A brief history of Hypnosis


-a work in progress


With a knowledge of hypnosis it can be seen that hypnosis has been with us since the beginning. Since there have been humans there has been hypnosis. The earliest examples of hypnosis can be found in ancient tribal ceremonies of our early ancestors. Hypnosis was used in both healing ceremonies and preparations for tribal war. In these early times the hypnotherapist was called a shaman. 


The earliest recorded documentation of hypnosis was found in an Egyptian tomb written on papyrus dating back to 1500 B.C. The Egyptians used hypnosis for both medical and religious purposes. This lineage of hypnosis was passed on to the Greeks, who performed healing rituals in underground healing chambers. 


Many religions today still include hypnosis in their ceremonies such as the sacred Dervishes in Kurdistan in the land of Zarathustra.


In the 18th Century, an Austrian named Frank Anton Mezmer was credited with the discovery of hypnosis. Mezmer would hold large healing ceremonies at his estate. As his patients arrived he had soft music playing and candles creating a very relaxing atmosphere. He would make his appearance walking through the crowds with a powerful magnet around his neck and assuring his clients would find health in his tremendous powers. Because of his extreme popularity he was ridiculed by the physicians of the time and an investigation was conducted by a group which included Benjamin Franklin. They concluded Mezmer did not have any special blessings or powers. They believed people were healed because of their imaginations. A sick person believed they were healed, and so they were healed. Mezmer along with hypnosis was disregarded.


It wasn’t until 1840 when James Braid, a physician, brought hypnosis to the medical community. Braid studied the work of Mezmer and determined his clients where experiencing a trance-like state. He named this state nuerohypnotism and later shortened it to hypnosis, “hypno” being the Greek word for sleep. Later he realized clients under hypnosis where in fact not asleep at all but very much awake and alert, he tried to change the name, but hypnosis stuck. The research of James Braid made hypnosis accessible to the medical community of the time and many other physicians did their own research and began to incorporate hypnosis into their practice. 


Dr. James Esdaile was one such physician, he performed over 2500 surgeries in Calcutta, India using hypnosis for anesthesia. His findings where presented in Europe where he was rejected and ordered to cease using hypnosis. He returned to India and practiced hypnosis successfully for years. 


Hypnosis found it’s way back into the medical community in World War I and II where it was used to treat soldiers with neurosis as well as replace anesthesia when supplies were low.


In 1933, an American named Clark Hull studied hypnosis and found it to be a state of mind where the person is very open to suggestion.


In 1950, both the British and American Medical Associations declared hypnosis to be a useful therapeutic tool.


In 1957, Sigmund Freud became impressed with hypnosis and began to use it in his practice to treat neurotic disorders. Later he became frustrated he could not put every one of his patients into a trance state and tossed hypnosis aside. Once again, hypnosis receded from the medical model and was embraced solely for entertainment in the form of state hypnosis. 


... more to come later