rely on other ways of telling if someone is hypnotized.

The hypnotist who does a stage show at the Benton County Fair, Tammy Harris Barton, is good, and you can learn the difference between someone who is really hypnotized and someone who is not just by watching her. During the first part of the show, she does things that deepen the hypnosis of the volunteers, and excuses the ones who aren’t going as deep as she’d like, until she’s left with the ones who are deeply hypnotized. Continue Reading...

Hypnosis-Like Techniques

Guided imagery and progressive relaxation are forms of hypnosisThanks to Hollywood and pulp fiction, hypnosis tends to bring to mind a villain with a pencil-thin mustache and possibly an opera cape. That’s really a stage hypnosis thing. So far, I’ve never met a hypnotherapist who greets clients in evening dress  and a silk hat or a turban with a jewel in the center. That’d be weird!

Some clinicians are put off by the Hollywood thing, so the first thing they do is stop using the word “hypnosis” when they do hypnosis. The second thing they do is to drop most of the hypnotic techniques from their repertoire, focusing on just one or two. Eventually, these subsets of hypnosis  get accepted by mainstream practitioners as stand-alone interventions, or even as stand-alone modalities. I call these hypnosis-like techniques.

So there are a lot of doctors and therapists out there who are using hypnotic techniques without admitting it, and sometimes without knowing it! Continue Reading...

Placebos are Strange, but Effective [Video]

This three-minute YouTube video talks about the power of placebos, especially pills containing no active ingredients that are given to patients as if they are real.

Placebos Work

Placebos work surprisingly well! They use the power of expectation — the same thing that hypnotists call the power of suggestion. Our minds and bodies tend to make our expectations come true; our minds and bodies tend to treat our expectations as commands to obeyed. So if we’re given a pill and told that it’s a powerful painkiller, then our minds and bodies tend to treat this as a command: “Dial down that pain or make it go away entirely,” just as if we’d taken a real painkiller.

And it works for anything, not just pain, and not just with pills.

Hypnosis is Like a Placebo, Without the Placebo

Placebos usually use physical objects (tablets, capsules, injections, creams, etc.), while hypnosis relies more on words, words said after the client is in a state of hypnosis, where the words have a stronger and longer-lasting effect. Continue Reading...

Is Guided Imagery the Same as Hypnosis? [Video]

zzzGuided imagery is hypnosis, often an unavowed, disguised hypnosis done by therapists who are concerned that their clients might be afraid of hypnosis. Sometimes the therapists are afraid of hypnosis themselves, and let themselves believe that guided imagery is different. It isn’t.

Guided imagery is a powerful technique when used powerfully, but is a wimpy technique when used wimpily. You’ll mostly find its more powerful uses among hypnotherapists, who are using it as one valuable hypnotic technique among many.

The thing I like best about hypnosis is that it keeps going where other therapies stop short. Relaxation is not the goal. An altered state is not the goal. A pleasant experience is not the goal. These are building blocks that lead up to the goal — the goal that you, the client, select.

Let’s face it: hypnosis is a very Western modality. It builds a to-do list into a meditative process. I like that. Continue Reading...