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Dear Matthew Alice:

Is hypnotism forever? Could I hypnotize my neighbor to mow my lawn every Saturday? Would it be more logical to make my suggestion in the manner of "Mow my yard. You'll think it's your idea. I allow you to remember this"? Or afterwards should I give him the "You will remember nothing" command? Yet my neighbor would not really want to mow my yard. Deep within his manipulated soul, an internal tug-of-war would probably occur. How soon till my neighbor reaches some kind of breaking point? ...Here he comes to mow my lawn. I decided he can wash the car. And wax it too.

-- Hope Manley, Virginia Beach, VA

Is hypnotism forever? Diamonds are forever; hypnotism lasts as long as it takes to finish your two-drink minimum. I did leave out several paragraphs of Hope's ruminations so we could isolate the real question, which seems to be, how can I get other people to do my work? We recommend cash. But if you're sold on this posthypnotic suggestion thing, Hope, we'll do what we can for you.

Unfortunately, the key to successful hypnosis is a willing and highly motivated subject. Scientists don't know much about why or how hypnotism works, or even what "hypnotized" means, but most agree you need those basics. Is your neighbor willing to be hypnotized? Already highly motivated to do your bidding? Why are we skeptical? Anyway, even if you lure him into your little web, posthypnotic suggestions do not last forever. A day, maybe, unless -- again we emphasize -- the subject is highly motivated to be your slave. Even then he'll need a refresher, so you may have to send him home with a self-hypnosis tape. It's true, you can't make people do things while hypnotized that they wouldn't do otherwise. Hypnosis relaxes a subject and might lower inhibitions, but you can't manipulate a mind that doesn't want to be messed with. Your only option may be to marry your neighbor, which will automatically give you the right to hound him into mowing the lawn and waxing the car and doing other disagreeable things.

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