The Hypnotist

Whitworth’s HUB multi-purpose room resonated with laughter as students watched their peers believe they were goldfish. The nine students on stage happily flapped their fins and scrunched up their fish faces, only to be told there was a “bigger and meaner fish” in the bowl. The audience laughed hysterically as the participants desperately tried to swim away, all while under hypnosis.

Throughout the night, the audience witnessed a range of acts, from people falling into deep sleeps to believing they were bodybuilders. Jonathan Yeager, the comedic hypnotist, attracted a crowd of around 200 people for his performance on Sept. 15, 2018.

Dylan Loew, a sophomore, said, “I’ve seen a lot of world class shows as a musician, but this was legitimately one of the most impressive shows I’ve ever seen.”

The evening started with a short introduction and explanation of hypnotism, followed by a request for volunteers. Around 20 students were brought into hypnosis and had their eyes locked shut, only to be released by Yeager’s prompts.

Afterwards, Yeager kept 10 volunteers on stage and brought them into a deeper state of hypnotism. He then introduced an interactive approach for the show. The audience was asked to use their phones to vote for how they wanted the volunteers to be hypnotized. For the rest of the night, the volunteers were induced into believing they were different people and took on various roles.

Yeager, who has a bachelor’s degree in information systems and cyber security, said he was “tired of that world” after a decade of information technology work. In August of 2015, he started researching online about his curiosity of hypnotism. After a mentorship with a hypnotherapist, a few months of practice in a park and training in Las Vegas, Yeager now has a hypnotherapy office in Texas and travels all over the country to perform.

Yeager described that hypnotism occurs when your conscious and subconscious mind disconnect. The conscious part of the mind is the “gatekeeper” and tells right from wrong. The subconscious is like a “filing cabinet” where everything is stored. By relaxing the subject’s body and mind, the hypnotist gains direct access to their filing cabinet. Because the conscious part of the brain is not there to tell fact from fiction, the hypnotist’s suggestions become fact.

“Hypnotism is the absolute most relaxing thing you’ve ever felt in your entire life… think of the most relaxing thing you’ve ever felt and multiply it by 10. It is absolutely this blissful relaxation,” Yeager said. “When you’re in a deep state of hypnotism, you’re still very aware of everything that’s going on around you. You can still hear everything and you still have thoughts and responses to everything that’s going on, you just don’t care.”

Madison Herrin, a volunteer for the first half of the show, described being hypnotized as “almost like before you go into rem sleep or deep sleep, kind of like you’re in a dream-like sleep state, but not really there.”

Emily Clemons, one of the remaining 10 volunteers, said she “felt so refreshed” after coming out of hypnosis.

“It felt like taking a 10 minute nap,” she said.

Rohini Vyas, the ASWU coordinator of this event, said that having a hypnotist event at Whitworth seems to have become a yearly tradition. Vyas was especially excited for all the first-year students to experience the show. She remembers her first year and how the hypnosis show helped her bond with fellow students.

“I saw people that I had just, you know, traditiated with and people that I kind of knew in my residence hall… and they were on stage doing ridiculous things,” Vyas said.

Emily Armstrong was a volunteer who was lead to believe she was an “earlobe inspector.” Yeager told her to go out into the audience and find the perfect pair of earlobes.

“I can’t believe I touched so many earlobes of people I don’t even know,” she said.

This was Armstrong’s second time being hypnotized. “You know what’s happening… but you do it without even thinking about it,” she said.

Yeager explained that high school and college shows are “the easiest shows to perform. Anybody that is under the age of 27 is the absolute most suggestable group of demographic people.”

Before the show, Yeager said he was excited to work with the audience and always looks forward to “being able to introduce the world of hypnotism to those who have never seen or experienced before.”

Emma Ransom, a second year, said this was her first time watching a hypnosis show. “I came in and my mind was blown… it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, I wish I had gone [to the hypnotist event] last year.”

With overwhelming positive feedback throughout the show, Yeager said it was “amazing.”

“There was plenty of feedback from the audience, and the volunteers on stage genuinely seemed like they had a great time,” Yeager said. “Shows that are tough that I have to really try harder to get the reactions… those feel more like work. Doing shows like this, this is just play, this is fun.”

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