History of Hypnosis
The word hypnosis is taken from the Greek for sleep, Named after the Greek God of sleep ’hypnos’. Hypnosis can trace its history back thousands of years to shamans inducing trances in subjects. Evidence exists that shows Egyptians using suggestion and sleep trances. There are many references to trance and hypnosis in early writings. In 2600 BC the father of Chinese medicine, Wong Tai, wrote about techniques that involved incantations and passes of the hands. The Hindu Vedas written around 1500 BC mention hypnotic procedures. Trance-like states occur in many shamanistic, druidic, voodoo, yogic and religious practices.
The physician Hippocrates (c. 460 BC – c. 370 BC) and Aesculapius both used forms of hypnosis in their treatment. In the early Christian era the use of hypnotism declined although some of Jesus`s miracle healings could be put down to it.
Johann Joseph Gassner (1727–1779), a Catholic priest, believed that disease was caused by demons and could be exorcised by incantations and prayer. He suggested patients touch his crucifix then they would fall to the floor in a trance like state this was witnessed by Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815), a physician from Austria, investigated an effect he called "animal magnetism" or "mesmerism", the idea that diseases are the result of blockages in the flow of magnetic forces in the body. He believed that he could store his animal magnetism in large baths of iron filings and transfer it to patients with steel rods and 'mesmeric passes'.
In `1842 a Scottish eye surgeon James Braid (1795 – 1860) coined the term "hypnotism" in his unpublished Practical Essay on the Curative Agency of Neuro-Hypnotism (1842). One day, when he was late for an appointment, he found his patient in the waiting room staring into an old lamp with glazed eyes. Fascinated, Braid gave the patient some simple commands, telling him to close his eyes and go to sleep. The patient complied and Braid’s interest grew. He discovered that getting patients to fixate on something was one of the most important elements in putting them into trance and he started to use a swinging watch as the eye fixation point. He wrote the first book on Hypnotism called Neurypnology (1843).
James Esdaile (1805–1859) used hypnotism to perform 345 major operations using mesmeric sleep as the sole anaesthetic in British India. On returning to England the medical profession just laughed and ridiculed him. However, some people say that if chloroform had not been discovered around the same time as hypnosis for anaesthesia, then hypnosis would be more widely used today
John Elliotson (1791–1868), an English surgeon, used mesmerism to perform 1834 surgical operations and in 1849 formed a mesmeric hospital.
Hippolyte Bernheim consider to be the father of modern hypnotism with Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault (1864–1904) he founded the Nancy School, a school of hypnotherapeutic theory and practice in the last two decades of the 19th century.
The neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–1893) used hypnotism for the treatment of hysteria. And was the first to record the use of post-hypnotic suggestion. Sigmund Freud who was a student of Charcot and witnessed experiments by Liébeault and Hippolyte Bernheim in Nancy he then developed ‘abreaction therapy’.
Another pioneer was the Frenchman Emile Coue (1857 - 1926). He developed something called 'auto suggestion', although he is perhaps even more famous for his saying "Every day in every way I am getting better and better". His new technique was the affirmation technique. He also anticipated what is known as the placebo effect. Recent research into placebos is quite startling and shows that placebos often work better than conventional medicine. Emile Coue was the first person to realise the power of suggestion in hypnosis.
Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939) was also interested in hypnosis, initially using it extensively in his work. He eventually abandoned his practice for a number of reasons, the most important being that he was not successful. He favoured psychoanalysis, a kind of hypnotherapy but without hypnosis.
Milton Erickson (1901–1980) developed many ideas and techniques in hypnosis referred to as Ericksonian Hypnosis, this has influenced many modern thoughts around hypnosis. As a teenager he was stricken with polio and paralysed, but he managed to re-mobilise himself. It was while paralysed that he began to observe and analyse people, and he became fascinated by human psychology. Erickson treated people by using techniques such as metaphor, confusion and humour, while they were in a hypnotic trance. He became famous for his 'indirect techniques'. Today a hypnotherapist who uses indirect suggestions is deemed to be an 'Ericsonian'. Personally, I prefer to use a mixture of both direct and indirect suggestion.
In the United Kingdom, the Hypnotism Act 1952 was instituted to regulate stage hypnotists' public entertainments. On 23 April 1955, the British Medical Association (BMA) approved the use of hypnosis in the areas of psychoneuroses and hypnoanesthesia in pain management in childbirth and surgery
In 1958, the American Medical Association (AMA) approved a report on the medical uses of hypnosis. It encouraged research on hypnosis although pointing out that some aspects of hypnosis are unknown and controversial. Two years after AMA approval, the American Psychological Association (APA) endorsed hypnosis as a recognised branch of psychology.
Chris Breen is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Non-Medical Prescriber, Holding Diplomas In General and Gastric Band Hypnosis, He is registered with the General Hypnotherapy Register and the International Alliance of Holistic Therapists, We also have full indemnity Insurance.