“The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule,[1] the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes” Wikipedia

I think we can safety apply this to hypnosis. In my not too shabby experience it has been my observation that around 1 in 5 people are what I was taught by my Mentor to call ‘A Somnambulist’. In hypnotic terms this means someone who is very easy to hypnotise. It is my opinion that these are the only people who can ‘do’ hypnosis to the point useful on stage.

The somnambulist is always in a state of suggestion acceptance. That doesn’t mean they are ‘gullible’ as the two are not entirely the same. Many more people can be conned to accept snake oil but they figure it out after the event. A somnambulist won’t even notice the hypnotic suggestion and have no defence against it when executed concisely.

This of course also means that 20% of people can no more be hypnotised than you could survive on a diet of cardboard. However not to worry because if you are doing it right, [ in my book ] and only hypnotising people who actively seek it out and volunteer, then you will never meet this 1 of five people because they are totally uninterested in hypnosis.

The other 60% fall somewhere from being fairly easy to get into hypnosis but unlikely to have particularly active creativity, right through to those who could take so long it isn’t a viable thing to put effort into unless of course you are doing something therapeutic which is outside the bounds of this Stage and Entertainment hypnosis forum.

Now for the newbie this should help you to realise that the 100% target isn’t doable unless you allow the somnambulist to come to you rather than you going to them. Then you’re success rate is likely to go right up to maybe 70% or 80%.

The trick in recognising a somnambulist is of course simple in stage terms. Stick the word hypnotist on a poster. In magician terms just mention the word ‘Hypnosis’ or ‘Hypnotist’ and then look for the person who is most interested and ask if they have ever been hypnotised. Then leave it, if they want it they will ask for it. You can of course push the situation but the more you push the more your success rate will fall.

Derren Brown often starts a live routine by claiming no one will be hypnotised and you can almost feel the somnambulists going under at the very mention of the word. Then it’s a simple matter of watching for the most energetic and determined physical response to throwing out a Frisbee or a stuffed toy to pick the most likely to go under. However in Derren’s audience I’d guess that the Perato rule is probably reversed and his average audience is very heavy with somnambulists as the non responsive 20% wont even be there which of course pushes the odds up somewhat.

One of the most worrying things I read from newbies and hypnosis students is their failure rate compared to old fogies like me. This has nothing whatever to do with our ‘superior technique’ or confidence, it’s all down to choosing the right subject in the easiest way and then it’s down to the good old Perato rule.

Hope this helps someone.

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