Interview with Peter Wolf on Clinical and Stage Hypnosis
by Val Tobin
Originally published June 25, 2010 on Suite101
Republished on SNGS November 11, 2013
Peter Wolf is a trained counselor and certified hypnotist. He became interested in hypnotism in the late 1990s, after already having studied Native Indian cultures and Shamanism for about seven years. He realized that the altered state used by shamans is hypnosis and was around long before Anton Mesmer and James Braid put it on the map.
Wolf uses hypnotism in his counseling practice and on the stage in a hypnosis comedy act. While it might seem like a contradiction to, on the one hand, help people and, on the other hand, relieve them of their dignity, everyone who participates in Wolf's shows seems to have a lot of fun, and Wolf highly values fun. He considers laughter to be fundamentally therapeutic, and has done fundraisers where, he says, "laughter was often desperately needed."
I talked with Peter Wolf about hypnosis for both stage and clinical use, and how people can change their lives with this oft-misunderstood personal growth tool and form of entertainment.
Anyone can be Hypnotized?
Val Tobin: Can anyone be hypnotized?
Peter Wolf: "Yes. The easy answer is absolutely yes. The more intricate answer is that not everybody will be. Everybody has the capacity to be hypnotized. However, it's been said that all hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis. Therefore, no one is going to be hypnotized unless they allow themselves to be.
"Hypnosis is basically a matter of suggestion that we've accepted without being aware that we have. Everything we perceive and take in goes through our own filter, our own judgment and our own personalities. Everybody does get hypnotized on a regular basis. There is something called 'awakened hypnosis,' which is when a person zones out for a bit, such as when driving."
Stage Hypnosis Versus Clinical Hypnosis
Val Tobin: What are the distinctions between stage hypnosis and clinical hypnosis?
Peter Wolf: "The real distinction between the two is that hypnosis for any therapeutic setting is hypnosis that gives you your power, because what you are doing is tapping into your subconscious and putting out into the forefront the things that need to be there for you. That's classic hypnosis in the clinical, therapeutic format.
"Stage hypnosis takes your power away. Both forms of hypnosis turn off the conscious observer to a degree. It's always there watching, but it turns off that judgment factor. It puts things into the forefront. In stage, it puts into the forefront what I want in the forefront that's going to be fun and entertaining."
Controlling People with Hypnosis
Val Tobin: So then you can control people?
Peter Wolf: "To a degree. Keep in mind, rule number one is that hypnosis is self-hypnosis, meaning you're allowing it. The thing that hypnosis will not do is, first of all, if you don't allow it, it won't happen. Number two, it won't go past any boundaries of morality"
Val Tobin: Okay, but if someone's shadow-self is promiscuous and the conscious self is not, that means that you could exert influence?
Peter Wolf: "Yes, on the boundaries of morality. But that's a pretty broad term. When you talk about boundaries of morality, with some people, that gives you some pretty broad scopes, with others, it doesn't. Saying that it won't make you do anything you wouldn't normally do is the most bogus statement there is. Most people would do things on stage show that they wouldn't normally do. But they won't do something that they're morally against, that goes against their values."
The Choice to Stop Smoking
Peter Wolf: "One of my best people on stage, who is also a good friend of mine, him I can make do absolutely anything. I love when I have him on my stage, because I know I'm going to have a good show that night. I can make him do anything, and I can put him under in two seconds. But I cannot make him stop smoking. See, there is a choice level in there. There's only so much control I have."
Val Tobin: So did he come to you to ask you to help him stop smoking?
Peter Wolf: "Yes, he went with it, but he still won't quit, because he didn't actually really want to quit. You are always in control. Really you are. All I can do is use what you have free already. I can't play around with anything that's behind the vault.
Wolf has worked with thousands of people, both on stage and in his counseling practice. He has helped them with issues ranging from smoking to self-confidence to weight loss, and he has also enticed them do crazy things in public on his stage show.
In "Interview with Peter Wolf on Hypnosis for Personal Development," Wolf discusses how one can use hypnosis to help with personal growth and what one can and cannot expect from hypnosis. Wolf also discusses the experiences of individuals who volunteer for stage hypnosis, and facts about forensic hypnosis. The results of that discussion can be found in the article "Interview with Peter Wolf on Stage and Forensic Hypnosis."
Wolf, Peter Feeling Different
Image: Courtesy of Peter Wolf
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