Monday, August 7, 2017

Masters of Suggestibility

(This blog was originally posted on May 2, 2014)

Photo by Jennifer Berkowitz

Have you ever attended a really good concert? Rock, pop, country—it really doesn’t matter what the genre happens to be—have a lot in common: The singer(s) and other band members engage the audience through their music and banter; and the audience, which typically comprises devoted fans wearing T-shirts or hats with the performers’ logo, knows every lyric to every song they ever wrote. There is always plenty of activity going on, on-stage: musicians or back-up entertainers are dancing, lights are flashing; there are changes of costume and/or scenery. There may also be a video screen projecting images or scenes from a previous gig to look at and further overload the audience with an impossible number of visual and auditory stimuli (sensory overload). By the time the band is halfway through the first song, the audience is mesmerized and the singer(s) have become masters of their fans’ suggestibility.

Several years ago, my friends and I experienced one of the best and, for me, most interesting concerts I have ever been to. (I will get to that in a minute.) I think that anybody who has ever attended a Bon Jovi concert would agree that this band puts on an incredibly entertaining, rocking show. They went through a catalog of about 20 songs, practically nonstop, for two hours. Even when lead singer Jon Bon Jovi—who is one of the most energetic and charismatic performers I have ever seen—disappeared offstage for a couple of minutes to drink some water and change clothes, the band rocked on loudly and exuberantly until he popped back into the spotlight and continued to work the audience. Most if not every other person at Staples Center that night was a devoted fan of the band and knew all of the lyrics to their songs. All Bon Jovi had to do was hold his microphone out at the audience and thousands of voices would automatically sing along with him.

But by 11 p.m. or so, the night was wearing on, and everyone’s ears were probably buzzing from the loud noise. Exhaustion was starting to set in. After all, most of the fans in this audience were in their late-forties or fifties, if not older. We had been at work all day and we still faced a long drive back to wherever we lived so we could get to bed and then get up early to start another workday, the next morning. Meanwhile, the band was still going strong and cranking out one song after another. Bon Jovi must have felt the reduced energy in his audience because this is when he suddenly encouraged everyone to get up and sing and dance with the music. “I still have a whole catalog of songs in my head to go through!” he told us. Of course, the revelry started up again and we continued to rock on until the concert was over.

This was when the concert became truly interesting to me in terms of being able to observe behavior and suggestibility. I was fascinated to witness and impressed to actually experience the hypnotic modalities I have studied, hard at work on everyone at the Staples Center that night. Here was a very charismatic and talented band whose lead singer was literally telling thousands of people what to sing or say or do without really ever having to issue a direct instruction to the audience. There was no question that Jon Bon Jovi was running this show, because he was standing/walking/dancing around the stage (special place or authority), wearing either his trademark jacket emblazoned with the stars and stripes motif or leather vest (special clothes or authority) and singing those Billboard hit songs (special words or doctrine) or reminiscing about highlights of the band’s storied career. Bon Jovi only had to point his microphone and those of us with emotional suggestibility immediately got the inference: he wanted us to sing along with him! (So we did.) Later on, when he specifically told (instructed) his audience that he wanted us to continue to enjoy the music we obliged and stood to sing and dance some more (physical suggestibility) until the gig was over.

Hmm… I wonder if I was hypnotized?

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
© 2017