Stage hypnosis is the common form that hypnosis is presented and is usually where the most misconceptions of hypnosis arise. In this section I introduce the Hypnotism Act which defines what must and must not happen in a stage hypnosis session.
Hypnotism Act 1952
(and subsequent revisions)
In the UK, the premises has to be licensed with the local council so that hypnotism can be demonstrated or performed in the premises and the subject must be 21 or over. All stage hypnotists must carry Public Liability insurance and must be able to show that insurance. The venue must hold a Public Entertainment License, or the local council will charge for granting a license for the event.
There is also a list of prohibited actions according to the act:
- The performance shall be so conducted as not to be likely to cause offence to any person in the audience or any hypnotised subject
- the performance shall be so conducted as not to be likely to cause harm,anxiety or distress to any person in the audience or any hypnotised subject.In particular,the performance shall not include:
- Any suggestion involving the age regression of a subject (ie, asking the subject to revert to an earlier age in their life; this does not prohibit the hypnotist from asking subjects to act as if they were a child etc);
- Any suggestion that the subject has lost something (eg,a body part)which,if it really occurred,could cause considerable distress;
- Any demonstration in which the subject is suspended between supports (so-called “catalepsy”);
- The consumption of any harmful or noxious substance;
- Any demonstration of the power of hypnosis to block pain (eg, pushing a needle through the skin);
- The performance shall not include giving hypnotherapy or any other form of treatment;
Also, all hypnotic or post-hypnotic suggestions shall be completely removed from the minds of the subjects and the audience before the performance ends.
All hypnotised subjects shall have the suggestions removed both individually and collectively and the hypnotist shall confirm with each of them that they feel well and relaxed (the restriction on post-hypnotic suggestions does not prevent the hypnotist telling subjects that they will feel well and relaxed after the suggestions are removed);
A copy from the national archives of the Act can be found here