The history of Hypnosis is as long as human history itself. Humans are all capable of putting themselves into hypnotised states and do this sometimes many times a day in most cases being unaware of the state they are creating. Hypnosis is the state just before we wake or sleep and is also there at times of great relaxation or in fact great stress (like the capacity to dull pain when injured as seen on the battle field). I will look at the progression of hypnosis from its uses in the ancient world on to its discovery as a medical tool and how it has progressed through theses stages. I am going to focus on the therapeutic history of hypnosis rather than the history of stage hypnotism as I feel it has more relevance to our course.
In the ancient world nearly all nomadic tribes or cultures used chanting or drums in order to create a hypnotic state (although they are unlikely to be aware that this is what they are doing). We can see evidence of this through historical finds in many parts of the world depicting dance or ceremony and also in the lost tribes in our world today. It is interesting that it doesn’t seem to matter where in the world you are all tribes have a for of dance or chant used to induce an abnormal state. I would describe this state as a form of hypnosis. The early religions and even the religions today also use chants in order to create an altered state. The most obvious use of hypnotism in religion I believe is the evangelical Christians who build a crowd into a frenzy and tell a new disciple they are going to feel the power of god when they are touched by the preacher. The expectation and hypnotic environment creates a situation where the participant may collapse or speak in tongues this is a demonstration of hypnosis in religions in our time but it is likely it has been used in religions for many thousands of years.
More interestingly in the case of tribal cultures is their use of hypnosis in medicine, many cultures have either witch doctors or healers (including our own) who use the power of hypnosis or in most cases belief in order to cure aliments. In most cases the healer was held in high esteem by the community and it was there belief that he/she could heal them that made the remedy effective. We still see this today in the use of placebo pills by modern doctors it is well documented that in many cases just the belief that you would get better is enough to have a profound effect on the healing of the physical body. In the tenth century Avicenna a great physician observed “ The imagination can fascinate and modify the mans body making him ill or restoring him to health”. So even in that period it was no secret that the mind held the key to the health and happiness of a person.
The first experiments that created an accepted form of hypnotism were on animals in the 1600’s people discovered they could calm and hypnotise chickens using various techniques and in France they managed to use this to get hens to sit on eggs that weren’t their own. This is an interesting step as once it is accepted that animals can be hypnotised it opens the door for people to actively try and induce hypnotism in others.
Dr. Franz Anton Mezmer (mezmer from this point forward) is regarded by many as the father of hypnotic therepy he created a concept he described as “animal magnetism” and believed that magnetised water could be used to create a trance state and to heal. He was successful in many cases and used theatrics to enhance the belief of his subjects. Mezer however was considered be many of his peers a fraud and much of what he discovered was lost in the fall out from this accusation.
Probably the most important character on our history of hypnosis is James Esdale in 1845 he opened a hospital in Calcutta and used hypnosis to perform operations for patients without the use of pain killers. He was very successful in this and performed eventually over 200 operations using this technique. He is important as this is where the western medical world first had evidence of the power and use of hypnosis from a practitioner who wasn’t considered a charlatan.
The next most important discovery was Dr Azams discovery of the splitting of the conscious. This was an important step forward for the subject of hypnotism as the practitioner was now aware that he could talk directly to the subconscious and therefore delve more deeply and faster into the problems that an individual may have.
As we move into the 20th century hypnotism had become more accepted by the medical mainstream . In the 1920’s Emil Coue from France helped make auto suggestion for self benefit popular in Europe. He later used the concept of generalisations in order to allow the subconscious to find its own solutions to problems. This is the idea that you don’t have to tell the mind how to resolve an issue you only have to point it in the right direction.
It was in the 1950’s that hypnosis finally gained the approval of both the British and American medical associations. This was a major set in the progress of hypnosis as a therepy. At last the medical world had (at least officially) accepted that hypnosis was a useful tool and could help many conditions including pain control.
In the modern era hypnosis has become a fashionable therapy and is used to help with the symptoms of many ailments and addictions. We also see hypnosis being used more frequently as a self help tool. In fact hypnosis ha become so trusted and popular that some women now opt for hypno birthing where they give birth free from pain killers in a hypnotised state.
I think it is important to remember that hypnotherapy is an art and it is the history of that art we have looked at today. As the years passed and the experience of medical hypnotists improved we have seen a greater understanding of hypnosis being created. This is very different from the history of hypnosis itself which is just a natural state that all people find themselves in every day. It is the evolution of the hypnotherapist and the their guidance of the client through hypnosis that has created the impressive results we see from modern hypnotism today.
By utilising Hypnosis we can resolve issues that may be stopping us reaching our full potential. Hypnosis is the perfect therapy for improving your poker game as poker is a game of the mind. It can be used to reduce tilt, improve focus and can help give you the confidence to make the right move at the right time.