A Brief History of Hypnosis

We’ve been using hypnosis for rather a long time; longer, it turns out, than medicine as a practice has been around.

More than 3000 years ago it was used in India, and in the British Museum there is a bas relief taken from a tomb in Thebes that shows an Egyptian hypnotist and his patient.

Aesculapius, the ancient Roman God of Healing, was able to relieve pain by stroking with his hands to induce long and refreshing sleep in his patients, while, according to Tacitus,  Hippocrates, (460BC – 370BC), spoke of impressing health on the ill by “passes.” 

In 1766, Franz Anton Mesmer formulated his theory on animal magnetism, which he published in Paris in 1779. For a long time, hypnosis was referred to as ‘Mesmerism’, although, technically Mesmer thought of the process as having something to do with a quality he called, ‘Animal Magnetism’.

In 1823, the French Academy concluded that “research on magnetism should be encouraged as constituting a most curious branch of psychology.”

In the mid 19th Century, John Elliotson, the first Professor of the Practice of Medicine at the University Hospital, London, used hypnosis to prepare patients for  major surgery. Many reported feeling no discomfort during the procedures. In one case, Elliotson removed a tumour weight 36 Kg, from a patient whom he had spent four days preparing with hypnosis.

In the late 19th Century, a Manchester surgeon named, John Braid, recognized that with the induction of the ‘mesmeric state’, the eyes exhibited a peculiar type of movement that he thought was of a reflex n a t u r e  He broke away from Mesmer’s theory and believed that the “state” resulted from some physiological change in the individual induced by tiring the eyes, and this resulted in a peculiar physiological condition of the brain and the spinal cord. It was Braid who recognized the importance of suggestion and devised the name “hypnosis.”

From then until the development of anaesthetic drugs  around the turn of the 20th Century, with their huge advantage of having an almost instantaneous effect, hypnosis was commonly used to reduce and even eliminate all sensation during surgical procedures.

However for thousands of years, hypnosis has been recognised as a powerful and effective tool in the treatment of a wide range of conditions, and is becoming increasingly used in the 21st C, as science recognises the extent of the mind/body connection.

There is little that happens in the body that the mind doesn’t influence, much of which takes place at the subconscious level.

Which is precisely where hypnosis does its best work


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