Ethics Cautions, and Opportunities
Now that we’ve discussed the “how” of Hypnosis, let’s discuss the realities and their ramifications.
We’re talking about fucking around with what is in someone’s subconscious. Changing the programming that was solidified between ages 8-14, and designed to be difficult to change. Isn’t that bad? Shouldn’t we leave that alone?
Physical Play is Okay…but Don’t Change anyone
Obviously there is some stigma and fear associated with “mind control” and “hypnosis” in the kink world. It is the same as the stigma associated with breath control, blood, or any other “extreme” kink. To the player whose total experience is to be flogged and get an endorphin high, this doesn’t seem like a healthy part of play.
A few years ago, the players who wanted a little light flogging and were aghast at anything that was not the “standard scene” seemed to be a strong majority. This was the time period when M/s practitioners feared marginalization or exclusion by the rest of the kink community.
Now of course that’s changing. M/s is increasingly common and is seen as a healthy lifestyle extension of scene power dynamics, not some freakish thing for people who read too much fiction.
The YKINOK (Your Kink is Not Okay) crowd has slowly lost its voice since the turn of the century and while I am sure there are places it remains strong, in the major national and international forums where kink is discussed, there is broad acceptance of individual choice.
I read a story recently on Literotica which in many ways frightened me, not the least because I think ten years ago I might have found it interesting. It depicted a girl who was obsessed with dark sexuality and self destruction, who came to an “enlightened” Master. Her enlightened Master manged to completely “change” her personality.
Being an “enlightened” sort of course he didn’t do much in the way of what we would identify as effective mind control. He alternated fairly conventional punishments (which he clearly enjoyed and considered superior to her kink because they were “less dangerous,” humiliation and bathroom control (which he apparently just thought was hot), and talking nice. At the end of a few months, with a hard scene, voila her personality changed and remained okay forever after. The author makes sure to flash forward and tell himself this as if…possibly…he is reassuring himself.
I wonder how many Dominants have started down that primrose path with a girl who wanted help, and simply not been able to understand why, somewhere in the middle, it took a detour into a lack of control and a lack of ability to cause change that they could not fully understand.
The 800lb Gorilla 1
(1) Do not change weight of gorilla in phrase, “800-lb gorilla in the room.” Correct weight is 800 lbs. DO NOT CHANGE GORILLA’S WEIGHT! – Fake AP Stylebook, 2009
I think with hypnosis and kink we need to look at the 800lb Gorilla in the room, which is nonconsent.
The underpinning of both SSC and RACK is “consent.” And purists who like black and white lines and hate grey like to enshrine that word and…get very upset when anything blurs a clean definition.
Which…”mind control” does. What if someone can freely give consent. But…they have been influenced so heavily that the consent that they give is to something they would not have consented to before the influence?
There is the ugly spectre of Svengali turning Trilby into a robot-autonomaton, who may give consent to things she ought not – If your girl didn’t like sucking cock before, and she now goes down on you like a French whore at every chance, because you changed her mind so that she wants to. Is the act consensual?
At the heart of this issued lies the stark concern that a Dominant can use hypnosis to
a) Make a bad or neglectful relationship seem good, so that a submissive stays when they should leave
b) Make unreasonable levels of control or cruelty seem reasonable
c) Erode the willpower of the submissive and increase their own control, creating an abusive situation.
I think we need to be honest and recognize that when relationships in the community go bad “abuser” is one of the first and most frequently hurled epithets. Often because there are elements of truth in it. Much of WIITWD is consenting to give or receive treatment that in the vanilla world is considered abusive. Vanilla people don’t have to answer the question “well sure he pissed in your mouth, but was that abusive or just play?”
So the question can be made simpler. In BDSM we use many techniques and toys to coerce behavior. We use cuffs to keep someone from moving away when we hit them. We use hoods to take away their sight and make them suggestible, disorienting them. We already fuck with people’s heads in an extreme fashion.
Is Hypnosis an “atom bomb” a technique so powerful that it must be given some sort of special status, and kept off limits. A weapon so serious that civilized states won’t consider its use even when they will drop 10,000 lbs of ordnance that flatten buildings and incinerate civilians? Is it “special.”
In regards to Training and Hypnosis, I’m going discuss this on three axis.
Hypnosis is nothing special. All of us use suggestibility all the time to influence human behaviors. Churches, Schools, Radio Advertisers and other institutions use hypnotic modalities that are aimed at bypassing Critical Area of the Mind in order to put information into Modern Memory. Hypnosis is, if anything, more controlled and honest.
It should be readily apparent by now that the vast majority of BDSM scenes involve some level of hypnosis. Impact play scenes may especially tend to introduce a hypnotic modality by overloading the mind with message units from the body.
There is a stigma attached to “doing it deliberately,” even if every Radio Advertiser and morning Drive-Time Jock is doing it deliberately and with full knowledge of the effect. Because it is not called “hypnosis” and they do not admit to playing with the subconscious mind.
Many individuals may find Control through Hypnosis unethical, even though their impact play scenes and whispered suggestions may be accomplishing precisely the same end, through precisely the same mental mechanisms.
Hypnosis is a tool for making rapid changes to the subconscious mind. It is one of the few effective tools that really can break down inhibitions and prejudices. However…you can’t change a person’s basic beliefs and inclinations. You can modify, and sculpt…but your power to do this grows in direct proportion to their consensual involvement.
Hypnosis has somewhat of a fail-safe switch. Because few Hypnotists want to lose or abuse subjects there is surprisingly little research into what happens when a Hypnotist violates the boundaries and forces the Critical Area of the Mind to break state and “Safeword” by abreacting.
But in general, we think that the more than happens, the less responsive the subject is to that hypnotist. Just as, if you caused a bottom to “red” every five minutes, they might not wanna do another scene with you. Hypnotism is about the hypnotist and subject working together to open the Critical Area of the Mind. If that consent is withdrawn, then we don’t get much effect.
There is not much anecdotal evidence on what happens if you have someone under your control and try to abusively force changes into their subconscious that they do not wish to accept. The reason for this is simple. We know about abreactions because ethical hypnotists occasionally hit “buried land mines” they didn’t know about, and withdraw to discuss them. No ethical hypnotist has tried to force a subject to accept something that was strongly opposed to their basic will.
Hypnosis after initial induction is far more effective if it is discussed. There is the potential for implanting secret changes and post hypnotic suggestions, but…the more they are consciously understood the more effective they will be. It is also important to understand that the Critical Area of the Mind is not completely turned off. Our teaching indicates that the Subconscious will not accept a post hypnotic suggestion that is truly damaging or dangerous.
That said, I think it is somewhat “special.” It provides a direct path to the subconscious and allows change to happen quickly and cleanly that might take months through standard pain/pleasure reward/penalty behavior modification techniques. It is the bullwhip of the world of mental BDSM…a toy that even the strongest person cannot easily resist. But like the bullwhip it is also capable of a great degree of subtlety and flexibility and is a tool with a great range of useful functions.
The question is, “what is our goal.” The classic dyanmic is a partner who wants to be less inhibited about their kink, or to feel more controlled. And we already do things which influence their subconscious mind to make that happen. Our goal is not to subvert them or do things they do not want, but rather to work with them on a shared wish for change.
I think this is an area where we have to be realistic and realize that not every top is good, or unselfish, or foward-thinking, but play is going to occur anyway, and people for all their failings and foibles do move forward and live rewarding lives.
Not every goal is going to be high minded. The guy who wants his girl to suck cock more aggressively while she’s indifferent to it isn’t exactly seeking to improve her life and enrich her spiritually. He just wants to cum in her mouth more. On the other hand there is presumably
That said, it should be taken as seriously as any other Top/Bottom play. No responsible Top would lie to the bottom about basic safety information or do things to make them less happy and safe in their daily life.
The same rule applies to hypnosis. Because it is a powerful tool for modifying reactions and behavior, it is something that should not be taken lightly.
Some Suggested Guidelines
While hypnosis can be done as a partnership (pathworkings, self-hypnosis, shared visualization, and some methods of clinical hypnosis) in erotic hypnosis the hypnotists tends to assert Control over the subject…just as a Dominant must establish control over a submissive.
The issue of increasing psychological dependence is a difficult one. Much of D/s Training revolves around the dependence of the submissive on the Dominant, often taking the role of a surrogate parent, especially in cases where the trainee did not have a parent or did not have a competent or compassionate parent.
My suggestion is that Hypnosis cannot be used either to subvert that dynamic, nor to put it in place where it does not exist. If there is already a mutual agreement that it should exist, then Hypnosis may be a tool for strengthening it.
I think we need to recognize that it is a non-trivial tool…but it is a good one. You wouldn’t use a bullwhip on someone without knowing what you were doing and using care. It is a tool that has the potential to leave lasting or permanent marks.
The ethical implication of Control-Oriented Hypnosis may be likened to a brand in the mind. Very few of us would casually tattoo our name onto someone, or brand them with our symbol.
I think that the degree of change applied through hypnosis should be commensurate with and mirror that within the relationship overall, and should be treated as a “permanent mark.” If it is change that is not directly instigated or requested by the submissive…or if the submissive has a tendency to make unwise requests…it is the role of the Dominant to be responsible and moderate what is done.
Benefits and Outcomes
Hypnosis is the ultimate and most powerful tool to end sleepless nights and tearful cycles of failure. How many times have we looked at a submissive who desperately wants to be okay with their sexuality, who desperately wants to move towards normalacy and be able to enjoy life and who cannot because of conflicts embedded deep in their subconscious which they can understand logically but cannot resolve emotionally. How many times do we hear “I hate myself” or descriptions of a pitched battle within the mind.
Whether the goal is to create an ability to cum in scene while under duress that has frustrated attempts at otherwise satisfying sceneplay, or to dig down and resolve and balance a deep conflict of shame that goes to the core of sexual persona, Hypnosis is one of the more powerful tools available.
It is not a panacea, and must be used as part of an overall approach to Dominance, though even in short sessions it can have substantial effects.
Let’s consider some constructive uses:
Breaking Previous Control
Through guided visualization, it is possible to reduce or remove feelings of previous control that are undesirable. The techniques for this are a study unto themselves, however the root element lies in revisiting the past situation of control, and going through a visualization of systematic desensitization, where each time the control is felt less and less strongly.
The applications here should be obvious. How many players in the Community have some fixation…an early and abusive boyfriend, a parent, an abuser…whose control over their current behavior they would like to break forever?
Sexual Trauma and Healing
It is not up to me to suggest whether or not the Dominant should act as a Counselor to his Submissive. That said, I think we must acknowledge that very often the Dominant is put in this position, and has little choice other than to use the best tools at his disposal.
Milton Erickson and other Psychologists who pioneered the use of Hypnosis in Clinical Therapy believed that it was such a powerful tool that only Medical Doctors and Licensed Psychologists should be allowed to use it.
Against this we have the fact that there is no Salesman or Clergyman that is not using hypnotic modality to influence you on a daily basis. From Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” to the latest Car Dealership Blowout, everyone is using hypnotic modality to influence you.
If you approach a clergyman for counseling, he cannot say “go away and see a Doctor that is not my problem.” He can counsel you to see a Doctor, but he must also address your needs. I think that in most cases where a relationship exists (as opposed to casual sceneplay) a Dominant is in the same position. He may and should suggest formal counseling. But he is also in the position of being the one who understands, and can see the whole situation, and he must be prepared to provide a first line of understanding and control. The Dominant who shirks this responsibility because he is “not a professional” may in fact be taking the pleasure and passing the buck.
To delve into someone’s past sexual traumas and attempt to aid or resolve them requires a dedication and care. It is my personal opinion that a relationship with a Dominant should not replace (or subvert) Counseling, and potentially medication by a Psychiatrist.
But in the end, the ethical question must revolve around necessity. The broken submissive is a known quantity in our community and the role of many Dominants, Daddies, and Masters as “fixers” well understood.
If the Dominant’s role is to delve, does he or she want the best tools possible? Hypnosis is a good one.
I would recommend advanced training, and a good understanding of the basic principles, as well as a great deal of patience and compassion. The details of how to address Trauma fall outside the scope of this Presentation, but other resources are available online.
The “high end” choice for Hypnosis is to study Psychology in a University Masters or Doctoral program that includes hypnotherapy. For most of us that is not practical or relevant.
Hypnosis Motivation Institute is an Accredited California-based school that is one of the largest training facilities for Hypnotherapy in the Country. HMI also teaches numerous courses for laypeople, including classes on Neuro-Linguistic Processing, and other elements of the mind.
HMI holds a U.S. Department of Education recognized ACCET Accreditation (ACCET ID #304) for Vocational and Continuing Education.
They offer a free fourteen hour online introductory class, which covers everything I’ve told you here and more. The class is an excellent value, but…please do not suggest to this legitimate institution that you were sent to them by me, to use the information you receive in kinky sexual play. Just as an Amish wood-worker would probably stop making you flogger handles if he knew what they were for, these people are in the business of training Clinical Workers, not supplying you information to take back to your kink practice. That’s a sad fact of the vanilla world, and I am trying to build kink resources that stand on their own, but for now this is one of the best resources available and it is vanilla.
Understanding the Psychology of yourself and your submissive the first step in being a more effective Dominant or Master. It is my personal feeling that Hypnosis is lacking outside the larger context of an overall psychological approach to D/s, and an understanding of how the human mind really works. I referenced the PAC model explicitly, and I want to suggest the following resources as well:
I’m OK, You’re OK,
by Thomas A Harris MD
readily available at Barnes and Noble, or used at Alibris
Harris presents the most human and accessible version of the “Parent /Adult/Child” model of Transactional Analysis put forward by Eric Berne. The book is a simplification, but unless you like thick writing, the simplification is welcome and it forms an excellent introduction.
If you’re a bit more of a mental masochist, check out Berne’s own books on the subject.
Games People Play : The Psychology of Human Relationships
by Eric Berne
Is one of the core references for the PAC model.