A recent television program mandated by the BBC set about investigating hypnosis with an attempt to discover what it is and what is possible through being in a hypnotic state.

The program's investigator was Professor Kathy Sykes of Bristol University. Kathy set about discovering all she could about hypnosis from its use as a form of entertainment to its possible therapeutic uses.

Kathy attended a stage hypnotist's show and appeared fascinated by the antics of the participants who “volunteered” to be hypnotised. The stage hypnotist's show and the use of hypnosis could be perceived as an extremely powerful form of human control. After all the participants were doing things in a front of an audience which they may ordinarily have chosen not to do if they were not in hypnosis.

However after the stage hypnotist confirmed to Kathy that he could not make people do what they did not want to do. So it begged the question, “were the participants just going along with the idea of ​​being hypnotized rather than being hypnotised”? Indeed a further question might be “does hypnosis exist”?

Kathy then visited two events. One was a hypnotherapy session to help a Birmingham police officer to stop smoking. This was a one-to-one session with a hypnotherapist. The second event was a weight watchers type evening. Here a hypnotherapist asked for a volunteer and helped her to perceive chocolate as not being the delight she had always thought it.

Some months later Kathy went back to check on how the ex-smoker and ex-chocolate lover were doing. Although the ex-smoker had started smoking again he had cut down the amount he smoked and was only smoking socially. His police colleagues, who had also had hypnotherapy to help them stop smoking had been more successful. The lady who loved chocolate had also ate chocolate since the hypnosis event but had also cut it down significantly and admitted that chocolate did not have the same hold over her as before.

So in both cases experiencing hypnosis had seemed to have a positive effect on each participants desire to change a habit or behavior in their life.