Has the world gone completely mad? A woman has successfully sued a stage hypnotist for re-awakening memories of childhood sexual abuse.

Don't get me wrong: such awakened memories, be they real or imagined, must be extremely traumatic for the individual concerned, but blaming the person who awakens them sets a dangerous (and stupid) precedent.

Where do you draw the line? I once knew a trainee teacher whose memories of childhood sexual abuse were re-awakened when they were being taught how to recognise the signs of sexual abuse in their pupils. Should they be entitled to sue the teacher training college? If a war veteran is distressed after watching a war documentary on television (or reading a novel like Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong), should they be entitled to compensation?

I believe the case in point was won because hypnotism has an air of mysticism about it: it has the ability to delve into our innermost being. Does it bollocks! Hypnotism is not some mysterious state of mind; it is simply going along with what you're being told to do (usually to avoid conflict or embarrassment). It is no more a state of mind than mowing the lawn, watching TV, or reading a novel.

Some people under hypnosis claim to have regressed to former lives. An uncanny number of them turn out to have been ancient Egyptian slaves. Presumably, if they remember being mistreated by evil masters in their former lives, they will now be entitled to some sort of compensation from their hypnotists.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.

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