History Of Hypnosis
The art of hypnosis (people going into trance to heal themselves or to retrieve information) is as old as time itself, but the recorded technique of hypnosis dates back to the 1700's.
A German physician practicing in Paris named Franz Mesmer (1734-1815) developed a theory of animal magnetism, which he believed was a powerful force that could be harnessed to cure illness. One day he saw a Jesuit priest perform an exorcism by tapping on an individual’s head with an iron crucifix. Later, the patient appeared to be cured. Mesmer experimented with magnets and found that some people could be made to go into trances by touching them and come out of trance cured of some problem. He presented his theories that the hypnotic state derives from the operator who induces the trance, in 1772. (The phrase mesmerized was coined at this time.) Although Mesmer's explanation of how hypnosis works is considered wrong by today's standards, the phenomenon is nonetheless genuine.
James Braid (1785-1860): A British doctor, used eye fixation on objects to induce hypnosis. Braid coined the term "hypnosis" (from the Greek word for sleep, "hypnos") to describe the state of focused attention and heightened suggestibility that he induced in his patients. He tried later to change the name, but was unsuccessful. He performed thousands of operations using only mentally induced hypnosis. Braid also created a new method of hypnotic induction having his subjects fixate on a spot above eye level thus causing strain on the eye. This method called `Braidism' is often still employed today. It was Braid who developed the Monoideism theory which suggested hypnosis is a state of concentration on a particular idea or suggestion.
Likewise, John Elliotson (1791-1868): A professor of surgery at the University College in London and the inventor of the stethoscope, used hypnosis for painless surgery and for treating mental disorders.
James Esdalie (1808-1859): A doctor who practiced in India performed surgery with hypnosis for anesthesia. Esdalie had well documented successes, however his process to hypnotize the patient could take from several hours up to several days. Note: Hypnosis is all that is used as anesthesia during eye surgery in India, to this day.
Jean Charcot (1825-1893) and Hippolyte Bernheim (1837-1919): French neurologists, although they feuded for many years, they collaborated which led to development of new Nancy School, utilizing suggestions. All modern hypnotists follow this school.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939): Freud studied under both Charcot and Bernheim. Freud used hypnosis for a while until he switched to Free Association where the patient does most of the talking. Freud tried to discredit hypnosis until he was very old, then he said it was a good method, but that he was not good at it. Freud's many years of discrediting hypnosis, in the eyes of many, set hypnosis back 70 years.
Emile Coue (1857-1926): Wrote the most famous positive suggestion of recorded history which is now being used by members of Alcoholics Anonymous throughout the world - "Every day in every way, I'm getting better and better".
Pierre Janet (1859-1947): A French psychologist and psychotherapist, studied phenomena such as automatic writing and formulated theories on hypnosis with its basis in dissociation. His contributions were the basis for the Neodissociation theory formulated by Ernest Hilgard some 70 years later.
Psychoanalytical Theory: Interpersonal Relationships. Freudian psychiatrists believed that hypnotism involved a close personal relationship between subject who had a 'sick need to be dominated' and hypnotist who had a sick need to 'dominate'. Later, psychoanalysts used hypnosis, but with their own client-centered, non-directive inductions.
Milton Erickson, M.D (1901-1980): Today perhaps the most well-known hypnotist is the late Milton Erickson M.D. who set the course of hypnosis in the direction and form it takes today. Erickson was paralyzed by polio at age 14 and used self-hypnosis to overcome the illness. Although he never fully recovered he went on to be one of the greats, seeing over 30,000 patients in his years and setting a new standard in the art and science of hypnosis. Usefully many hypnotists today are learning the approach of Dr. Erickson. He died in 1980, but not before changing the direction of hypnosis significantly.
Erickson was an American psychiatrist and psychologist who is widely considered one of the most influential figures in the field of hypnotherapy. He developed a highly innovative approach to therapy that focused on the individual's unique experience and utilized hypnotic techniques, storytelling, and metaphors to help patients achieve positive change. Erickson was also known for his work in family therapy and his contributions to the field of strategic therapy, which emphasizes the use of small, specific interventions to bring about change. His approach to therapy was highly individualized and he believed that each patient possessed the resources needed to overcome their problems.
Erickson's innovative and compassionate approach to therapy has had a profound impact on the field, and his techniques continue to be widely used and studied by therapists and psychologists around the world.
What Can Hypnosis do?
Hypnosis in and of itself can do nothing. Hypnosis is a tool allowing the client to enter the hypnotic state. It is what you do during the hypnotic state where the magic of change occurs. Once in the hypnotic state the client bypasses the conscious critical faculty (read about The Critical Faculty in Part 4), after which suggestions, post-hypnotic suggestions and communication with the unconscious mind can be undertaken. Change then occurs as new information can be allowed in with a non¬critical evaluation.
In saying this however, if the hypnotic state is framed in certain ways, or the client has certain ideas about what hypnosis is, such as their expectation, presuppositions and/or the novelty of the experience, then the hypnotic state itself can be the sole agent of change. Milton Erickson believed that the teaching a person to replicate the hypnotic phenomena could not only affect change, but that it would in fact eliminate most of the person’s problems.
Uses of Hypnosis
There are many uses of hypnosis, the most common reasons that people seek out the assistance of a hypnotherapist are:
- Weight loss
- Stop smoking
- Stress management
- The elimination of phobias and fears
- The elimination of anxiety
- Pain control
The above list is a small set of commonly known applications for hypnosis, there are in fact hundreds of uses. For simplicity we can break the areas of use down into 6 areas:
Hypnosis for Self-Improvement
Examples of self-improvement include:
- Athletic ability
- Psychic skills
- Public speaking
- Study skills
- People skills
- Time management
- Boundary setting, etc.
Hypnosis to Eliminate Bad Habits
- Nail biting
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCD)
- Stopping stuttering
- Thumb sucking
- Bedwetting, etc.
Hyposis as a Treatment of Addictions
Examples include the elimination of addiction to:
- Workaholic behavior
- Negative thinking
- Control tendencies
- Cravings etc.
Hypnosis to Eliminate Fear/Phobias
Examples include the elimination of fear/phobia such as:
- Closed-in places
- Public places
This also covers less specific responses such as:
- Panic attacks
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), etc.
Hypnosis for Professionals
Examples include improving or strengthening abilities in:
- Attracting success, etc.
Hypnosis for Health/Physical Change
- Overcoming disease
- Eliminating headaches
- Release chronic pain
- Improving any of the five senses
- Establishing healthy habits (diet/exercise)
- Improving circulation
- Increasing sexual satisfaction and ability
- Improving mental and emotional health
- Reducing stress etc.
Summary of Part 2 - History and Uses of Hypnosis
A review of history shows us the emergence of hypnosis in a form that we recognize today by Mesmer in the 1700's. Since that time various others such as James Braid, John Elliotson, James Esdalie, Jean Charcot and Hippolyte Bernheim followed by further using and expanding the knowledge of hypnotic phenomenon. Whilst Freud discredited hypnosis until much later in life, he eventually acknowledged that it was in fact a good method. Perhaps the most well-known hypnotist today is the late Milton Erickson M.D. who set the course of hypnosis in the direction and form it takes today.
Today, hypnotherapy is widely recognized as a valid form of therapy and is used by many mental health professionals to help their clients achieve positive change. Uses of hypnosis are wide and varied, but broadly falling into the areas of self-improvement, bad habits, addictions, fears/phobias, professional and health/physical change.
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The Part 3 of the series about Hypnosis focuses on the Hypnotic Phenomena. Continue with Part 3 here.