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Possible problems of stage hypnosis

Ci-dessous une retranscription d'un e-mail par Corydon Hammond, publié sur la mailing-liste internationale de l'hypnose, à propos de l'hypnose de spectacle.

Below a copy of an e-mail sent by Corydon Hammond on the danger of stage hypnosis,

There are several case reports in the literature concerning destructive effects from stage hypnosis.  These negative effects include long-term dissociative symptomatology (Kleinhauz, Dreyfuss, Beran, Goldberg, & Azikri, 1979), disorientation and antisocial behavior (Kleinhauz & Beran, 1984), and hospitalization with a stupor lasting a week following an experience of feeling traumatized and humiliated on stage (Kleinhauz & Beran, 1981).  

Allen (1995) reported a case a 25 year old man without a prior psychiatric history who displayed a schizophreniform psychosis after being a stage hypnosis subject.  He displayed auditory hallucinations for
three days after participating in the show, believing that he was being told what to do.  On admission to a psychiatric ward nine days after the show, his mental status exam showed paranoid ideation, ideas of reference, and auditory hallucinations in the second person.  It appeared likely that stage hypnosis was the precipitating event for the psychosis.

Feelings of embarrassment, shame, and fear were identified by Echterling (1988) in three of eight persons who participated in stage hypnosis.  All eight subjects had also experienced clinical hypnosis, and they unanimously evaluated those experiences positively.  A sense of shame and posttraumatic stress symptoms, as well as spontaneous trances, sleep disturbance, problems with concentration, feeling afraid and controlled by the hypnotist, and sleep disturbance were found in 18 stage hypnosis participants by
Echterling and Emmerling (1987).  Since stage hypnosis involves a group, professionals utilizing group hypnosis should particularly be alerted to the potential that has been found for persons to feel
embarrassed or used in front of others.  In a group setting, clinicians must also be cautious concerning spontaneous hypnosis that may occur in persons who were not supposedly being hypnotized.

Crawford,  Kitner-Triolo, Clarke, and Olesko (1992) evaluated the frequency of negative experiences associated with stage hypnosis through follow-up interviews with 22 participants of university-sponsored performances.  Most subjects described their experience positively (relaxing, interesting, exciting, satisfying, illuminating, and pleasurable), but some described it negatively (confusing, silly, annoying, and frightening).  Five subjects (22.7%) reported partial or complete amnesia, and this same number believed that the hypnotist had control over their behavior.  One subject was completely unable to breach amnesia and felt annoyed and frightened.

Heap (1995) even described a young, healthy woman who died during the night after taking part in a stage hypnosis show.  The stage hypnotist had suggested that at a signal, volunteer would experience a shock of 10,000 volts through their seats before waking up, and then gave the signal.  On returning home, she complained of feeling dizzy, went to bed, and was found dead the next morning.  The
coroner concluded her death was due to pulmonary edema associated with inhalation of gastric contents.  Of course, any potential role of the hypnotic experience cannot be known.

There have also been other reports of stage experiences triggering repressed or unresolved childhood abuse (MacHovec, 1987; Milne, 1986), sometimes evoking such an intense response that psychiatric hospitalization was required.  Lest anyone should think that such case reports are an exception rather than a common occurrence, Crawford, Kitner-Triolo, Clarke, and Olesko (1992) discovered that a third of stage hypnosis participants described negative experiences.  Kline (1976) described a patient who, several hours following the induction of a glove anesthesia on the stage, which was not removed, received a severe burn from letting her anesthetic hand remain on a burner on a stove.

All of these references can be found in my Hypnotic Induction & Suggestion book put out by ASCH.