Howie Mandel Hypnotized to Non-Consensually Shake Hands

A lot of folks have been asking me about this video as quite a few hypnotists have nothing but praise for Chris Jones and his hypnosis act on America’s Got Talent in which he hypnotizes Howie Mandel and tells him that his co-judges are wearing very thin latex gloves and he can shake their hands (nope, the judges are NOT wearing gloves). Mandel is rather famous for being a germaphobe – he is normally terrified of touching folks and will not do it. He suffers from OCD and has been in treatment to manage it for years. So, to see Jones get Mandel to shake folks’ hands seems a minor miracle and it is of sorts.

However, others are full on freaked out by how what Jones did was a violation of trust and of Mandel’s person.

I do admit that when I first saw the clip above, I was a bit troubled by the gag as he didn’t ask Mandel’s permission to go there and I was concerned that since Mandel is rather famous for germaphobia and since this was simple suggestion that even if it worked (and it very well could have failed as cognitive dissonance would have been running high) that it could have resulted in an abreaction or worse.

At 0:51-1:00, Mandel makes it clear he does not want to shake hands and specifically says “anything but my hands.”

I do like the induction, I’ve done similar inductions with folks in their first time as well (although I typically do not with a regression patter – btw, regression patter like that is perfectly legal in the US, it is actually illegal in some countries for stage hypnosis, so watch out with that).

I did think the “disclaimer” telling people to leave if they didn’t want to be hypnotized was a bit much. How about just telling them not to follow the hypnotic directions?

We do see a woman in the audience who has followed into hypnosis at 2:19, obviously her companions love it. I do wish they had shown some follow up with her (obviously, the production staff knew she was there and I’ve no doubts she was watched after). Such fallout suggestion happens all the time and is typically not an issue. Many stage hypnotists will even ask such folks if they’d like to join the fun on stage or be emerged or just continue zoning out safely and comfortably.

Having said all this, I do think Jones is a very competent hypnotist and it is very clear he is attempting to take care of Mandel and be respectful within the parameters of the gag he has planned out. I believe he is an ethical and competent hypnotist, it is just that I personally feel uncomfortable with the specific nature of this particular gag.

It turns out that the gag worked great and the co-hosts shook Mandel’s unprotected hand and were obviously stunned that they were doing so. However, it also turns out that Mandel felt violated by the act and that the hypnotist had taken unfair advantage his trust. It also turns out that Mandel had to seek out therapy sessions to deal with his negative feelings toward the experience. Here he is in an intereview where he talks about the experience:

Note, Mandel is fine now and the thrust of the interview was about how it was in fact a very real experience. Worth the listen for his perception of the events.

I have absolutely NO doubt that many hypnotists will see a LOT more clients as part of the fallout from this show. It is a powerful demonstration of hypnosis (particularly since Howie Mandel is more than a whole lot famous for having issues with people touching him without protection). Even when he came out that he didn’t have prior knowledge that the hypnosis would involve touching folks, Mandel stated that in the end his therapist helped him understand it as a positive thing and in at least one interview (don’t have a link so didn’t include it in the videos on this post) he said he wish the hypnotist would have made it permanent (although, I strongly suggest that would have been an awful therapeutic intervention as it simply masks symptoms and is an odd way for someone to go through life). Even when suggesting he was upset, Mandel was NOT blaming the hypnosis but was amazed at the positive potential of hypnosis.

I posted this because I was personally uncomfortable with using a person’s known issue as a bit of entertainment without that person’s permission and without genuinely helping the person with that issue. Jones wanted something he knew would shock and that certainly fit the bill and it demonstrated that he can hypnotize and that hypnosis can achieve some astounding things but my reservation was on the specific context. I in no way am critizing stage hypnosis (I have done stage shows for years and will continue to do so).

Here’s discussion that includes Mel B‘s comments about her experience of the event as well:

Now, I don’t know Chris but have heard good things about his work.

However, on the issue of full informed consent, this one fails. As anyone who knows me knows, I advocate some pretty non-vanilla areas of hypnosis. However, even in the most alternative materials, I strongly advocate for informed consent and openness with one’s trance partner and of keeping things safe, sane, and consensual. I would strongly suggest that if one wants a germaphobe to behave against their nature (a worthwhile goal) then one should get permission to do so prior to moving forward. You don’t stick your penis in someone’s vagina without permission, so it’s a good idea to get permission before sticking your suggestions into their unconscious. Likewise, keep the suggestions appropriate to your trance partner’s comfort levels. If they want some therapy regarding something, great. If not, then stick to the parameters of the agreed upon types of suggestion. Just because you’ve got the keys to the unconscious, it doesn’t mean you should feel you have carte blanche to do whatever you want with ’em.

In my rather less than humble opinion.

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