History of Hypnosis

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Hypnotic Healing has been part of every culture since the beginning of time, using hypnotic states of consciousness to heal human illness and gain knowledge and an understanding of self and others.

Hypnosis as we know it began in the 1950s and came into acceptance in the 1980s and today it is highly accepted in the medical world of alternative healing. Hypnosis has not changed throughout time. We now understand it and know we can control it…it doesn’t control us. It is the perception of hypnosis that has changed over time.

5000 years ago  –   The ancient people of India, Egypt, and Greece went to Sleep Temples or Sleep Chambers, the sacred healing spaces visited to dream, heal, and cure. The Greek Oracle of Delphi guided individuals through chambers and had them drink herbal mixtures. The sensation overload heightened people’s suggestibility, and expectation led to profound physical and emotional experience and healing. Today hypnotherapists use that same principles.

980–1037  –   In Avicenna, a Persian psychologist and physician was the first to make the distinction between sleep and hypnosis. Hypnosis is not sleep.

1700s  –   Mesmer and Braid both deserve to be most recognized in historical hypnosis because they initiated major trends.

Franz Anton Mesmer (Mesmer gave hypnosis its original name – Mesmerism – in 1765) believed he had the power to magnetize people into his control and during the 1780s he acquired many followers. Some accepted the concept of magnetism, while to others the state of control resulted from other factors, including the personality of Mesmer himself.

One who disbelieved his theory was Dr. James Braid, a physician in the 1840s who believed that Mesmerism was a suggestible state resembling nervous sleep.

Today Mesmerism bears the title that Braid gave it, hypnotism, from a Greek word meaning sleep. While observing hypnotized subjects, Braid found that many physiological changes took place, including the rapid eye movement characteristic of light stages, the change of breathing and subsequent passivity as the subjects enters a deeper state resembling sleep. He noticed that during this time the subject was easily influenced by verbal suggestions, even to the point of controlling many of his involuntary functions. Braid tested his subjects by giving them suggestions in both the waking state and the hypnotic state and found they were more receptive in the hypnotic.

Since then we have recognized that that many different suggestible states exist and that subjects respond differently in each of them. We have also further determined that these various states can be created intentionally, by understanding the difference in suggestibility from one subject to the next.

Marquis de Puysegur was a student of Mesmer and discovered and coined the word somnambulism, a slow brain wave sleep stage similar to sleep walking.

1892 – The British Medical Association endorsed the therapeutic use of hypnosis.

1857–1926 – Emile Coue, a French pharmacist and founder of the New Nancy School, developed a method for autosuggestion or self-hypnosis and was a proponent of self help.

1889–90 Some Native Americans used a popular trance-induced dance called the Ghost Dance. The dance helped them release the pressures the tribes felt from the encroachment of white settlers on their land. The ceremony included dancing, singing, drumming, and a concentration on a message of reviving their lost Native American life,

1893 – Swami Vivekananda introduced yoga at at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Yoga uses a hypnotic state, the deep breathing to calm the mind.

Johannes Schultz, a German psychiatrist, adapted theories and created parallels to techniques used in yoga and mediation.

20th Century – In WWI, WWII, and the Korean War, hypnosis techniques were merged with psychiatry and used in the treatment for what is now known as PTSD – Post Traumatic Distress Disorder.

1955 BMA  – The British Medical Association approved the use of hypnosis in the areas of psychoneurosis and hypno-anesthesia in pain management and childbirth.

1956 –  The Pope approved of hypnosis used in association with a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment.

1958 –  American Medical Association approved the medical use of hypnosis.

1960’s –  AMA and American Psychological Association endorsed hypnosis as a branch of psychology.

Mid-1950–1980   – Milton Erickson changed the style of hypnotism from a directive and authoritarian approach to an indirect and permissive style of trance. He was a master of the non-verbal communication and body language. He used self-hypnosis to overcome his inability to walk and talk due to polio in his youth. Through his experience he became a master of non-verbal communication and body language. (Today, I study his style, and incorporate some methods… yet recognize that I, like other hypnotherapists, create my own unique ways of working).

1949–67   –   Dave Elman helped to promote the medical use of hypnotism. He had no medical training, yet he trained more physicians and dentists in the use of hypnotism than anyone throughout history.

Today  –   We are in a new era of personal growth in which the latest discoveries in brain science can merge with hypnosis. Hypnosis is seen as practical, popular, available to all, and a magnificent tool for bringing about change in almost everything, in every imaginable way. The future holds the scientific and spiritual dream that whatever you can imagine in your mind’s eye and hold on to with passion and belief, will eventually appear in your physical reality.

Joan Teasdale is a Consulting Hypnotist in New York City. She’s a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist in California, and a Certified Therapeutic Guided Imagery Facilitator. Joan offers hypnosis sessions at her West Village NYC office as well as via Skype.

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