Alexa, Do Not Hypnotize Me
The use of hypnosis is gaining more acceptance from the medical community to alleviate anxiety, ward off pain, and inhibit various fears. But get ready for it to go viral.
A new generation of hypnosis programs and apps are making the practice available digitally, hoping to popularize hypnosis in the same way as meditation. The dilemma is that people “either think it’s ridiculous or dangerous,” says David Spiegel, a clinical psychiatrist and professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and co-founder of Reveri Health that offers self-hypnosis through Alexa.
He's right, people do think it’s dangerous. And they should, and for reasons they are probably not even thinking about.
Hypnosis is the practice of placing someone in a “relaxed, highly focused state that makes them unusually susceptible to suggestion, typically through verbal cues and mental imagery.” The use of hypnosis ranges from the treatment of pain to conditions such as “anxiety, phobias and sleep disorders, and to help stop behaviors like smoking or overeating.”
So how does it work?
As one California hypnotherapist explains it, “hypnosis gets the conscious mind out of the way.”
That’s the problem.
The spiritual concern with hypnosis is how it opens someone to influence, and that influence can come from any source, including the demonic. Franz Anton Mesmer, sometimes referred to as the “father of hypnotism” and from whom we get the word “mesmerize,” was also involved with the occult.
In the hands of a well-qualified Christian professional, there can be benefit to the use of hypnosis. As an article posted on the Focus on the Family website details,
Under the careful supervision of a well-qualified Christian professional, it can sometimes be beneficial. Before submitting to hypnosis, however, it is critical to know the administering therapist and to be familiar with their credentials, background, worldview, value system and personal beliefs. In the wrong hands, hypnosis has the potential to create confusion and to cause more problems than it resolves.
It’s worth adding that hypnosis, like any other therapeutic technique, should be rejected out of hand when it takes on questionable spiritual overtones—for example, when it becomes occultic in nature or is clearly connected with the tenets of Eastern religion or New Age philosophy.
In proper, medical hands hypnosis may be of some value. Turned loose and offered on demand through Alexa is terrifying. To have your conscious bypassed – for any reason – is a serious affair. As one person who went through self-hypnosis sessions at home for a month and successfully ended their craving for cigarettes said, “This hypnosis is some crazy-a** voodoo.”
Yes, it is. Which means proceed with caution.
And tell Alexa to keep her hypnosis to herself.
James Emery White
Betsy Morris, “Alexa, Hypnotize Me,” The Wall Street Journal, December 28, 2020, read online.
“Hypnosis as a Clinical Tool,” Focus on the Family, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.