Jason Linetts been hypnotizing people for five years now, but like many in his field, he doesnt keep a pocket watch handy in his Alexandria office.
I dont have the swinging watches and I dont say, Look into my eyes, youre getting sleepy, he said Monday, the day before the seventh annual World Hypnotism Day a global event held to dispel the myths surrounding the practice.
Hypnotism isnt what we see on TV or in movies, that is very different from what it actually is, said Linett, an Alexandria hypnotist. [Hypnotism] is very often portrayed as struggle of power or commanding another person. In truth its very natural, very open. In most cases somebody is coming to see me to lose weight or quit smoking.
Far from the stages of Las Vegas or the vaudevillian shows of old, Linett helps clients into a trance-like state more like daydreaming than sleeping with a series of tasks designed to get the conscious mind out of the way. Then Linett talks to the subconscious mind about giving up old fears or bad habits.
He doesnt tell them to do anything. Whether the individual changes their ways is ultimately up to them, Linett said.
If its somebody who wants to quit smoking, its not necessarily that theyre dropping the cigarettes, which they are, but that theyre gaining control over their own life, he said. Think about somebody who has achieved that, what else can they do?
But the word hypnotism carries a lot of baggage, dating back to the days of George Du Mauriers novel of Svengalis use of the technique to imprison and manipulate a young woman. Tom Nicoli, the practitioner who founded and still organizes World Hypnotism Day, believes people are beginning to separate fact from the fictional characterization of the technique.
When youre in a daydream state youre also in a hypnotic state, so its a natural state youre in all day long, Nicoli said. People think Will I wake up? Well, youre not asleep. Its the same thing as daydreaming; you have no loss of control. All hypnotism is self hypnotism you must be a willing participant.
The idea that someone else could use hypnotism to control an individual against his or her will is the most pervasive misperception Nicoli deals with, he said. And it may be the reason so many hypnotists have moved away from that title while using the same methods to help people struggling with phobias, stress and pain.
There are many people using this process, calling it positive thinking or power of the mind, when its still hypnosis, he said. Its just a word and people have been so misdirected.
Local hypnotherapist Pamela Prevar compared a session in her Old Town office to fixing a computer virus. Its all about reminding a clients mind why they want to change for the better, she said.
Forget Hollywood, we talk about some realistic step you can take, but you have to take the step, Prevar said. Its something that you have to want to do. For most people it works very well.
For Linett, helping people overcome their phobias is the best part of the job. Fear of spiders or heights likely stem from upsetting childhood experiences, he said, long since forgotten but for the subconscious mind.
He hopes World Hypnotism Day will open eyes similarly closed by the stigma attached to the word.
Its been around in some form forever, Linett said. Its a natural ability we have.