I’m fascinated by psychology, though I studied sociology at A-level. The problem with sociology, I found, was that addressing society as a whole makes for some cringe-worthy generalisations and I resent hearing things like “children from single parents are X% less likely to do XYZ”. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!! We, the people, aren’t (usually) a mindless mass- we are individuals and everyone is affected and shaped by different experiences and stimuli. I love and hate the idea that the human mind is something we can unlock and manipulate, provided we have the key.
The closest way I have ever seen (first hand) of doing exactly that is hypnosis. Back in Spring, I went for hypnotherapy as a last resort to try and fix a phobia of vomiting that had begun to take over my life***. The lady I booked (who specialised in my problem, called emetophobia), spent half the time talking to me and the other half working around what I’d told her, in order to create functioning imaginary places that could be manipulated to fix the problem. Being full of fantasy and sci-fi and nature, each place was created (by her) to be somewhere I felt comfortable- somewhere I could have imagined myself. I still don’t know the exact science behind it (though I intend to learn more), but I can say that it was one of the best things I’ve ver done and while I’ll never be completely ‘cured’, the fear does not prey on my mind every single day and when it does, I can usually handle it.
I love stageshows involving mental gymnastics – NOT the kind when some poor sod spends thirty embarrassing seconds believing that they are a large affectionate gibbon, but this kind– and I have no idea how it was achieved. Derren Brown, however, makes me sit and think, and not always in a good way. I once watched one of his shows that focused on negative suggestion. He put a kitten in a perspex box and told a woman that by pressing a button, she could electrocute the kitten. It was a Schrodinger’s cat situation, except that if she pressed the button, it would be very obvious whether it was alive or dead. Every time Derren spoke, it was to remind her that she shouldn’t go pressing that button. With about a second to go, her hand jerked out and slammed the little red button. Of course, nothing happened. Apparently, it was a way of helping her make choices in the future, but I’d be interested to see whether that really has helped her or scarred her into never owning a kitten!
His show ‘Apocalypse’ tricked a man into thinking the end of the world had hit, in order to make him more grateful for his life. In terms of changing somebody for the better and encouraging him to appreciate what he had, I’d say Derren did pretty well… in that the poor guy just about had a mental breakdown on waking up in hospital, ’28 Days Later’ style and grew in confidence as the two hours went on. But then, on confronted with a frightened teenager who has apparently stayed awake through the whole thing and a man who is trapped without food or water, is there really anyone on the planet who would not have helped them??
I think, really, that the zombies were a complete overkill and the characters seemed
modelled on stolen from ’28 Days Later’. Ridiculously so, to the point that I wondered how Derren’s victim, knowing he had signed up for a TV show could possibly have been taken in by something so contrived. A little special effects make-up goes a long way and I’d maybe have given people yellow eyes or something similar. Fake blood and ‘raaaaah’ noises? Really?? Though the bit when the unofficial leader left the safety of the compound for his infected wife really was heartbreaking, even if it wasn’t real!
Though tricking somebody into believing the end of the world is coming is probably as fucked up as you can get for reality TV, it wasn’t the subject matter that bothered me but more the idea of playing about in another person’s brain without consent. Yes, of course consent was superficially given, but the man had no idea what Derren was actually going to do! How can you truly consent in that case? As a writer and painter, the lady who worked with me had to work rather hard to convince me that I wouldn’t lose any part of my working brain and every change made was discussed with me before there was any hypothetical brain surgery.
Contrasting the ‘scary’ trailers and showmanship of this piece with something he did a while ago about luck, I have to wonder whether shock factor is going to become the norm rather than information and if so, I’ll be disappointed. I was fascinated hearing about why some people are ‘lucky’ and others aren’t and I liked the conclusion, where the subject was shown proof of how he was making himself unlucky and immediately decided to change his ways. This time though, there was no information other than the obvious and while I couldn’t look away, it was out of disbelief. I can’t help but feel that it was a little… dumbed down?
Derren, could you please explain properly how this scenario was intended to work and how your tests picked the subject out?
Also, can we have a catch-up episode or two? I’d like to know what this guy does a little further than 28 days into the future. Can we have more shows like the ‘luck’ episode, and I’d like to know how courage works too.
(You know, as I’m sure you have no pressing appointments and plenty of free time in order to read my blog…) 😛
EDIT: Whoa, apparently your mind powers have pre-empted my blog becuase you’re doing a show on Friday about the removal of fear! I am mindblown! 😀
In absence of a zombie picture, what else could I possibly decorate today’s blog with, other than a medical picture (or two)!? Here’s me in my favourite nurse outfit, by Rubber55
Good nurse, photographed by Twan J
(Very) bad nurse, photographed by Perry Gallagher (a long time ago in LA!)
p.s. I have something very cool to tell you next post. It involves ink…
p.p.s. ***Thankyou to Angie, who comes highly recommended by me!