Making our subconscious laugh
This time round, he won’t be making people quit smoking or face their phobias – instead, he will be delivering a show with the audience as his stars. Ramona Depares interviews Alan Bates ahead of an evening dedicated to comedy.
Although, perhaps, more associated with the serious business of helping people Alan Bates will be giving a comedy show.
How did you discover and get into hypnotism?
In 1980, while working on a cruise ship, I witnessed a Scottish illusionist induce a hypnotic trance on an American tourist. It was so impressive I needed to know more and this chance experience gave me my vocation in life.
An artificially-induced state of trance resembling sleep, characterised by heightened susceptibility to suggestion.
What makes a qualified hypnotist?
Quite simply, qualifications. However, energy, passion and charisma help. Years of hands-on experience is invaluable.
Can everyone be hypnotised?
Most people can be hypnotised, but only if they want to be. No means no. You cannot be hypnotised against your will or without you knowing.
Hypnotism has attracted a lot of bad press and, sometimes, for good reason – to what do you attribute this and what is your reply to sceptics?
Like every profession there are good and bad practitioners, same goes for doctors, police officers, therapists, etc. I pride myself in being a member of the Federation of Ethical Stage Hypnotists and a member of British Equity and that my shows are always ethical and respectable. To those sceptics and disbelievers who pass so many comments when I have appeared on TV, I would suggest they come to my live show and judge for themselves, after seeing what happens to people they hopefully know.
Some feel that stage hypnotism damages the image of the profession – as someone who does both comedic and therapeutic, what are your thoughts about this?
There is the profession of a comedy hypnotist and there is the profession of hypnotherapist. They are separate and take nothing away from the other. I have the ability, professionalism, qualifications and 35 years’ experience to do both ethically and with success. Not all hypnotists can do both.
Stage hypnotism is also a controversial topic and in the UK recently attracted a spate of protests. Is it dangerous at all – can it have long-lasting effects? Or, can you ‘remain under’?
There are no side effects with hypnosis at all. This is unlike side effects experienced with pharmaceuticals, for example, which people take every day. It is a misconception that a person can remain in a state of hypnosis. This is impossible. However, people suffering from epilepsy should not participate in hypnosis.
Do you believe that hypnotherapy can replace psychological counselling?
Hypnotherapy cannot and will not replace psychological counselling – but working side by side, in certain cases, can be invaluable. Hypnotherapy can also deliver faster results for certain issues. The long-lasting effects that I have produced in clients enables them to stop smoking, lose weight, free them from phobias, help them live a less stressful life and solve so many other issues which damage their quality of life.
What is the difference between a group session and a one-on-one – is one more effective than the other, and if yes, why?
The difference is the ability to focus on the individual client. For example, if a group of smokers come to see me then they are all attending for that particular purpose, to stop smoking. If a smoker comes to a one-to-one, there is no difference in the session. If a client attends for a speech impediment caused by some past trauma for example, then that client will require a confidential individual appointment to deal with the issues.
What is the audience at your upcoming show to expect?
The audience can expect a pure comedy show that will feature members of the audience as the hypnotised ‘stars’. I have written this show especially for Christmas and it will have the audience laughing out loud, without a doubt, as all my audiences do around the world. The sketches will be a mixture of the classics that have been seen on TV and new material.
How worried should those who attend be? Would they be put on the spot/risk divulging personal info, etc?
Worried? This is a live comedy show, not a trip to the dentist! This is a two-hour show where people experience something new and have a great time. Those lovely people who will be hypnotised and will take part in the show become the ‘stars’ of the show. They will never be asked any personal questions or made to do anything that would embarrass them. I have a passion for my work and guarantee that the audience always enjoy the shows and that the stars also have a good time. In fact, Eden Leisure is giving a lovely gift to these stars for being good sports at the end of the show.
Would the people you’re hypnotising on stage be conscious/be asleep? Would they remember what happened?
Those on stage will know what they are doing, but will not be able to stop themselves doing what is suggested to them under hypnosis. They will actually want to do it. I pride myself in producing a fun, cheeky show and never, ever would do anything to the stars to make them feel embarrassed afterwards. I can decide whether to make them forget or remember what they have done.
Have you ever had anything unexpected happen at any of your shows?
As the show is live and unrehearsed one can never predict how the volunteers react. During the show, there will be an interval, during which I give tasks to the stars to do and interact with the audience. This is a truly fun part of the show. Some time ago, I told one of the male stars of the show that he had lost his private parts and needed to ask for help to find them. He promptly left the theatre, went to the local police station and asked the duty sergeant whether anyone had handed in his private member to lost property.
Have you ever been hypnotised? If yes, by whom and how did it go?
I used self-hypnosis on myself once when I had a tooth abscess and the pain became unbearably on the weekend. I figured that if I can help my clients with pain relief then why should it not work for me? Inducing self- hypnosis is more complicated, but I managed it and was pain-free. When I visited my dentist he could not believe that I was not suffering due to the swelling in my mouth.
What has been your biggest success as a hypnotist?
It is difficult to measure success in both fields as I’ve had so many great experiences. In comedy, my invitation by Royal Appointment to the Sultan of Brunei to perform at a private party has to be up there with the best. With therapy, every single person I help and whose life I change thanks to my sessions is a great success for me. As Confucius reportedly says: find a job that you really love and you will never have to work again.
Alan Bates performs on Friday at 8pm at the Eden Cinemas, St Julian’s. Tickets are available online.