The true origins of HYPNOSIS
The use of hypnosis can be dated as far back as ancient Egyptian times. There is evidence on a bas-relief in a temple at Thebes of a soothsayer inducing trance on a subject by means of revolving a pebble upon the chest of the victim whilst chanting. Shamans, better known as witch doctors, medicine men or healers, would mentally prepare themselves in order to heighten their awareness and concentration. They did this by placing themselves in a darkened quiet room, or an isolated place away from all other distractions. They would visualize images of going down into the earth whilst listening to rhythmic, repetitive chanting and drum beats. By focusing inwardly and concentrating on the monotonous sounds they were able to achieve the trance state.
It was not until the 1700’s that hypnosis was to be used more widely by people of a medical bent, as opposed to the spiritual advisers of mankind. It was an Austrian physician known as Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815) who theorized that all living and inanimate objects exuded an invisible magnetic fluid. He believed that stroking the air close to his patient’s body whilst talking soothingly to them would transmit a healing force from him to them. This form of treatment Mesmer named after himself, ‘Mesmerism’ and the same phenomena was also known as ‘animal magnetism’. Mesmer was indeed successful in a lot of his treatments and word soon spread of this wonder cure. It became very fashionable among the French and Mesmer was able to recruit to his cause the Marquis du Puysegur (1751-1825.) It was this gentleman who observed that many of the patients that he treated seemed to enter into a deep sleep, but at the same time were still able to communicate lucidly and also became very responsive to suggestions that were made to them.
By the mid 1800’s a London physician, John Elliotson (1791-1868) was using hypnosis as a means of pain relief and is reported to have performed more than 1,850 operations, painlessly and without anaesthesia. James Easdaile (1808-1859) a Scottish surgeon was using also experimenting with the ‘mesmeric procedure’ to induce an analgesic response and control of bleeding in his patients, especially for the treatment of soldiers in the field.
By the late 1800’s a Scottish doctor known as James Braid (1795-1860) also observed that the hypnotic trance state resembled sleep. He therefore decided to rename ‘animal magnetism’ by coining the word ‘hypnosis’ after the Greek god of sleep Hypnos, and by affixing the noun ‘osis’, meaning state. So it was that Hypnosis – ‘sleep state’ was born, and survives to this day.
The early 1900’s saw yet another theory emerge. Two French doctors, Auguste Ambroise Leibault (1823-1904) and Hippolyte Bernheim (1837-1919) both strongly believed and asserted that the hypnotic state was a totally natural state. They stated that it was the expectation of the subject which was the most important ingredient when inducing hypnosis, and that when in this state the subject’s suggestibility state was increased. So in summary it was their theory that brought about the realization that the hypnotist merely works on a willing person’s mental influences.
Hypnosis has been a companion resource to many who have realized its potential and throughout the years has gained momentum and popularity especially in the area of self-help and self-improvement. There are many recognizable hybrids of hypnosis today, the most obvious being Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).