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Story tips, concerns, questions?

By Julissa James

Staff Writer

Four students were hypnotized at Cal State Dominguez Hills on March 20 with the goal of reducing alcohol abuse before spring break.

Robert Hackenson Jr., a professional speaker who travels to universities across the country to lecture, came to Dominguez Hills to  address the dangers of substance abuse and ended up putting eight students into a deep trance.

Conveniently timed before the break, the event turned out to be much more than an alcohol-awareness lecture when Hackenson, a self-proclaimed “edutainer,” revealed himself to be a magician and hypnotist as well.

The audience of about 50 was almost entirely made up of student athletes and Greek organizations on campus that were required to attend by their coaches and advisers.

After warning the crowd of the dangers of substance abuse, Hackenson began describing hypnosis as a practice that puts your conscious mind to sleep so that the hypnotist can reach the subconscious.

He also addressed some of the myths of hypnosis, assuring the audience that there was no possibility they would get “stuck” in that state, and that despite popular belief, they would still have some control over their minds and bodies.

Hackenson then led the entire audience in what resembled a guided meditation, asking them to imagine their hands being stuck together with Superglue. The eight audience members who could not pull their hands apart when Hackenson was done with this exercise were the ones he chose to come up to the stage.

Hackenson chose these students because of their susceptibility to hypnosis. This is the kind of willingness, Hackenson said, that deep hypnosis requires.

Meanwhile, students were either gasping in excitement or fear, yelling “Get Out!” in reference to the recently released film of the same title, where chaos ensues when a character is hypnotized by his girlfriend’s family.

Four of the eight students were not as easily influenced as Hackenson thought when they did not “sleep” at the snap of his fingers. This left four on stage who did, putting them in deep hypnosis.

Hackenson then began asking his subjects to roleplay situations in order to demonstrate the negative consequences of drinking.

He convinced one student she was a patient going for a doctor’s visit after experiencing stomach pain, and another that she was a doctor delivering the information that what the first student was feeling was not a stomach ache, but a pregnancy.

When told she was “pregnant,” the student’s face grew white and she went speechless. It seemed like she was on the brink of an anxiety attack when Hackenson put her back to “sleep.”

He also created situations where a student was kicked out of school because of excessive drinking and they had to confront their mother, and even a student learning that she had gotten an STD from “irresponsible behavior.”

Jackie Ramirez, a public relations/advertising student who attended the event had no idea that she was walking into a hypnotist show and was even more surprised when she saw hypnotized students believing they were actually in these predicaments because of substance abuse.

“It was even more shocking because we knew it wasn’t real,” she said.

Hackenson explained some of these situations are real consequences of the decisions some people make, and he hopes members of the audience can avoid similar circumstances.

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