Earlier today I was talking to someone who asked me whether it’s possible to be hypnotized against your will. Or more accurately, she claimed that she couldn’t be.
So can you be hypnotized against your will? The short answer is that yes, you can. But it’s not quite as simple as that. In order to be hypnotized against your will, it’s necessary that you can’t see what the hypnotist is doing and that on some level you agree with it. This means that most of the time, the answer is that you can’t be hypnotized against your will. In this article, we’ll go over exactly what all of that means, and why you don’t have to fear it.
What is hypnosis
If we want to talk about whether you can be hypnotized against your will, the very first thing we need to do is define what we mean by hypnosis.
You see, the definition of hypnosis that most people carry around in their heads doesn’t match reality. That is, we think that hypnosis is something that it isn’t.
If you ask the average person in the street what hypnosis is, their definition will typically include things like people being zoned out and mind control.
Neither of these is necessary for hypnosis.
So what is hypnosis?
In the simplest terms, hypnosis is a natural state that everyone enters into every day. When we’re in hypnosis, we can more easily learn and take onboard new information. Most of the skill of the hypnotist lies in knowing how to guide someone into getting out of their own way so that they can do that.
When we hypnotize someone, we are essentially inviting them to put aside part of what they know to be true, so that they can consider new possibilities. They then get to choose whether or not to adopt those new possibilities.
This is about as far from the common definition of mind control as it’s possible to be.
Read more: How Does Hypnosis Work?
What is your will
By and large, people don’t like to be controlled. We like to have a certain sense of agency. We like to know that we’re in control of our own actions, and if possible, our own outcomes.
This drive to be in control of our own destiny is so strong that Steven Reiss includes it in at least three of his 16 core motivational drivers. These motivational drivers are what make us do everything that we do. Included amongst them are power, vengeance and independence, all of which have elements of us being the agents of our own control.
So what do we mean by the phrase against your will?
In common parlance, what we really mean is that someone has taken that control away from us. When we say that something is against our will, what we mean is that someone else was in control.
What’s needed to hypnotize someone against their will
The other day I fired up my streaming provider to take a break, and a preview for the movie Mortal Engines appeared. I watched the preview, and then promptly watched the movie. It was exactly my type of movie (yes, I have an awesome taste in movies), and so I mentioned it to a couple of my friends. They then proceeded to watch the movie.
It sounds like an everyday happening, right?
Here’s the thing: Prior to that preview, I had no idea the movie even existed. And yet within a few seconds, I was able to decide to invest a couple of hours of my time to watch it.
In our modern world, this sort of thing happens to almost everyone virtually all of the time.
Now there’s some interesting stuff going on here.
That process itself was hypnotic.
The entire thing is what’s known as a marketing funnel. In this case, I had already paid for the service, so the task of the marketers is to get people to watch stuff that they’ll enjoy. When they do this, people value the service, and keep on paying for it.
This is essential if you have a business and want it to thrive.
And in a sense, I was hypnotized against my will to do what they wanted.
Now you might be thinking so what? In this case, it’s a fairly benign thing. I literally fired up the app so that I could find something to watch, and then watch it. But here’s the thing: most of the time, those previews don’t work on me. They show me a preview, and I never watch the thing in the preview.
But something about that one caused me to pause. I would be lying if I said it was anything other than the concept of giant cities on wheels eating each other.
So what’s needed to hypnotize someone against their will?
They have to perceive it as being good
You’ll notice that in the above example, the hypnosis served my purpose. So the first thing that’s needed to hypnotize someone against their will is that it has to be perceived as being of benefit to them.
A certain portion of people reading this article probably went and looked up Mortal Engines as soon as I mentioned it. A further portion went and looked it up when I mentioned that it was about giant cities on wheels eating each other. These are both examples of Steven Reiss’ curiosity driver in action.
If that’s you, going and looking up that movie served your purpose.
Where this all gets interesting is when we consider what kinds of things we tend to perceive as being beneficial.
Have you ever been to what might be referred to as a fast food restaurant? In that case, the lines are a bit more blurred.
Something drove you to go there. And it definitely wasn’t that you thought the food would be good for you, because everyone knows that fast food is generally bad for us. Fast food still feeds us. It’s just not as good for us as the healthier options.
Even when one part of something is bad for us, the overall experience can still be perceived as good.
Maybe we just need to keep the kids happy.
Perhaps we’re in a strange country and even though we know that the fast food is bad for us, it’s a known quantity. We don’t know how we’ll react to the local food there.
There are a myriad of reasons that can lead to us perceiving in the moment that something is the best choice right now.
When a hypnotist uses their skill to shape our reality, it’s possible to cause people to do things that they did not previously intend. So long as they perceive those things as being good for them in some way.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve not said that something has to be good for someone. They just have to think it is.
It helps if they can’t see the hypnosis
The second thing that helps a lot when hypnotizing people against their will is when they don’t know that it’s happening.
This one is hopefully a truism. If someone doesn’t know that something is happening, it’s very difficult for them to resist it.
Let’s go back to the example of the preview for Mortal Engines for a moment. Many people who watched it probably clicked through and watched the movie. Other than a handful of hypnotists, almost no-one would realize that they were being hypnotized.
This is very helpful because if most people knew how much they were being manipulated, they’d object strongly and do the opposite.
How to hypnotize someone without them knowing
So how do you hypnotize someone without them knowing?
It’s actually quite easy.
The first thing is you have to understand what it is that they are looking for. What’s their immediate want?
In the case of the movie I mentioned earlier, my immediate want was entertainment and a way to wind down. All they had to do was put something in front of me and make it look like something I might enjoy.
There are any number of ways you can do this. Typically we begin with building rapport. The easiest way to do this is by building an agreement frame with your subject.
When you build rapport in this way, you have the opportunity to mine your subject for information. Or to put it another way, you can easily find out what they’re looking for.
This is handy, since for the next step you have to make sure that whatever you’re doing will be perceived as beneficial. The movie matched my expectations, so I kept watching it. If it had turned out to be something completely different, I probably would have stopped watching.
When you’re hypnotizing someone without them knowing about it, the important thing here is that you present things to them in such a way that it makes it obvious to them that they’ll get more of what they want.
The more you can make the outcome appear beneficial to them, the more easily you can guide them into hypnosis.
Now it probably sounds like we’re not really hypnotizing someone against their will.
This is because in a sense, we’re not.
What we’re really doing is presenting them with an opportunity that they might previously have been unaware of.
And we’re doing it in such a way that we avoid triggering their conscious defense mechanisms.
When we build rapport, we’re putting ourselves into the position where we’re on their side.
And when we show them how to get something they want, we’re shaping their will.
If you look around the internet, you’ll quickly find lots and lots and lots of posts where people claim you cannot hypnotize someone to do something against their will. What they all neglect to mention is that it’s very easy to simply modify their will.
When you make the steps small enough, the extent to which someone’s will can be modified can be enormous.
Is it likely that someone can hypnotize you against your will?
Hopefully it’s clear by now that it’s not only possible, but quite straightforward to hypnotize someone against their will.
So long as they think it’s in their interests for it to happen.
How likely is it that someone will actually do this?
In today’s world, hypnosis is around us all the time.
It’s embedded into advertising. It’s embedded into movies and TV shows. It’s embedded in the books that we read and the computer games that we play.
The issue isn’t whether someone can hypnotize you against your will. The issue is whether someone can hypnotize you to do something that’s bad for you.
So first, it’s easy to hypnotize people to do stuff that’s in their interests. If your streaming provider happens to convince you to watch their latest show, and you love it, you’re probably glad that they did.
Where it becomes shadier is when people are being hypnotized to do things that are not in their interests.
This happens too.
But there’s some good news.
It’s way harder to make someone do something against their interests.
It still happens.
So be on the lookout.
Whenever something unusual comes up, just take a moment and ask yourself whether it’s in your interests.
How to defend yourself against being hypnotized against your will
When it comes down to it, if a skilled hypnotist is trying to hypnotize you against your will, you have only two defenses.
First, you can simply walk away. If you can’t see or hear them, they can’t do anything to you.
The problem with that is that you have to be able to spot it first. If they’re skilled, you probably won’t be able to do that.
Which brings us to the second option. If someone is trying to hypnotize you, there’s a way that you can overcome most things they might try to do: Bring yourself out of hypnosis.
The way that this works is that when you’ve practiced self-hypnosis enough, you’ll find that you can tell when you’re hypnotized and when you’re not. So if someone hypnotizes you against your will, you can notice yourself going into hypnosis even if you don’t know why.
And since part of the skill of self-hypnosis is being able to move yourself in and out of hypnosis at will, all you have to do at that point is bring yourself back out again.
Best of all, self-hypnosis is easy to do.
If that sounds like something you might be interested in, there’s a simple self-hypnosis process in this article: Can You Hypnotize Yourself? Easy Self-Hypnosis