Everyone seems to have an opinion  about  almost everything. Often when I ask how a person developed his or her opinion, the answer is almost always less certain than the opinion itself.

I am quite curious as to how people come by their opinions, especially regarding subjects that require a great deal of study and research in order to have any kind of understanding of it; for example hypnosis.

I’ve been practicing hypnotherapy for more than 35 years and have heard just about every uneducated opinion possible. People are all too often seriously misinformed by other uneducated individuals, who I am sure have  based their opinion on  having seen hypnosis demonstrated on stage, in school auditoriums or on TV,or who know someone who has tried one shot or group hypnosis without success.

I have spent my whole career and great expense doing my best to properly educate people about hypnosis, and about the difference between stage hypnosis and clinical hypnotherapy. Still many hold the opinion that a hypnotist can make people do anything, including bark like a dog or do something against their will, when the facts prove otherwise. The psychology of stage hypnosis isn’t ever explained well enough, and people tend to believe what they see, so you hear them say, “I saw it with my own eyes!” We hear that seeing is believing; yet the fact is that the eyes can and do often deceive; especially when the intention is to misdirect the audience’s other senses: As you probably know magicians use that technique and their understanding that people want to believe in magic; in fact they want to believe many other unproven or fictional things too.

Unfortunately many people do get their information via the news media and off the internet, and believe that they are being well-informed. A sound bite by a news anchor is often all it takes for some people to have an opinion about a subject. There are certainly enough sources for information these days to get somewhat informed on various subjects. However, I feel being somewhat informed does not qualify me for having or spouting an opinion about it. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so I was often told while growing up. And it is true.  I have found that opinions formed with erroneous or inaccurate information lead  to  poor choices;  for example people who avoid the help they can get from a good hypnotherapist because they fear being “under” his or her spell; that is,  giving up free will.  Or that hypnosis can make them change unwanted behaviors in an instant, and so  are of the opinion that hypnosis doesn’t work  or work for them when one-shot hypnosis doesn’t help  them make radical change  instantly; so  they never seek the benefits of this wonderful modality applied properly by a more professional practitioner.  Proof that  a wrong opinion can prevent action or even incite the wrong actions.

For your information, the way hypnosis is explained on most sites on the internet isn’t up to date and is quite misleading.

Opinion polls also don’t tell all.  How many people take note of  the  percentage  of error admitted in small print , either plus or minor after the big numbers are posted?  And  I  tend to question how many voters actually have done in-depth studies of the issues and the candidates before they vote. What are people basing their opinions on? Obviously their political persuasion has a great influence; yet research shows that more than their platforms and their personal and political history, it is the faces and personalities of the candidates that convince a vast majority of people what to do in the ballot box.

I’m not saying that we should discount the feelings people get from a candidate or a sense of their integrity or how they align themselves with issues. I  also might get an intuitive sense as to  a candidates  character and  potential to do what in my opinion is right and best for us: However, I am fully aware that a vast number or people would have totally different vibes.

And I am always questioning whether or not I am getting reliable information from any source. Having worked as an editor and a staff as well as a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines, and having been written about, I know all too well how a story about anything or anyone can be slanted to suit the publications political stance or their opinion about a person; or what in their opinion the public needs to know; or what they want them to know.

I always ask myself “Am I getting balanced viewpoint?    Am I getting the whole story?” For I have at times,  in the past,  believed that I had been given good information only to learn later that a great deal of information was left out, intentionally or not, or  a lot of details were not accurately portrayed.

If the subject is of interest to me or it is something I need to know, I do careful research.

So when asked for my opinion about a subject I am not sure I know enough about to give an opinion, I say, “I don’t have one.” 

This surprises people because they are used to  people being  ready and willing to voice their opinions, and defend them with great intensity in most cases.

When they ask why I don’t offer one, I say, “I don’t know enough about the subject to have formed an opinion.”

This may disappoint someone; however, it is my honest response. I also ask them, when the time and occasion is right,  to share their information on various subjects in the hope that they can add to my own knowledge; and I am always interested in how others think and feel about things.

I  even like to even play “devil’s advocate” with subjects during a discussion, as  I find it challenges my own knowledge foundations to argue from another’s point of view. Have you ever done that? It is quite informative.

I do often ask the question, “How do you know?” or “What led you to form that opinion?”  Sometimes the answers to those questions are “I just know.” Or, “I read about it in the newspaper.” Or, “I saw a program on TV.” Rarely do I hear, ” I have studied the subject in-depth.”

I was advised by my mother to avoid  discussing  topics of religion and politics with most people, for it might create friction between friends or family; so I was told, “Just don’t go there.”

It is one thing to be assured that people can disagree agreeably, and enjoy sharing opinions during a really stimulating  open-minded  respectful discussion, and another to have someone be offended by your opinion if it doesn’t agree with their own. When opinions are strong they are  usually fiercely defended by those less open-minded, or by those who feel theirs are more valid than anyone else’s.

I know everyone is entitled to their opinion,  however, what is an opinion worth if it isn’t founded on facts and enough well-rounded information to make any valid or defensible conclusion at all?

I’ve often quoted Voltaire:  “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  However, after years of giving the great writer credit for that democratic statement, I learned that it was his secretary who said it!

So now I tend to say, “I think it was ————who said it.”

I am a stickler for accuracy you see!

Being opinionated may not be a bad thing, if you can honestly say you are adequately informed; and if your sources are reliable: However, in my opinion that is a tough challenge to meet in the information age. There is a lot of conflicting and even biased sources out there, and it is often difficult to sort out fact from fiction, or opinion from fact. In truth there are many honest  journalists and reporters out  there ;  it is our responsibility really working for.

So, before asking me my opinion about something, first ask how much I know about it, and I’ll be happy in most instances to tell you what I know and what I don’t know.

When our opinions count,  when they will be taken seriously, when they might influence others in some way,  or have an impact on others ,in my opinion  they ought to be well-informed.

On talk shows movie stars,  athletes  and comedians as well as famous others are asked for their opinions about lots of things and people; it’s as though they have a special insights  just because they have recognisable names and faces.  However  I have noticed that  the hosts and  their guests  talk over each other quite rudely, constantly  interrupting each other, which causes me  to discredit their opinions anyway. I have little respect or patience for this kind of  so-called conversation.   If you are not willing to give another person time to express his or her whole point, what’s the point?  Even if I am able to hear anyone speak their thoughts above the din of mixed voices, what comes through is often simply gossip, and opinions made up of what’s been in the tabloids.

In a court of law “hear say” evidence is inadmissiable. In my opinion that  ought to be true in every day life and conversation, too.

It is too bad that so many people get their  information and their opinions from well knowns, regardless of their qualifications.

We ought to consider the source before we take any one’s opinion seriously. If we have good reason to trust what is being said  and  who is saying it,  then we can give the opinion all due respect,  whether or not we agree with it.

That’s just  my opinion, though. What’s  yours?

TTFN and all the best, from Elaine Kissel.