Subliminal Messages vs. Hypnosis:  Does Subliminal Messaging Hypnotize you?

I remember as a child, I used to ask my stepfather a lot of questions about hypnosis, as I knew he could hypnotize people.  (He was a psychologist, and also a kind and patient man, so he was pretty cool about my endless questions.)  I used to wonder if he could make other kids do things, and also, if he could help me to excel at something.  I had just started piano lessons, for instance, and thought if he could hypnotize me, maybe I wouldn't have to practice for my recital.

He made a few things clear about hypnosis.  Since he was the real deal, and an honest and good man, I consider what he had to say as a credible source of information. 

One thing my stepfather made clear was that the hypnotic suggestions could never work against a person's conscious will.  For instance, he could hypnotize me to make better grades in school.  Since I already wanted to make better grades, this suggestion would be accepted into my subconscious.  Most likely, through additional supporting positive affirmations, such as having more confidence in myself as a student, and enjoying homework and studying more, this suggestion worked, although I don't recall all the details about the session.  Since good grades were important to me, he pointed out, had he, or any other hypnotist, instead hypnotically suggested that I would make bad grades, or stop caring about school, those suggestions would have been rejected, and any affect neutralized, because it would be contrary to my conscious will. 

Think of it like if you're with a group of friends, people at work, church, or a similar setting.  Say someone brings up a song or TV show that you've listened to or watched, and you strongly dislike it.  However, the person in the group loves the song or TV show in question, and they rave about it endlessly, like a talking doll pushing its own button again and again.  You will NOT be influenced to like this song or TV show, no matter how often the person tells you how great it is.  Maybe you decided to be gracious, and keep your differing opinion to yourself, but even after numerous repetitions of the phrases about how good the song or program is, it does not penetrate some part of your mind and change how your feel.  That's your own conscious will at work, and you are always the driver of that car.

Subliminal messages seem similar to hypnotic suggestions.  Both use repetitive affirmations to help achieve a certain goal.  In the case of the now famous subliminal messages inserted in the snack bar ads at the movies, designed to sell refreshments, they would only work on those who are interested in the refreshments to begin with.  Those already hungry or thirsty might indeed want an extra item or two, depending on how effective and well designed the specific subliminal message is.  In the case of stores that play silent or embedded subliminal messages with phrases such as "I'm honest", "I'm an honest person", "I don't steal", etc., in an effort to keep shoplifting down, they are playing on the honest side of those who might be tempted to do something dishonest in a weak moment.  Someone who is truly dishonest through and through, with no guilt or conscious about stealing, would not be affected by those messages.  If the messages were more like "shoplifting is illegal, and I could get arrested", or "shoplifting carries a penalty of up to X years in prison", then it's possible those messages could play on the fear of the person without a problem stealing otherwise.  In all cases, these messages do not change, or go against the conscious will.

Hypnosis messages, usually on audios, are generally audible, and you relax as you listen, sometimes even as you sleep.  Subliminal messages, whether on audio, video, or both, are generally a little more subtle, and in some cases you might not notice it at all.  In other cases, you might notice it slightly, like something in the background.  Both are designed to get specific messages from a conscious "I'd like that to be the case" to a subconscious "that is the case".  They are like a Ford and a Chevy both driving to the same place, maybe taking a little different route, but both heading for the same ultimate destination.  The subconscious mind is a powerful thing, so getting a message there can make powerful changes.

I've seen forum posts of people afraid that an audio or a video is going to make them commit a crime, or do something awful, based on a subliminal, or hypnotic suggestion.  In my opinion, this is a silly interpretation of how hypnosis, and subliminal messaging work.  Now, if that person harbors secret tendencies to do bad things, or negative, even evil intentions, then in that case, they could interpret a generic affirmation such as "I'm aggressive" or "I'm a fighter" as a suggestion to do something bad, unlike most of society.  Once again, the conscious will would have to be receptive to the idea of doing bad things in the first place, and then the mind would have to interpret the generic suggestions in a selective way.  Most of us would consider the "I'm a fighter" suggestion as a reinforcement that we fight hard/work hard to accomplish our goals; and the "I'm aggressive" suggestion / affirmation in a similar fashion.  That is, that we aggressively pursue our goals of success in business, the arts, or whatever our specific pursuits are. 

Subliminal messages products and hypnosis products can be great different, but similar tools, to penetrate the bad habits and negative programming outer layers of our subconscious, so we can feed it a better diet of truly believing in our own success.