History of Hypnosis

Veda Kalidas, Guest Writer
Waking Times

The beginnings of formal medical research with hypnosis began with James Braid who is considered the Father of Modern Hypnotism. In 1842 Braid coined the term Hypnosis to describe his use of the mesmeric trance in treating psychological and physiological conditions. Braid believed that the hypnotic trance was induced through prolonged attention upon an object of fixation such as a bright moving object to fatigue certain parts of the brain and cause a sleep-like trance in a process known as protracted ocular fixation.

Upon further study Braid concluded that sleep was not involved in the process of hypnosis and attempted to change the name from hypnosis to monoideasism. Unfortunately for him the original term had already stuck with popular sources and so hypnosis is the term we know and continue to use today. James Braid is remembered for his work Neurypnology, the first book on hypnosis published in 1843, and his application of hypnosis in pain management.

Additional medical practice is documented following James Braid. In 1834 an English surgeon, Dr. John Elliotson, reported using mesmerism (an early term for hypnosis) in performing numerous painless surgical procedures. During the mid-1800s in British India, Dr. James Esdaile reported utilizing mesmeric sleep as the sole anesthetic in 345 major operations. Following the death of Drs. Elliotson and Esdaile there was a decreased interest in hypnotism as the development of chemical anesthetics replaced hypnotism in this role. Practice and experimentation with hypnotism increased in continental Europe during the late 1800s when new translations of Braids original hypnosis works were circulated. It was also during this time (around the 1880s) that the practice of hypnosis moved from the surgical medical field into the mental health field.

  • The beginnings of formal psychological research began in the late 1800s with systematic experimentations and examinations of hypnosis being practiced in France, Germany and Switzerland. It is during this time that post-hypnotic suggestion was described as well as the correlation between hypnosis and extraordinary improvements in sensory acuity and memory.

    Neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot utilized hypnotism for the treatment of hysteria. Charcot’s pupil Pierre Janet described the theory of dissociation whereby hypnosis was used in the splitting of mental aspects to access and recover skills and memories. This research sparked further interest into the subconscious and created a framework for therapy with dissociated personalities.

    Ambroise-Auguste Liebeault (1864-1904) wrote about the necessity of rapport between the hypnotizer and participant and the importance of suggestibility. Psychologist and psychiatrist Boris Sidis formulated a law of hypnotic suggestibility stating that suggestibility varies as the amount of disaggregation and inversely as the unification of consciousness. French pharmacist Emile Coue developed the following laws of suggestion: The Law of Concentrated Attention– attention concentrated repeatedly on the same idea tends to realize itself spontaneously; The Law of Reversed Effect– the harder one tries to do something the less chance of success one has; and The Law of Dominant Effect– strong emotions and suggestions tend to replace weaker ones. German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz developed a system of self-hypnosis called Autogenic Training based upon adaptations of the theories of Abbe Faria and Emile Coue.

    Modern applications of hypnosis include crowd hypnosis, psychoanalysis, hypnotherapy, obstetric hypnosis, treatment of neuroses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, hypnotic anesthesia, increasing certain physical capacities, changing the threshold of certain sensory stimulation, pain management, increasing motivation, altering behavioral patterns, social influence, increasing memory and criminal investigation. The modern study of hypnotism is accredited to Clark Leondard Hull. Hull published Hypnosis and Suggestibility in 1933, an experimental analysis that demonstrated that hypnosis had no connection with sleep. Hypnosis was influential in Sigmund Freud’s invention of psychoanalysis, was applied to Russian medicine through obstetric hypnosis in the 1920s by Platanov, used to treat neuroses in WWI, WWII and the Korean War.

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