Oratory—or hypnotic induction?

October 25th, 2008

Is Barack Obama a brilliant orator, captivating millions through his eloquence? Or is he deliberately using the techniques of neurolinguistic programming (NLP), a covert form of hypnosis developed by Milton Erickson, M.D.?

A fundamental tool of “conversational hypnosis” is pacing and leading—a way for the hypnotist to bypass the listener’s critical faculty by associating repeated statements that are unquestionably accurate with the message he wants to convey.

In his Denver acceptance speech, Obama used the phrases “that’s why I stand here tonight,” “now is the time,” and “this moment” 14 times. Paces are connected to the lead by words such as “and,” “as,” “because,” or “that is why.” For example, “we need change” (who could disagree?)…and…that is why I will be your next President.”

Techniques of trance induction include extra slow speech, rhythm, tonalities, vagueness, visual imagery, metaphor, and raising of emotion. Hypnotists often have patients count. In a speech after the primaries closed, Obama said: “Sixteen months have passed (paused)…Thousands (pause) of miles…(pause)…Millions of voices….”

Hypnotists call this a distraction technique: sending the dominant hemisphere on an assignment involving linguistic processes, thus opening the nondominant hemisphere to suggestion.

Hand gestures can be used as hypnotic anchors, or to aid in hypnotic command implantation. They can be difficult to distinguish from innocent gestures used for emphasis. Obama, however, uses some gestures extraordinarily often and for very specific words such as “believe” and “chose.” His characteristic thumb-and-forefinger gesture looks like a hand holding a pencil—as if you were in a voting booth. The gesture of pointing sends the subconscious message that a person in authority is giving a command.

Obama actually said at one time: “a light will shine down from somewhere, it will light upon you, you will experience an epiphany, and you will say to yourself, ‘I have to vote for Barack.’”

You will not choose to vote for Barack: you will “have to.” It is not a logical choice, but rather one directed by a mystical (subconscious) force. What purpose would a politician have for making such a statement? Obama used it only once. Perhaps he stopped either because he realized it was too obvious or because Hillary Clinton and John McCain ridiculed him for it.

Obama’s logo is noteworthy. It is always there, a small one in the middle of the podium, providing a point of visual fixation. Unlike other presidential logos, one looks through it, not at it. It might just be the letter “O,” but it also resembles a crystal ball, a favorite of hypnotists.

Obama is clearly having a powerful effect on people, especially young people and highly educated people—both considered to be especially susceptible to hypnosis. It is also interesting that many Jews are supporting a candidate who is endorsed by Hamas, Farakhan, Khalidi, and Iran.

While some believe that hypnosis is not real, others believe that it is very powerful, and very dangerous in the wrong hands. Dr. Erickson, father of modern hypnosis, was adamant that his techniques should only be used by physicians. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Leyra v. Denno that a confession obtained using hypnosis could not be used against the suspect in court.

A 66-page, extensively footnoted but unsigned article “An Examination of Obama’s Use of Hidden Hypnosis Techniques in His Speeches” is available at: http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Find-Freedom.htm?At=039963&From=News

The discussion should have broad applicability in analyzing political speech in general. Comments by those with knowledge of hypnotic techniques are especially welcome.

Additional information:

20 Responses to “Oratory—or hypnotic induction?”

  1. Joel Simon Hochman MD Says:

    While I have a great deal of respect for APS and Dr. Orient, I must write to respond to this disgusting scree.
    1. Unsigned articles are, by definition, propaganda and unworthy of the credibility that publication suggests . No credible commentator or writer would ever stoop to anonymous character attack and paranoid fantasies. This is “swiftboating” in its most disgusting form.
    2. One cannot but wonder where the author(s) were for the last 8 years of “newthink” and “newspeak” of the Bush conspiracy as it committed historic treason - in the betrayal of the Constitution, flagrant criminal use of “rendition” and horrific torture ( achieving nothing but the undermining of any possibility of prosecution of actual terrorists and the catastrophic destruction of the worldwide view of America as a symbol of freedom and the triumph of the rule of law over corruption, zealotry and mindless foolishness.
    3. The AAPS should dissociate itself absolutely from this subject garbage. Hypnosis indeed! If anyone was in an altered state it must have been the person responsible for honoring it with publication in our newsletter.
    4. I urge ever member to insist, as I am, that AAPS formally reject this outrageous piece of flagrant propaganda. It is a disgrace to our organization.
    J.S.Hochman MD

  2. Nelson Borelli, MD Says:

    This piece is plain psychobabble. Since when is rhetoric “neurolinguistic”?
    You are now medicalizing political discourse.
    All along you have medicalized the immorality of insanity defense,civil commitment and bad behavior, by calling it “Mental Illness.”
    Is the AAPS trying to top the AMA’s politica?
    Shame on AAPS.

  3. Adam I. Harris, M.D. Says:

    Actually makes some sense. I’m not personally familiar with AAPS’s position on the insanity defense, but this argument should be taken or dismissed on it’s own merits. Several intelligent, affluent relatives of this family, who stand to lose terribly from Obama’s policies, have been –mesmerized– by his speeches. Some have snapped out of it, some seem to be going, like lambs to the slaughter, to the poling place to vote as Obama commands.

  4. Jeffrey Hartog Says:

    I’m not sure why this should be surprising. Are these techniques not even expected of any good orator, whether one calls them hypnosis or effective rhetorical techniques? One learns these things in any good public speaking course.
    Even McCain uses similar techniques, though much less effectively. Really there is no answer to this, simply one has to try to see through the rhetoric for either candidate and assess what their goals and purposes are when making a decision.

  5. Kenneth Christman, M.D. Says:

    I had actually not heard the charge connecting hypnotism with Obama, but I would be very concerned if there is evidence of his being involved in Neurolinguistic Programming, an occultic technique. He certainly has been looked upon by some as being some sort of Messianic figure. Reading reports of women “fainting” just being in his presence is disconcerting.

    If what he said is true: Obama actually said at one time: “a light will shine down from somewhere, it will light upon you, you will experience an epiphany, and you will say to yourself, ‘I have to vote for Barack.’”——–then I would have to say that he is invoking the supernatural, invoking other powers that compel automatons (humans) to do their will.

    Yes, very troubling. Can sources for this be found? Is there hard evidence of Obama’s being involved in Neurolinguistic Programming? I suppose an even more central question would be, “Is this man elligible to become President if he refuses to provide his birth certificate? Especially, if his relatives in Kenya maintain that he was actually born in Africa? This is serious.

    Ken Christman, M.D.

  6. Harry J. Rose, MD Says:

    Looking for hidden messages in his speeches is unnecessary. Just look at exactly WHAT he DOES say. He hides nothing.

    “individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.”- Barack Obama, Interview with the Chicago Reader, 1995

    He couldn’t be more straightforward unless he tattooed a hammer and sickle across his forehead. Even if this “neurolinguistics” stuff is true, I just don’t see what the point would be. It would be akin to saying that Mein Kampf contains hidden messages and codes that, when decoded correctly, reveal anti-semitic ideals.

    He’s just a good public speaker. Almost all despots are.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMLeamM7Jkk

    http://www.fff.org/blog/jghblog2008-06-12.asp

  7. F. Javier Monreal, MD Says:

    Dear Dr. Orient at AAPS:
    Yes, Obama’s speech was an example of “hypnotic Induction.” But not just THAT speech. ALL his speeches are, as I believe they are the public speaking of anybody considered a good orator.
    And we don’t have to invent the new prase of “Hypnotic Induction,” It is all plain DEMAGOGY as Gobbles and Hitler or Mussolini (or Reagn or FDR !) were.

  8. Cliff Myles, MD Says:

    Please move Dr. Borelli’s comment to the bottom of the list. I believe the evidence is overwhelming and clear.

  9. Gary Levin MD Says:

    I am glad to see three out of four of you agree with the theory.

    About 4 weeks ago I made the same suggestion on my blog at http://healthtrain.blogspot.com

    This is not a ridiculous theory. I had the same feeling…very hypnotic cadence, and repetitive phrases….my eyes glazed over…
    “Is it safe now?”"

    Adolf Hitler was a great orator….Look at Obama’s Nomination Acceptance Speech. How much money did they spend on that one.??

    He talks a great talk….neuroliniguistics sounds pretty good to me… Just because it isn’t listed by the ABMS as a specialty does not mean it is not correct.

  10. Edward Harshman Says:

    The posting by AAPS is meritorious, informative, and very reasonable. I disagree with Dr Hochman. Taking his points one at a time:

    “Unsigned articles are, by definition, propaganda and unworthy of the credibility that publication suggests.” Or the author fears retaliation; recall Vince Foster for example. There are abundant references supplied so that credibility can be assessed easily. The concepts in the article are just as valid whether the article is signed or not. Anonymity is a perfect defense against ad hominem attacks.

    Withholding the author’s name, by the author, encourages distribution by implicitly forfeiting copyright.

    “One cannot but wonder where the author(s) were for the last 8 years of “newthink” and “newspeak” of the Bush conspiracy as it committed historic treason - in the betrayal of the Constitution….” Nor does one need to. One can say some very bad things about President Bush, but misleading by carefully planned subconscious techniques during speechmaking is not one of them.

    “The AAPS should dissociate itself absolutely from this subject garbage. Hypnosis indeed! If anyone was in an altered state it must have been the person responsible for honoring it with publication in our newsletter.” An ad hominem attack on AAPS? Where is the specific flaw in the content of the article? Why did Dr Hochman not show the flaw in the reasoning? A serious error in the content of the article would cause great embarrassment to AAPS if it approved an article that contained one; such an error is worth seeking–but none was found? Hmm.

    “I urge ever[y] member to insist, as I am, that AAPS formally reject this outrageous piece of flagrant propaganda. It is a disgrace to our organization.” It is not the poorly written piece of unsubstantiated opinion that plagues many an editor. It is fact-based and derives its inferences from easily checked references. Its only unorthodox characteristic is the absence of its author’s name(s), which does not make it propaganda.

    I advised AAPS of the existence of this article several days before AAPS noted it and may deserve indirect blame (or credit) for its mention here. No candidate should be afraid of, or protected from, scrutiny or factual disclosure. If Obama wins a fair election after all the facts are disclosed, so be it. No one can get rationally angry only because facts relevant to voters are honestly disclosed, right?

  11. Rod D. Martin Says:

    Whether or not the article is meritorious, I must take great issue with the comment by Joel Simon Hochman, in which he says that an unsigned article is “swiftboating”. The irony of this statement is extreme. The entire point of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is that the organization consisted of almost every single person who ever served with John Kerry in Vietnam, appearing in person and in their own names. They individually and collectively stood up and said what they believed — whether anyone else agrees is immaterial — and took the heat for their statements both fully and publicly.

    What the Swift Boat Veterans did is the exactly opposite of an anonymous statement. And that’s precisely why so very many Americans believe them.

  12. N.S. Lehrman, M.D. Says:

    To me, this is little more than psycho-babble directed against an excellent and very persuasive orator. The comparisons with Hitler could also be made with Lincoln, FD Roosevelt and even Kennedy.

  13. Nelson Borelli, MD Says:

    Where would Dr. Cliff Myles like to place the “Goldwater rule”? http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/42/10/2
    Forty four years after the silly attempt to medicalize Goldwater’s political position, neither Dr. Myles nor the AAPS wish to go the moral agency rout.
    That may be symptomatic of the disastrous state of affairs of our country.

  14. James Travis, MD Says:

    Please! This is insulting! If you don’t like the guys policy proposals just say so. Some people… make that the majority of people in the US prefer him over John McCain, and it’s NOT mind control. You should be ashamed!

    James Travis, MD

  15. Ed Whitney MD Says:

    Bandler and Grinder, the creators of NLP, modeled the work of effective communicators who were able to produce good outcomes of therapy. They began by studying Fritz Perls (for Gestalt therapy), then Virginia Satir (for family therapy), and then Milton Erickson (for hypnotic therapy). These three were already famous for their skills and abilities. NLP studied Erickson; Erickson did not study NLP. Virginia Satir used anchoring long before Bandler and Grinder came along to watch her work and learn what made her so effective in helping families overcome difficulties that threatened to estrange them. Family values, anyone?

    The NLP researchers were interested in the patterns of communication that characterized the work of Perls, Satir, and Erickson. These were naturally gifted communicators and attracted the attention of Bandler, Grinder, and their colleagues in the early 1970s. If history were different and Obama had been running for office in 1972, NLP behavioral modelers would probably be modeling the patterns of communication of Barack Obama. They would be studying him; he would not be studying them.

    Some people have a near-messianic view of the Obama phenomenon. The same is true of Sarah Palin. A well-circulated letter from Pastor Mark Arnold from Lebanon, Ohio, refers to her as “this ‘Anointed’ person.” The pastor refers to those who seek to stop her from being elected vice-president as “GOD-haters.” He sees her as a present-day Esther. He is deeply entranced with her. She has some very effective communication skills that an NLP modeler could no doubt study; this does not mean that she has studied NLP or that she has been tutored in manipulative speech patterns. She does use some hypnotic patterns such as presupposition and nominalization. She uses voice tonality (a form of anchoring) to indicate that a facetious attitude toward Democratic policies is warranted. This does not mean that she has been in any Milton Erickson workshops. It simply means that her speeches use these and other “hypnotic” patterns to elicit certain responses from her audiences.

    McCain and Palin have referred to Obama’s tax policies as “socialist.” This usage presupposes that Obama wants the government to take over the means of production in our economy. In fact, Obama’s tax policy is to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, so that the top marginal rate goes from 35% to 39.6%. Calling this “socialist” involves another classical hypnotic technique, the complex equivalence, in which one thing (allowing tax cuts to expire) is made equal to something else (state ownership of the means of production). This is one specific example of the use of Ericksonian techniques by McCain/Palin; others could be described.

    The author of this long article does not seem to take seriously the possibility that a rational person may consciously decide that Obama’s economic and foreign policies may serve our country better than those of McCain. The Iraqi government’s position on a status-of-forces agreement sets timetables for American withdrawal better suited to the Obama policy than to the McCain approach. Market failures in the financial sector should lead to new regulatory frameworks more compatible with traditional Democratic policies than Republican ones. This article presupposes that none of these positions is rational. That is an extreme form of presupposition; the author is a trance-inducer par excellence.

  16. David Hubler MD Says:

    Oratory or hypnotic induction. The article points out the importance of the analysis of the content of what is said, not just being swayed by the way it is said. This is important in dealing with anyone, but especially politicians.

    Knowing that these techniques exist and are being used either on purpose or naturally is very important. Obama is excellent in these techniques, so stop and analyze what he says and then contrast that to what he has done in the past. If they are not the same, ignore what is said.

    ” What you do speaks so loud, I can’t hear what you say”

  17. Ed Whitney MD Says:

    The effects of hypnosis may be multiple and complex. Whether we approve of the hypnotic induction may depend on how we regard the responses elicited by the induction.

    For example, many people in Europe have responded to Obama’s hypnotic techniques. As a result, when he went there, they turned out by the thousands, waving American flags instead of burning them. This indicates that a state change has been brought about by the Obama phenomenon.

    I regard this as a felicitous development. I do not take my views to be self-evident. Your mileage may vary.

  18. Lewis Says:

    It is certainly disconcerting to read along and realize that so many, seemingly “educated” individuals endorse this most ridiculous idea.

    It is so incredibly stupid to dismiss Obama’s skill, sincerity, and purpose.

    Many of you will realize that the earth is not flat, that the world wont end, and that the idea of America, as the land of opportunity is alive and kicking despite of some of your ridiculous acertions, and Obama will be the poster boy the Land of opportunity!

  19. Barack Obama Using Covert Hypnosis In His Speeches « One Phil-for-every-ill Blog Says:

    [...] AAPS Article Source Secondary sources to obtain the 67 page Obama hypnosis document: here, and here, or here. [...]

  20. Kitty Antonik Wakfer Says:

    I read the AAPS email newsletter intro, followed the link it to its own article here, then went to the unsigned paper referenced and began to read it. (I have not read all the details, despite the author’s urging for reading it sequentially.) I am not pleased that the author did not sign it and provide some biographical background; I and husband Paul Wakfer are firmly against anonymity in voluntary interactions; I’ve written about this online in numerous places including our own website, Self-Sovereign Individual Project.

    Last night an introductory article of my own for this controversial paper, was published at OpEdNews.com. It was done more as a stimulus to the reader to examine all politicians and doing so by reading the text of their words, rather than simply watching/listening to their speeches, making it possible to examine and analyze the content. The publication was done at OpEdNews.com because that is chiefly a self-described “progressive” website, so I am definitely not “preaching to the choir”. Part of what I wrote:

    I think that those few orators over history whom large numbers of people consider to be (or were, if now dead) hypnotizing are just that–highly effective in getting their listeners to forgo rational thought and make decisions based totally or chiefly on emotions. This ability has been described of some politicians, clergy and highly successful “motivational speakers.” The last two can easily be ignored by those who have decided not to listen to their speeches–the effects of these are generally limited in scope unless coupled with those in the first group. It is politicians and their place in being or goal to be controllers of the legalized use of force, government, that makes the use of highly emotional presentations and, even more so hypnotic techniques, especially concerning. The fact that Obama uses the techniques described by the paper author and so successfully that the majority of the voting US public is (according to the polls) ready to vote for him to be President of the USA and is unaware of these techniques being used, is a credit to him in his “craft” of politics. The question of fairness and/or ethics is raised by the author of this paper–but I contend that the concept of fairness makes no sense in regards to politics since the purpose of government is to rule others, even if supposedly according to the “will of the majority.” There is nothing fair in politics or government–if one is thinking of what is,in the long range, widely viewed as the best interest of each individual all at the same time.

    Those who are susceptible to the techniques described in this paper as being heavily used by Obama are dependent-type individuals–in essence dysfunctional in regards to reasoned independence. They are almost certain to get the majority of their information from the spoken word–via television, radio, Internet video, phone or in-person. Correspondingly, these individuals spend little time reading and evaluating the content of what a speaker is actually saying, often having never been helped to appreciate and develop such important analytical skills by a government school system designed to produce followers. In the present US society–and most of the industrialized world–this is the type of people government officials, whether appointed, hired and definitely elected, want in society. Such people make it possible for politicians to continue to operate as they have, and even to enlarge the scope of government in the lives of individuals.

    I am not suggesting that readers vote for John McCain instead of Barack Obama after reading the referenced paper. I don’t think John McCain is any better a person than Barack Obama, even if he hasn’t used the hypnotic oratory techniques that his opponent has apparently mastered. That is probably only because he didn’t come across them in years past or no one on his election team made these methods known to him.
    ——–end of excerpt————-

    I am probably one of the few USers who has never heard Barack Obama’s voice (or Sarah Palin’s for that matter), having never viewed him on TV or Internet video. The fact that I spend every May thru October in Ontario Canada at my husband’s legal residence is the major reason - we do not have TV here and our computers are on dial-up only, useless for streaming. We will be back in Arizona on 11/3 so I’ll get an opportunity then - I am somewhat curious to find out if I sense any of the described highly persuasive/hypnotic atmosphere with his oratorical techniques. However, I won’t be voting for Obama or McCain - I have discussed my reasons in public, most recently at: http://monopolyonreason.com/blog/?p=153#comments

    **Kitty Antonik Wakfer

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