Ever seen people clucking like chickens, pretending to be Michael Jackson or doing other outlandish things, supposedly under the influence of a hypnotist? Does staring at a swinging watch really make you fall into a trance-like state where you are so susceptible to suggestion that you think onions taste like apples or that you can see everyone in the room naked? And does hypnotism have anything to do with zombies?
The topic of hypnosis is a controversial one. Some scientists charge that hypnosis is simply pseudo-science with no credibility, whilst many therapists use it for medical reasons, and evidence exists for its use in pain relief. People have been pondering and arguing over hypnosis for more than 200 years, but science has yet to fully explain how it actually happens. What we do know is that it is a process by which a person induces an altered state of awareness in another person. It is not the same as sleep, however, and you do not lose control over your mind or feelings. Despite popular belief, you do not weaken or surrender your will to any other person. You are fully conscious, but you tune out most of the stimuli around you, as you do when intensely reading or driving.
In conventional hypnosis, you approach the suggestions of the hypnotist as if they were reality. If the hypnotist suggests that the onion you are eating tastes like an apple, you’re brain will think that it does indeed taste like an apple. If the hypnotist suggests that you are drinking a beer, you'll taste the beer and feel it cooling your mouth and throat. But the entire time, you are aware that it's all fake, like when you’re watching a movie. You tune out your normal worries and doubts and become engrossed in what you are seeing. You are also highly suggestible, however a hypnotist can’t get you to do anything you don't want to do.
One theory of how hypnosis works has to do with your subconscious. In your everyday life, you are only aware of what’s going on in your conscious mind – like thinking of the right words to say to that cute girl, thinking about a problem at work or how much pepper to put in your stir fry. But your subconscious mind is also helping you make these decisions by doing all the behind the scenes thinking. It accesses a vast reservoir of information stored in your brain that helps you solve problems. It puts together plans and then takes them to your conscious mind for a decision. When a new idea comes to you out of the blue, it's because you already thought of it unconsciously.
Your subconscious also takes care of all that stuff you do automatically, like breathing. Your conscious mind could not handle it if you had to think of having to breathe all the time. Also, you don't think through every little thing you do while driving a car – a lot of that is left to your subconscious.
Psychiatrists theorise that hypnotism can calm the conscious mind so that it takes a less active role in your thinking processes. In this state, you're still aware of what's going on, but your conscious mind takes a back seat to your subconscious mind. Effectively, this allows you and the hypnotist to work directly with your subconscious. Without the conscious mind to think through everything you do, you may be open to the suggestions of the hypnotist.
But what of zombies, creatures apparently risen from the dead and desperate to eat brains? There have been sightings of zombies across the world, and one theory was that these were people so hypnotised that they had lost complete touch with reality. It may defy belief however, but zombies have been actually proven to exist in real life, but their hypnotism is the result of some incredibly potent drugs and not the work of a hypnotist.
Zombies have been discovered on the Caribbean island of Haiti. They are people who have been almost killed by a mixture of toad skin and puffer fish, which makes the victim soon appear dead, with an incredibly slow breath, and an incredibly slow and faint heartbeat. In Haiti, people are buried very soon after death, because the heat and the lack of refrigeration makes their bodies decay rapidly. So you have to dig them up within eight hours of the burial, or else they'll die of asphyxiation.
When raised from their burial spot, they are made mad, by being force-fed a paste made from Datura, or Jimsons Weed, which breaks your links with reality, and then destroys all your recent memories. So you don’t know what day it is, where you are or who you are. The zombies are in a state of semi-permanent induced psychotic delirium. They are then sold to sugar plantations as slave labour.
Thankfully, your local doctor can’t put you into this type of state with everyday hypnosis!
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