Hypnosis : A Little History

From the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis

Hypnotic or suggestive therapy is one of the oldest of all healing techniques. From the Sleep Temples of Egypt through the histories of ancient Greece and Rome various forms of hypnosis have been an intimate part of the culture.

In the Middle Ages, healing through faith and prayer became the major way of treating disease. In the 18th Century – when it was believed that illness was caused by the magnetic influence of astral bodies – Franz Anton Mesmer would induce people into a trance-like state by what he believed to be Animal Magnetism. Although Mesmer ‘s theory was soon discredited, it continued to be used even afterhis deathas it often produced ‘miracle’ cures.

When Dr James Braid re-examined Mesmerism in the 19th Century he discovered that simple suggestion was just as effective as Mesmerism or any other method to induce trance-like states. It was he who coined the term ‘Hypnosis’ and hypnosis began to develop into a scientific technique.

Dr. Esdaile then undertook many surgical operation using only hypnosis to control patients pain and much research began into the phenomenon. However, the new scientific discovery of chloroform was soon to curtail these experiments.

By the early part of the 20th Century hypnosis was used almost exclusively by stage hypnotists, thereby projecting a hopelessly distorted view of this very powerful therapeutic tool. However, in 1955 the British Medical Association endorsed the practice of hypnosis in Medical School education, since when it has become a valuable addition to conventional medical treatment.

Modern research and practice over the last fifty years has fashioned Clinical Hypnosis into a flexible technique with which to effect beneficial changes.

A Little History

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