History of  Hypnosis

The history of hypnosis is a mix of entertainment, religion and the practice of self relaxation and inner change. The modern history of hypnosis is generally accepted as having started with the work of Viennese physician, Friederich Anton Mesmer (1791-1868) in the late 1700’s. Mesmer at the age of 25 years went off to study law, but after one year he became bored of this subject and changed his educational direction to study for his medical doctorate at the
University of
Vienna. Mesmer was probably the first well know hypnotist. Mesmer`s utilization of hypnosis started with his discovery that particular categories of medical patients were affected by arm stroking and sleep suggestions. Mesmer referenced these therapeutic results to the `quality` of `animal magnetism`, and he proposed a principle that animal magnetism was some enigmatic and peculiar cosmic fluid with remedial qualities.

Mesmer’s methods (Mesmerism) fell from favour until 1843 when British surgeon James Braid revisited the phenomenon of Mesmerism and renamed it hypnosis, after the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos.

James Esdaile (1808-1859), became an enthusiastic advocate of mesmerism, as it was then referred to, and really succeeded in interesting the British government in engineering a hospital in
India, where he used it suitably on all types of medical patients, leaving countless brilliant manuscripts of major and minor surgery achieved under hypnotic anaesthesia. Esdailes cases listed eye, ear, and throat operations, amputations, and tumours and cancerous growth removals. Esdaile reported no pain and zero mortality under his so-called mental anaesthesia.

James Braid (1785-1860) coined the word “hypnosis” from the Greek word, “sleep,” but later discovered that hypnosis was not sleep. Braid was a highly regarded medical physician and through his research hypnosis began to be recognised on a scientific basis. Braid considered eye fixation to be the key to hypnotism and so would use candles or bright objects for his subjects to stare at to induce trance.

Milton Erickson (1932-1974), is often labelled the ‘father of modern hypnosis‘. Milton Erickson was a psychiatrist and psychologist who pioneered the use of indirect hypnosis, or Ericksonian hypnosis. He is regarded as the world’s most creative and innovative Hypnotherapist utilising a very non-authoritarian, indirect approach to hypnosis. Indeed his methods seemed little more than casual conversation to the client, using rapport and metaphors to allow the client to resolve their issues.