Will and Will Power are interesting concepts and I want to share my thoughts about it as it relates to hypnosis. This is only my personal experience based on 20+ years of experience and a large dose of personal opinion. I am certain other hypnotists will disagree with much of this and I welcome their input.
A common trope repeated by hypnotists is “Hypnosis can’t make you do things against your will”. That said, you will find news articles of people who have used hypnosis to exploit others in ways they would never ordinarily agree. (Other stories here)
On the one hand, to enter into hypnosis the subject must agree to follow the instructions of the hypnotist. In that sense, the hypnosis subject is consciously agreeing to do what the hypnotist says. There is, however, a point when following the hypnotist becomes becomes a habit that is done without question. At this point the hypnotist can tell the subject to do or experience anything and, yes, they will do it. If the hypnotist has behaved in a trustworthy way up to this point, it can become even easier to instruct new behaviors. That is how a hypnotist can make someone feel disgust toward smoking or a desire to exercise.
It follows that a hypnotist could instruct a subject to do something more extreme. This can explain the interesting and unusual behaviors seen in stage hypnosis shows. It can also explain how some people have misused hypnosis to abuse others.
Who is responsible for what they do while under hypnosis?
Answering that question is difficult to do on so many levels. The law puts a strong emphasis on personal responsibility, meaning if you commit a crime you must be held accountable. The law also recognizes extenuating circumstances such as coercion and abuse. In addition the law also recognizes that someone in a position of authority, like a hypnotist, has what is called In loco parentis responsibility over the people they work with. This means they must act with the best interest of the hypnosis subject in mind. Putting all of this together makes it a challenge to find a one-size-fits-all answer to the question.
Hear what other experienced hypnotists say:
Could hypnosis be used to get someone to commit a crime?
Tom Graves, Ph.D Linguistics, SUNY at Buffalo, Poet and Professor.
Yes. While using hypnosis generally does not influence a person to violate their own will or beliefs, the dirty little secret is that most people have a very weak will that can be influenced using more than one approach. And no, I’m not going to elaborate on how it’s done. I only use it to make people feel better about themselves.
Mike Sweet, Clinical hypnotherapistIt’s not simple to answer this. Hypnosis on its own in a single intervention, then no.
But, with a little more time it is very possible. Hypnotising a person to gradually do things they wouldn’t do creates a person level of social compliance. This incremental effect means a person would do almost anything if layed out the right way.
So yes, with extremely advanced techniques it is possible to get a person to commit a crime, or do something against their (initial) will.