With tongue firmly planted in his cheek Peter Powers calls his latest tour the “Naughty, Naughty Hypnoshow”.
“I think I gave it that title because it’s mischievous … a little bit edgy, but not filthy,” he says. Some have wanted him to call it an adult show, but he believes that “might attract the wrong kind of people”.
This cheeky hypnotist decides on the night how far he can “push it” with his audience. “I don’t try to make them into someone else, or have them be terrified or feel coerced, otherwise they may not be able to cooperate.”
He usually does an experiment to break the ice so the audience knows they can trust this him. “Of course you will often get those who are out to prove they can’t be hypnotised. I see people winking at their friends. What people aren’t told about the process of hypnosis is if they cooperate they will be able to be hypnotised. That’s why I prefer people to volunteer [as subjects]. No one likes to believe they are susceptible. They will come up with a justification because they do not want to admit to a weakness.”
One of the things Powers objects to is when a hypnotherapist doesn’t tell people what to expect. “If I am with a group I tell them, you will not think you are hypnotised.”
Powers says therapeutic hypnosis patients are more cooperative because they are motivated. “Concentration is very important. A lot of people associate it with relaxation, and therapeutic hypnosis is based on progressive relaxation – you turn the lights down, light candles, play soothing music.
“On the stage it’s based on nervousness. People who show a little bit of fear or their hands are sweaty or cold, I try to make them even more nervous. I use their physical discomfort which ties up the critical factor and makes it dormant.”
His worst moment on stage was when he told a group they’d won the lottery. “I asked them what they were going to buy, one guy took the microphone off me, walked up to his boss, gave him a serve, and resigned.”
One of his funniest segments is when has two guys down to their underwear, but tells them they are dressed normally. “l convince one the other person is naked and vice versa. One will say ‘you are stupid you’ve got no clothes on’ and they will argue the point. Later I get them to say what they think the other is wearing. On this one occasion, one said ‘he is dressed like Elvis’, and his friend said ‘oh he’s a bunny rabbit’.
“If you can’t make somebody do something they wouldn’t normally do what’s the point. The comedy comes from them realising it.” He says Milton Erickson came up with the premise and it’s a myth that’s stuck.
Powers estimates he has hypnotised more than 50,000 people, so I guess he knows what he is talking about.