I was hypnotised. Here’s what it taught me about acting.
by Claire Stewart-Moore | Mar 30, 2016
Yes, you did read the heading correctly. A couple of weeks ago, I was hypnotised. And, while I can’t tell you WHY I was hypnotised (as the project is still confidential), I CAN tell you that it was an eye-opening experience.
Most people think that being under hypnosis is like being under anaesthetic – one minute you’re conscious and the next minute you wake up straddling a hat stand, wearing grandma’s underwear as a bolero. Therefore, it’s understandable that ninety-nine percent of the population are terrified of ever trying it. The idea of handing over your autonomy, dignity, and control to a complete stranger is preposterous! I know, because I was one of those terrified people . . .
Being a Virgo, I’m very protective over my physical independence and self-sufficiency (I can be a bit of a control freak), so I felt uncertain about the whole thing. However, I was in full support of the cause behind the experiment, so I decided to go in with a positive and open mind. Little did I know that it would be one of the most invigorating, liberating, and fun experiences I’ve ever had!
Here’s the real story about hypnosis: most people who are “under” don’t even know it, nor do they overly feel it. (This was a massive relief to a concerned Virgo!) Rather, it’s like a deep and uninhibited state of relaxation – like you’ve been lying on the beach for hours, soaking up the sun, without a care in the world. You’re totally conscious, totally present, and totally aware of your actions. It’s almost like you’ve moved to the passenger seat of your car, so you can still see the road and hear the radio, but you’re happy to let someone else drive you. It takes you to a solely reactive state of mind; an absolutely primitive state of being in which you can just exist.
As an actor, I found it to be amazingly educational. It was almost like an acting class, but instead of fading in and out of being present, I was present the entire time. If the hypnotist told me I was drunk, I was drunk. If he told me I was eight years old, I was eight years old. If he told me I was scared, I was scared. I cried on cue, laughed ferociously on cue, felt dizzy on cue; everything an
actor practices for YEARS to master. But, the funny thing was, I felt no different. I felt no magical shift; I felt no special superpowers. It was me – just me – all along.
I walked out, after the experiment, feeling light, floaty and free. But, most importantly, I was feeling empowered. As an actor, I had just indulged the most open, playful part of myself. A part of myself that I thought had died along with my childhood. A part of myself that I’ve been trying to get back, through endless acting and meditation classes . . . it’s always been inside me.
The hypnotist told us that, contrary to popular belief, everybody in the world can be hypnotised. The only thing stopping someone from being susceptible is a psychological block. Now, what’s the number one thing that stops actors from “dropping into the moment?” A psychological block.
There’s no difference between the way I was when I was under hypnosis and the way I am when I’m REALLY involved in a scene. It’s the same raw, impulsive state; the only thing that separates the two experiences is fear of failure. Actors drop in and out of the moment because they don’t want to embarrass themselves or flop. People under hypnosis don’t have that fear. It just doesn’t exist.
Undergoing hypnotism has taught me how ABSOLUTELY POSSIBLE it is to achieve a perfect state of concentration and presence in acting. I now have clearer and higher expectations of myself and what I can achieve.
If you’re ever given an opportunity to be hypnotised BY A PROFESSIONAL (and you feel comfortable and safe), I would highly recommend it. It doesn’t just show you your limits; it shows you that there AREN’T ANY.
Claire is a NIDA-trained actor, UTS-trained writer and YouTube vlogger. She is also a lover of dogs, green tea, popcorn, horror movies and ABBA tribute bands