Inside the mind of a hypnotist

Like many of us, hypnotist Jerry Enns was once extremely skeptical of hypnosis, mind magic and even past lives. But with what he has experienced, it is easy to understand why his beliefs have been transformed.

After a serious car accident when he was a young adult, Enns developed severe anxiety whenever he had to drive. Unable to overcome his fear of driving, he was sent to see a professional who used hypnotherapy to rid him of his symptoms. No medication or touch was used, simply one session of listening to this man speak, and Enns’ anxiety disappeared.

“How can some dude, who I don’t even know, who I think is shady to begin with, send a sound wave through the air, ring my inner ear and now I feel confident? No way,” he said. “And that was the journey. I kept asking: ‘why couldn’t I do that myself?’”

Jerry Enns has been employed as a hypnotist since 2000, performing comedic shows everywhere from Las Vegas to Dominican Republic. He has also learned mentalism which he describes as ‘mind magic’ – it is the trickery that leaves the audience saying ‘How could he know that!?’

Enns began his career by using hypnotherapy to help professional athletes overcome their fears of failure or injury. Since then, he has helped countless people quit smoking, beat insomnia and overcome phobias.

One of Enns’ most memorable experiences of hypnosis was the first of several clients to discover a past life.

When helping people overcome phobias, he asks their subconscious to recall the first incident that triggered their fear. For one claustrophobic woman, while under hypnosis, she went back to the 1800s and shakily verbalized how she was in a theatre when candles lit the grand drape on fire. She was trampled to death in the chaos that followed.

Being a hypnotist may be a fascinating career but it is not easy.

“You say you’re a hypnotist, doubt is automatic,” he said. “Then, you have to get them to give up their conscious mind. And the only way that is going to happen is if they trust you.”

Enns said hypnosis is the act of lowering the barrier between the subconscious and conscious mind. Without the guard there, the suggestions the conscious mind is hearing can reach the subconscious. First the body relaxes, then the mind.

“I remember relaxing almost to the point of meditation,” Thompson said, a first year student who was hypnotized by Ryan Joyce during Orientation Week.

The old-fashioned method of swinging a watch in front of someone does indeed work since it gets the eyes tired, but Enns can simply use his voice to relax the entire body much more quickly. If someone tries too hard to relax, or refuses to let their mind go, hypnosis will not work which is why at some shows, volunteers are asked to leave the stage.

Enns points out that hypnosis cannot force someone to do something their subconscious does not want to do. For instance, during a recent show Enns tried to have a math student at University of Waterloo temporarily forget the number six but numbers were so important to this student that his mind did not feel comfortable letting the number go, and so he did not.

Thompson did things on stage he normally would not do, like take his shirt off in public due to an imaginary tropical climate, but he is confident he was in control enough that he would not do something morally wrong.

Hypnotist Jerry Enns’ journey from skepticism has led him to a profession of shock, laughter and transformation. Of all ways to pay the bills, who knew hypnosis was in the cards.

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