Over the past quarter century—and it sounds ridiculous when I put it that way—I’ve spent about a million hours thinking, fantasizing, reading, and talking about hypnosis, but I’ve spent maybe a couple hours doing it.

At Charmed! this past weekend, I learned a lot. And the reason I learned a lot was not only having excellent teachers explain and demonstrate, but I also got to practice a bit myself. And I practiced hypnotizing someone (and being hypnotized in turn) for maybe all of twenty minutes, but it reset my viewpoint on how this fascinating little trick that I’m obsessed with works.

I’m a sucker for the hypnosis tropes: the impractical spinning pinwheel, the swinging watch, the hand passes. Catalepsy, relaxation, drowsiness, glazed eyes, “going deeper”, all that stuff. What occurs to me is that all the language, the way we speak about hypnosis, that’s all metaphor for what actually occurs. As far as I have heard, read, and observed, there is no “depth”, not really, no objective scale on which a person is 109 suggestibles at this point, but then you tell them to imagine walking down a staircase and now they’re 476 suggestibles. And they need to be at least 612 suggestibles before they can experience the sensation of orgasm via suggestion, so.

Nah. What was the most interesting to me was to learn, after performing a confusion induction on1 my practice buddy, that they told me my language about following my watch downwards didn’t really work for them, because in their mind, even as they focused more intently on my watch, the other things I was encouraging them to let go weren’t sinking or rising, but instead were dispersing like mist, or like particles flung outward by the Big Bang—they were getting further away, not “deeper”.

It seems what’s more important than a rigidly codified body of “hypnotic language” is understanding how the person on the other side of your pocketwatch thinks; the metaphors they use to model their unique experience of trance.

Knowing this, and intending to keep practicing it, I feel a lot less like an anxious magician’s apprentice trying to remember the manual, and a lot more like a collaborator working with my partner to forge a particular type of connection.

And, with all due respect to my kinky fantasies about mind control, that’s the most compelling reason to play with hypnosis I’ve come across yet.

  1. And would it not perhaps be more appropriate to say I performed it for