Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Hypnosis and Suspension of Disbelief

Photo by Rick Hustead

I remember when I first learned about “Suspension of Disbelief” during my second-period Honors English class in high school. At some very deep level I think I always understood that not all stories or action in movies made sense; this concept answered a lot of questions about why people, including me, are willing to buy into something that does not make sense. But we believe it—or at least go along with it—nonetheless.

 Suspension of Disbelief entails intentionally (or unintentionally) ignoring glaring conflicts or holes in logic in a movie or book to continue enjoying the story without interruption. It doesn’t seem to matter that a key concept in the plot could literally stop the story in its tracks if we think too much about why it doesn’t make any sense. If we are invested in the characters and/or the story, we may choose to ignore those pesky details that threaten to derail our enjoyment of the plot. Indeed, at this point it is easy to just turn off (ignore) the Critical Area of the subconscious mind that keeps pointing out those problems and settle back into the action on the page or screen. Does this sound familiar? Hint: It is possible and common to drift into a trance-like state (hypnosis) when we are caught up in a good book, movie/television program, sports event, etc.

For example, when I watched the Season Four finale of Sherlock, the plot was so convoluted and intricate that I wondered how the episode made it out of the editing booth. So much of it made no sense (to me, anyway), even when the mystery was solved and the clues explained. Probably my being such a fan of the new incarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic sleuth and his cohort played a big part in ignoring the questions running through my mind throughout the story. It was also fascinating to watch Sherlock Holmes get taken in and thrown off guard by what was going on around him. (I think he was hypnotized, to be honest.)

I had less patience for the lapses in logic that I noticed in the movies Poltergeist (1981) and Gravity (2013). To be honest, I was completely on-board with just about every suspenseful and creepy part of the film. The protagonists sliding across the linoleum kitchen floor, chairs stacking themselves into a pyramid on the kitchen table, being sucked into a television screen, even that attack by a murderous oak tree… None of those scenes fazed me. The film was basically ruined for me, though, when the Freeling family did not evacuate their home the second they got their little girl back. Who would stay in that house after having to retrieve your young child from a malevolent spirit—a spirit that had taken her to another dimension, at that? For the record, I didn’t buy the idea that a modern housing tract could or would be knowingly built over a cemetery without someone involved with the project blowing a very loud whistle about that. My interest in Gravity drifted right away when Sandra Bullock’s character was caught in a debris storm in which pieces of a destroyed space station whizzed by her at 30,000 miles an hour without sustaining any injuries. Logically, wouldn’t exposure to this type of catastrophe be fatal? I would have thought so, anyway.

The reason why some stories “work” for some people and not others has a lot to do with the viewer’s or reader’s willingness to suspend disbelief when necessary to move the plot along. The second something no longer makes sense or challenges an existing belief system, however, the magic is lost and the dreamlike state is broken. So long as the Critical Area of the subconscious mind is actively processing, questioning and discarding those message units, you are unlikely to fall for that theatrical magic. The instant it perceives this information as a threat to your existing Subconscious Mental Script or belief system(s), as the late actor, Bill Paxton, famously said, it’s “Game Over” and back to disbelieving reality you will go.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.
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