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History of Hypnotherapy

  • Hypnosis has been used all over the world for thousands of years.
  • The earliest known physician was in Ancient Egypt around 3000 BC. His name was Imhotepand and he used a psychotherapeutic method called incubation or temple sleep, which was hypnotic trance.
  • The Delphic Oracle and many other ancient writings mention the curative powers of hypnosis.
  • Additional records of the earliest hypnotic sessions were recorded on a stone stele from Egypt in the reign of Ramses XII of the Twentieth Dynasty, some 3000 years ago.
  • Centuries ago, the Persian magi, the Hindu fakirs, and the Indian yogi used hypnosis without realizing it. Throughout history, however, the use of hypnosis waxed and waned.
  • In 2600 BC the father of Chinese medicine, Wong Tai, wrote about techniques that involved incantations and trance states and Hindu Vedas writings from 1500 BC mention hypnotic techniques. In fact, trance like states occur in many ancient and religious practices for the purposes of healing.
  • The earliest references to hypnosis date back to ancient Egypt and Greece. Indeed, ‘hypnos’ is the Greek word for sleep, though the actual state of hypnosis is very different from that of sleep. For example, a Greek engraving dated 928 B.C. depicts a well-known physician, Chiron, placing a patient in a hypnotic trance.Both cultures had religious centres where people came for help with their illnesses and problems much as we still do today when visiting our Doctors and Hospitals.
  • Hypnosis was used by these early civilisations to help induce dreams, which were then analysed by the priest to find the root of the issue or illness.
  • There are also many references to trance and hypnosis in the earliest writings.
  • Trance like states occur in many shamanistic, druidic, voodoo, yogic and religious practices.
  • Hypnosis has been an integral part of medicine for thousands of years and can be successful on its own or when working closely with standard medical practices.

    Anton Mesmer

  • The modern father of hypnosis was an Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 – 1815), an Austrian physician,from whose name the word ‘mesmerism’ is derived. He developed the theory of ‘animal magnetism’ – the idea that diseases are the result of blockages in the flow of magnetic forces in the body. Mesmer himself was very much a showman, conveying by his manner that something was going to happen to the patient. In itself this form of indirect suggestion was very powerful. Mesmer was also responsible for the popular image of the hypnotist as a man with magnetic eyes, cape and goatee beard. His success fuelled jealousy among many of his colleagues.As Mesmer’s healing methods became more widely known, he created a baquet, or a large tub, which he filled with iron filings. Mesmer’s patients grasped metal rods that were connected to this device to experience a “magnetic” flow. Thirty or more persons were connected by cords and were magnetized as Mesmer touched each patient with a glass rod. The result was that many of these patients developed seizures or outbursts similar to those observed among some religious sects. Mesmer originally claimed that magnetism emanated from the astral bodies, and later that it was transferred from himself to the patient by his magnetic wand.
  • In 1784, the French Academy stated that the cures Mesmer achieved were due to imagination not magnetism. The Academy issued a negative report, which temporarily discredited Mesmer’s contributions to the use of hypnosis.
  • Inadvertently, however, Mesmer’s work laid the precedent for present-day group psychotherapy, spiritual healing, imagery conditioning, and psychoanalysis. Charles d’Eslon, a pupil of Mesmer, remarked, “If the medicine of imagination is the best, why should we not practice the medicine of imagination.” Unfortunately, this wisdom has been neglected for nearly 200 years.
  • The present resurrection of hypnosis is contributed to the pressing need to treat many psychosomatic conditions of both World War I and World War II veterans who would not respond to traditional medical treatment. Other wars put medical personnel in situations in which the lack of anesthetic had to be substituted for by the use hypnosis and hypnotic pain control. As the use of hypnosis has been brought to the forefront once again, it is slowly being accepted into mainstream medical care.
  • Another notable name in hypnosis is James Braid (1795 – 1860), a Scottish doctor who discovered that getting a patient to fixate upon something was one of the most important components of bringing about the trance state. One day, when he was late for an appointment, he found his patient in the waiting room staring into an old lamp, his eyes glazed. Fascinated, Braid gave the patient some commands, telling him to close his eyes and go to sleep. The patient complied and Braid’s interest grew. He discovered that getting a patient to fixate upon something was one of the most important components of putting them into a trance.
  • Around the same time as Braid, a British surgeon in India, James Esdaile, recognised the enormous benefits of hypnotism for pain relief and performed hundreds of operations using hypnosis as the only anaesthetic.
  • The French also had an ongoing interest in the subject of hypnosis, and many breakthroughs were made by such men as Ambrose Liebeault, J. M. Charcot and Charles Richetin in the 17th- 18thcenturies. Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939), also initially used hypnosis extensively in his work.
  • Hypnosis became mainstream in America in the 1930’s with the publication of Clark Hull’s book,Hypnosis and Suggestibility. More recently, the recognised leading authority on clinical hypnosis was Milton H Erickson, MD – a remarkable man and a highly effective psychotherapist.
  • It is becoming more and more accepted that an understanding of hypnosis is essential for the efficient practice of every type of psychotherapy.
  • Hypnosis forms part of many professional training, including medicine and psychotherapy and the popularity of the approach and effectiveness is evinced by a growing demand for workshops and courses, including degree courses, in hypnosis and the hypnotherapeutic approach.
  • Our history shows that the mind can influence all aspects of our physical body, our thoughts, actions and emotions. The mind can help us to overcome a wide range of problems and it is now accepted that hypnotherapy offers an extremely effective method of accessing our mind at all levels to bring about positive change.
  • Some physicians – the present day pioneers – embrace, use, and recommend hypnosis to their patients. For instance, Dr. Herbert Benson, known to have made a tremendous contribution to the understanding of the mind/body connection, recognizes that the states he induces in his patients share common elements with hypnosis.
  • Similarly, Dr. Deepak Chopra endorses the use of hypnosis in the treatment of various conditions.
  • Dr. Andrew Weil, the author of the book Spontaneous Healing (and many other publications), writes that he frequently refers patients to hypnotherapists because he has seen it produce excellent results in many illnesses that are managed poorly by conventional medicine. Among these illnesses are a wide range of skin and gastrointestinal ailments, allergies, autoimmune diseases, and chronic pain. Dr. Weil states that diseases of the skin and gastrointestinal tract should be assumed to have an emotional basis until proved otherwise, because these systems are the most frequent sites of expression of stress-induced imbalances.
  • The use of hypnosis as an adjunct to traditional medical treatment, however, seems to be limited only by its practitioners. Literally, there is no medical condition or ailment that cannot be assisted by the use of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.