Regular hypnosis involves hypnosis inducing techniques and the subject is generally aware that he/she will be experiencing the process of hypnosis. However subliminal hypnosis means that people are hypnotizing people when they are asleep or through subliminal messages embedded in audio and video signals. While it is a fact that all hypnosis is in a way subliminal, the technique of inducing hypnosis subliminally is different from that of traditional hypnosis or self- hypnosis. In summary, hypnotizing someone subliminally means hypnotizing them without them being consciously aware of it.
A psychologist was faced with a problem of a client, Vikram, 46, who was suffering from many health problems and severe stress. On the insistence of his family members he agreed to see a psychologist but refused to believe he could get well. In fact he bluntly told the counselor that he didn’t want to get well and had also stopped taking medication.
The counselor then gave him a music track saying that this was just soothing music, however it had subliminal messages coded inside. Within two weeks the client told the counselor that he wished to get rid of his problems. He started his medication again and is quite happy listening to his ‘music’ track every day.
Another advantage of subliminal hypnosis is that a person can’t consciously understand the auto suggestions being given and thus coded subliminal messages can easily reach the subconscious. For example, if a shy person listens to a normal hypnosis track for overcoming his shyness he may consciously keep questioning its usefulness and significance. However subliminal hypnosis prevents him from doing so.
There have been many debates regarding the effectiveness of this technique. Subliminal hypnosis is based on the concept that the sub-conscious can pick up messages that the conscious cannot. Some psychologists argue that a subliminal message without any conscious awareness will fail to have any impact while others believe that the subconscious is capable of understanding on its own independent of conscious awareness.
Subliminal techniques have been widely used in the advertising world and have proved to be very effective. There have been attempts to ban subliminal advertising too.James Vicary caused a public outcry when he suggested in 1957 that people could be influenced by subliminal advertising. He suggested that a study in which moviegoers watching a film called Picnic were repeatedly shown 0.03-second subliminal cuts for Coca-Cola and Popcorn, increased onsite sales by 58% and 18%. Since the revelation of his test the effectiveness of hypnotic messages in advertising has been hotly contested.
A CIA review of hypnotic messages titled 'The Operational Potential of Subliminal Perception', claimed that 'Certain individuals can at certain times and under certain circumstances be influenced to act abnormally without awareness of the influence'. Because of this, subliminal cuts were all but banned in the US when the FCC ruled that the use of subliminal messages could result in the loss of a broadcast license.
Though subliminal messages used unethically in advertising may have its negative effects but we cannot rule out the fact that it is very important in the field of psychology.
The article is jointly written by Anu Goel ANU (Counselling Psychologist) and Aastha Sethi