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“Mesmerized”, Chapter 58 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”, A Free Book

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Next Week, “Lefty and Righty”, Chapter 59 of 92 of “Inside and Outside” 


I wrote this prophetic essay a dozen years ago. I remember a humorous TV program where a doctor was hypnotizing an individual. The doctor dangled a pocket watch in front of his subject’s face, saying “Watch the watch! You are getting very sleepy.” as if that was all that was required to put someone out. Surprisingly, some people are so susceptible to suggestion, that’s all it takes. The characterization, “The Manchurian Candidate”, the title from the 1959 novel and two resulting Hollywood movies about an attempt to overthrow the US government, sums up our fears of what could happen if hypnosis, post-hypnotic suggestion and brain washing were to be used for evil purposes.


I wrote my college freshman English term paper on hypnotism, which was originally called mesmerism, named after the eighteenth-century Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, who believed hypnosis was related to animal magnetism, whatever that is. His science was questioned and called fraudulent by many of his peers, but he was on to something. Modern medicine has recognized that hypnosis can be very effective in reducing operative and post-operative pain. As long as it has been around, it is still a controversial subject. There is no complete agreement on exactly what hypnosis is, and how it should be used. 

A recent issue of Newsweek discussed the personalities that are most easily hypnotized. The consensus is that they are individuals who are followers, who don’t deeply questions things, are very trusting, readily swayed by others and are non-analytical. That sounds a little like sheep or some politicians. Also included are people, who, when they roll their eyes back, expose significant whites of their eyes, like they’re looking back inside their heads. Sounds kind of creepy! These definitions are not very flattering. I think what the article missed is that some of these people are just adventurous and willing to experiment as long as they trust the experimenter. People who are not easily hypnotized may be more suspect. They may not want anybody messing with or subverting their mind. They are probably harder to brainwash and were moved by both Hollywood versions of “The Manchurian Candidate”. 

My interest in hypnosis resulted, in part, from an incident much earlier than my term paper. It was a hot, lazy summer day. We had been fishing. I was sitting on a rock on the edge of a pond next to my boyhood friend, Jeff. He was a trusting soul and game for any adventure I proposed. The pond was absolutely still. The clouds reflected off the surface giving the impression that the water was as deep as the sky. On a lark, I said, “Close your eyes, and imagine you are floating above the pond.” I droned on about feeling your body rise into the air and move out over the water. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the scene I was painting. Without warning, there was a large splash and a scream of complete surprise. Jeff loudly recounted the event, as he clamored back onto the rock. He said, as I was talking, he felt himself drifting off. He felt light as a feather. He started to fly. That’s where gravity set in and ended my friend’s maiden flight. At the time, I didn’t know what had really happened. I had no instant word to describe the spell I had cast on my friend. Jeff was just amazed at what happened and retold the story countless times to anyone who would listen. I had performed my first feat of hypnosis. 

Many years later, after reading countless instructional and historical books on hypnotism and writing my term paper, I asked my old high school friend, Earl, if he was willing to try. Like Jeff before him, he was game for any adventure. I stood in front of him as he relaxed in an easy chair. Following my fingers, as I raised them above his head, his eyes rolled back, exposing the whites. Quietly telling him he was feeling very sleepy, I led him into a trance. 

Earl was too easy, and he wasn’t faking. I might have felt at this point that I possessed enormous power, but this was a humbling experience. I felt uneasy that I might say something or leave some post-hypnotic suggestion that would be detrimental. I reminded Earl that he would remember everything that happened after the hypnosis and any post-hypnotic tests were completed. The word spread, and others wanted to try. At a party, I found that while I hypnotized one person, others would drop off even when I was not talking directly to them. This was getting out of hand. Within a year, I became tired of the game and gave it up completely. 

I felt responsible for these people. I did not want to possess this kind of power, didn’t want to mess with anyone’s mind anymore than having someone mess with mine. People tried to hypnotize me, but it never worked. I knew too much. That was the end of it. From then on I became an observer rather a practitioner. 

I came to realize that people don’t need the help of a hypnotist to be mesmerized. Some people are obsessed and fixated on themselves or their power, some seduced and robotized by an ideology. Sometimes it’s in their eyes, like a trance, like a deer caught in the headlights. Sometimes, as if by post-hypnotic suggestion, they refuse to recognize the reality of the moment. Given the political season, it’s hard to ignore who is awake and who is sleepwalking. 

 Next Week, “Lefty and Righty”, Chapter 59 of 92 of “Inside and Outside” 

Dick Sederquist is a retired engineer, engineering consultant, writer, author, hiker, motivational speaker and cancer and depression survivor. Dick suffered an emotional breakdown 35 years ago, realizing that he had been depressed all his life. That started his long journey back to mental health and happiness. Dick writes motivational and inspirational nonfiction short stories and essays for general audiences on many topics including life, family, humor, spirituality, nature, science, his volunteer prison experiences, hiking and travel adventures, depression, overcoming adversity, and what the author refers to as “home improvement”, healing the mind and body we live in. Dick and his wife have been married 50 years; have two grown children and four grandchildren, all part of a close-knit, active, caring and loving family. The whole family believes that the greatest gift in life is helping others.


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Guest Sunday, 20 May 2018