One of the world’s leading hypnotists, Peter Powers, will be manipulating the minds of locals at Mounties club at Mount Prtichard on October 20.
He said he was looking forward to his Sydney shows because, apparently, there’s never a shortage of volunteers.
“Per head in the audience there are a greater proportion in Sydney than anywhere else I perform. There could be 60 or more. I put it down to your adventurous spirit,” he said.
No wonder we’re intrigued – the man holds world records for the fastest hypnotic induction and the world's longest hypnotic sleep.
In therapeutic media experiments, he’s claimed to be able to cure smoking, fear of heights, fear of spiders and snakes, fear of needles, providing painless dentistry and childbirth (without anaesthesia) and inducing sexual arousal and climax in a female subject in a televised experiment.
He said the job certainly comes with strange requests.
“I get requests from couples and people asking me ‘Can you hypnotise my partner because I want this?’ or ‘Can you improve my partner’s sexual performance?’ but that’s the wrong approach – it’s selfish. Can hypnosis improve your love life? Yes, but only if you come to me with the right approach.”
But he said along with some bizarre requests, there’s always an element of surprise to a show.
Once he hypnotised a group and made them believe they were on fire. “During our routine there were men hopping up and down because I told them their willies were on fire. And I’d ask them ‘Do you want some water?’ So I’d pass them a glass and they often splash their pants with water, which is quite funny.
“One time I had to attend to something on stage and suddenly I heard a loud scream. One of the guys had actually flopped, er, something into their glass on stage. It was very funny – I just couldn’t believe it because I’d done that routine hundreds of times and that’d never happened.”
How did he become a hypnotist? It happened by accident after he hypnotised his brother when they were children. “I was fascinated by mind manipulation and the mental side of hypnotism I saw on TV. When I was 12 my younger brother and I watched a movie where a man hypnotised a woman and we got our father’s pocket watch to try and hypnotise each other, just pretending.
“I repeated some of the things we’d heard on TV, but when my brother closed his eyes and I saw his appearance change and his facial muscles relax, I thought it was a bit strange. So I clapped my hands and he almost jumped out of his skin. He was startled, emotional and disoriented.
That’s when I realised I’d hypnotised him and so began an obsession.
“Next day I went to the library and read lots of books and practised on anyone who’d let me.”
He met his wife when hypnotising her in one of his shows.
“That was many years ago, in 1985. She came to a show before we were an item. I spotted her in the audience and thought ‘I like the look of her’. She asked me if I could help her with something for therapeutic purposes and I agreed. Then she approached me afterwards with questions. I performed at the venue each week and things blossomed.”
There are many misconceptions that come with the job.
“I’m not in the magic field at all, magic is about illusion and deception. You know what magicians do is a trick but with hypnosis, what you see is real so there’s a huge difference.
“Hypnosis is using what facilities you have and the natural aspects in your mind. You’re not setting out to control someone’s mind.”
He said the hypnotic state was similar to some states achieved by meditation and yoga. “Once I compared reaching a state through meditation and hypnosis to a yoga teacher. Let’s just say she didn’t agree.
“And I don’t know too much about yoga but that’s what I’ve experienced. If it’s for therapeutic reasons, not on stage, you can use progressive relaxation and visualisation to reach a certain state. The idea to hypnotise someone is to subdue the critical part of the conscious mind.
“If I get you to concentrate on something and you focus hard on it I can plant subtle suggestions into your subconscious without you filtering them and that’s how it works. Liike advertising.”
Success depends on the subject. “The kind of people who are more sensitive to it than others are those who might get queasy when vomit is mentioned at the dinner table or someone in a car with a fear of going around bends and bumps – they have greater sensitivity and imagination, so they make greater subjects.”
He said when people reach a state of hypnosis, everything seems to make sense to the subject at the time and it feels like they’re dreaming.
And although he can often prove skeptics wrong, he said hypnosis doesn’t work on everyone.
“There are barriers. For example, if I reminded someone of their mean uncle I might now be able to hypnotise them. It also depends on the setting and methods used.
“People who bite their nails would be easier to hypnotise using the nervous method. But laidback people are difficult to hypnotise using the nervous method so you’d have to use progressive relaxation.