History Of Hypnosis
began with ancient civilizations. Many group rituals, such as mass
chanting and meditation to a steady drum beat were parts of religious
ceremonies. There was healing of the mind before any medical practice.
The term Hypnosis comes from the Greek 'ypnos' which means sleep
because of the Trance State. However Hypnosis is not sleep because
the subject stays alert, can talk and move, and the brain waves
The first type
of hypnosis to be accepted and experimented with was animal hypnosis.
In the 1600's, people calmed chickens hypnotically by various means,
such as balancing wood shavings on their beaks or tying their heads
to the ground and drawing a line with chalk in front of their beaks.
In France, farmers learned to hypnotize hens to sit on eggs not
their own. In the mid 1800's in Germany, traveling shows went from
town to town with birds, rabbits, frogs, salamanders and others.
In Manchester, a famed event was LaFountaine hypnotizing a lion.
In the late 1800's, Hungarian hypnotist, Volgyesi hypnotized all
the animals at the Budapest zoo. Scientists and biologists such
as Preyer, Verworn and Emile Mesmet studied animal reflexes (like
paralysis from fear) that might cause such phenomena.
B. Danilewsky (from the famed Salpetriere) experimented with animal
hypnosis and studied its physiological workings in animals. In 1904,
after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov, a Russian
physiologist, found that dogs, if given a signal before food, would,
after a time, salivate when given the signal without food. This
was related to the conditioning of human behavior. Because much
experience pertained to conditioning and reconditioning reflexes
and patterns of behavior, Pavlov became interested in hypnosis,
which he thought induced states similar to his experiments.
Dr. Franz Anton
Mesmer started the concept of magnetism, a theory of a universal
fluid present in everything with uniform characteristic at all levels
of creation with m magnetic vibrations. He cured a young girl of
convulsions by placing magnets on her thighs and stomach. Then began
relying on the laying on of his hands to use his own fluid in healing.
He turned his home in Vienna into a clinic. His reputation increased;
the fashionable set of Swabia and Switzerland consulted him. After
curing the director of the Munich Academy of Sciences, he was unanimously
elected a member of the Bavarian Academy.
He restored the sight of a young famous, female musician, Mille
Paradies, who had gone blind at age 4 when she heard a noise at
her bedroom door. When her parents came to take her home, she didn't
want to leave. Her mother slapped her, Mesmer intervened, so her
father drew a sword. Mesmer did likewise and forced him back.
The mother fainted
and the girl (who had gone blind again) remained with Mesmer. This
caused a tremendous scandal.
So in 1778 he went to Paris. The king arranged for French Academy
of Sciences members to witness Mesmer's experiments. They said cures
were due to imagination and therefore not valid. They said medicine
already had many cures for the diseases magnetism cured.
treat 30 patients in a vat filled with two or three layers of bottles
of magnetized water at the bottom. The neck of each bottle pointed
to the center and bent iron rods were inserted into perforations
in the lid covering the entire container so that they could be applied
to the affected body par. A rope was used for this also. Patients
were placed face to face whenever possible, as close as possible
to each other touching thighs, knees and feet as much as possible
so that the magnetic fluid could continually circulate. Singing
and harmonicas accompanied this. Often patients would cough, spit,
feel heat or pain, or be rocked by convulsions lasting five hours
(these were carried into adjoining room padded on all sides). Mesmer
wore a lilac silk coat and carried a long iron wand with which he
would touch the patient's bodies. He also magnetized then with his
eyes, the laying on of his hands, or putting his fingers into a
pyramid shape passing his hands, lightly all over patient's body
beginning with the head. He would continue this until the patient
was saturated with healing fluid and swooned from pain or pleasure.
Mesmer published a treatise in 1779 trying to impress the Academy
doctors. He became such a success with his patients he had to take
on assistant magnetizers. He opened a clinic at Creteil, then bought
Hotel Bullion to set up four tubs. He also magnetized a tree at
the end of the street rue Bondy. Thousands attached themselves to
it with a rope attempting cures. Mesmer cured many learned people
who published accounts of their cures. He became wealthy and lived
elegantly. He demands a castle and got it.
never got the sanction of the medical body. The Faculty of Medicine
ordered Dr. Charles Desion to renounce magnetism or be struck from
the roll of doctors. Deslon asked the king to appoint a commission
to rule on the effectiveness of magnetism. Two commissions concluded
an unqualified condemnation of magnetism.
Because of this, and a failure with Prince Henry of Prussia Mesmer
doubted whether he still had his magnetic power. He retreated to
live in the forest by a lake. He was imprisoned in Vienna for some
political comments. In 1802, France granted him a pension. The King
of Prussia invited him to teach animal magnetism in Berlin, but
he declined. He stayed in France, caring for the poor, until his
death in 1815. Although magnetism was condemned by the medical body.
It continued to flourish with research, studies and demonstration.
Three brothers, disciples of Mesmer's secret society.
The Society of Harony' (a philanthropic organization), practiced
magnetism. One of them organized a tub and offered 600 pounds to
anyone who could prove cures were not genuine. One patient, Victor,
would fall into a trance and speak with incredible ease and diagnostic
accuracy about the course of his own and others; illnesses, could
read thoughts and carry out orders easily. He could not remember
anything when awakened from trance. This was defined as (magnetic)
In 1825, Dr. P. Foissac invited the Academy of Medicine to examine
his somnambulists whom he declared capable of diagnosing diseases,
with inspiration bordering on the genius of Hypocrites. Conclusions
of Academy, effects of magnetism were due to boredom, monotony and
imagination (except for second sight), but occasionally magnetism
alone produced results.
In 1837, Dr.
Bema proposed to demonstrate to the Academy magnetized clairvoyance.
His claims were rejected and magnetism denied. The Academy offered
3000 francs to anyone who could read in the dark without using his
eyes. No one could. Berna proposed to an Englishman, dr. John Elliatson,
chairman of the Royal Medical and Surgery Society, teacher at the
University of London, and one of the founders of its hospital, studied
magnetism's surgical use and its action on the nervous system. He
performed major surgical operations with patients under hypnosis
including amputations of limbs. The University forbade this, so
he resigned. Public opinion, his results, and many doctors were
behind him, however, and in 1846 he started a "mesmeric Hospital."
Other mesmeric hospitals were then founded. (Many years later, he
suddenly declared the hypnotic techniques could no longer alleviate
In 1845, a Scottish doctor, James Esdale, opened a hospital in Calcutta
and began a famous serious of operations with no pain and almost
no deaths. His practice was made up of rajahs with 100 prominent
witnesses. In India, so many had been afraid of operations, they
had lived with tumors sometimes as large as their bodies (up to
80 pounds). By the time he left, he had performed over 2000 operations.
In 1841, a
Swiss named LaFontaine gave three performances of magnetizing a
lion at the London zoo. James Braid, a Scottish surgeon, was present
and convinced it was all a hoax. But he became curious why one subject
couldn't open his eyes and conducted experiments with his wife and
a servant. Decided a fixed gaze paralyzed nerve centers and destroyed
the balance of the nervous system. Two years later, he published
his theories call 'hypnotism' for the first time in modern conception.
Hypnotism was no longer associated with magnetism and a universal
fluid. Four years later, Braid regretted his choice of the work,
for those who slept were in minority and those who were influenced
were concentrating their thoughts. He had excellent results and
published a book called"Neurhypnology" on his theory called
Braidism.In 1866, Ambrose-Auguste Liebeault became a psychologist
treating mainly the poor with no diagnosis or examination.
in a monotonous but penetrating a tone they feel better with suggestions
regarding health, digestion, circulation, coughing, etc. He had
100's of cures. A professor from the University of Nancy, Hippolyte
Bernheim arrived to expose him and instead was convinced. Together,
they founded what is known as the Nancy school.
Prior to Freud,
suggestion was the only known method of psychotherapy. This was
used extensively with good results. Bernhei joined Liebeault and
they conducted a clinic together. In 20 years, they treated over
30,000 patients together with suggestions under hypnosis. They had
such amazing success that doctors from all over Europe came to study
under them, including Freud.
a book on hypnosis 'De la Suggestion,"which Freud translated
trying to find a physiological explanation of suggestion in the
At the Salpetriere
in Paris, many doctors originated numerous theories of hypnosis
from ischemia being the cause of hypnosis and post-hypnotic amnesia
which might cause permanent brain lesions (Neynert) to being a type
of sleep (August Forel). In general, it was agreed that hypnosis
inhibited certain cortical activity in the brain allowing suggestions
to be ore readily accepted. Jean-Martin Charcot, head of the Salpetriere,
believed it was an alternate state of consciousness.
Nancy school was based on psychology and verbal suggestion using
light hypnosis with no amnesia effect the Chariot School studied
physiology, reflexes and physical means to affect these, like deep
hypnosis with amnesia, magnets or metal plates (effects discovered
in 1876 by Dr. Burcq). Transference (one patient's ailments passing
to another) was discovered. This was perfected by a neurologist,
J.F.F. Babinski. He became head of the clinic when Charcot died.
Babinski changed his mind about the physical effects of hypnosis
and accepted the theory of suggestibility. He tried to prove Hysteria
was the diseased manifestation of hypnosis. Soon, hypnosis was associated
with neuroses and weakness; no one wanted to be hypnotizable. Hypnosis
sank into obscurity, except for Dr. Pierre Janet, head of the pathological
psychology laboratory, who still believed in hypnosis. Christian
Science (a religion that teaches that diseases can be cured by spiritual
means) and psychoanalysis swept the U.S. and Europe, replacing hypnosis.
In 1880, the
daughter (known in case histories as Anna O) a patient of Dr. Joseph
Brier (A Viennese internist and Freud's collaborator) developed
hysterical symptoms. She would go into spontaneous hypnosis and
tell Brier childlike stories, sleep and awake refreshed. If he did
not come one day, she would worsen until she told him two stories
the next day. After her father's death, she began to include memories
from the early months of nursing her father where he symptoms began.
Each time she did, the symptoms gradually disappeared until she
was cured. The emotional ordeal Breuer was put through caused him
to refer all patients of this type to Freud. Freud continued to
use this method.
at this point were as follows: People normally have doubts and misgivings,
which they succeed in controlling. The physical exhaustion caused
by nursing an ill person might predispose on to psychic states thereby
causing loss of control. He thought the failure to react to a trauma
caused suppression, which caused problems. When he insisted that
patients "remember", they would often do so, but he found
much resistance and came up with the theory of defense. This was
also applied to sexual life-the effect of pushing away sexual feelings
could transfer to another object causing obsessions hysteria, etc.
Freud and Breuer thought discharge of intense feelings of traumatic
events was a purge for the patient. Sharing the emotional experience
often produced a speedy curative effect.
that many hysterics had had infantile sexual traumas such as seductions,
assaults, etc. However in 1885, he started having doubts and finally
gave up this train of ideas. He did so because he was not able to
hypnotize many people, and found much resistance; he doubted whether
his treatments could overcome the ego's resistance and supply the
real answer or he would have had more satisfactory conclusions.
He found out that many of the incidents people had supplied when
he insisted they remember were not accurate. He underwent self-analysis
and then went into different areas of psychology-free association
and dream interpretation.
In the 1920's, Emil Coue, originally a pharmacist, made a study
of the psychology of suggestion and operated a clinic in Nancy,
France. His successes helped to make autosuggestion for self-benefit
the vogue in Europe. He made an exhaustive study of the effects
of suggestion. At first, he supplied intensive details with he suggestions,
but later switched to generalizations in order to allow the subconscious
to work out its own best solution and include all that the person
might be aiming at. His most famous techniques are: 1) repeating
every day again and again, "Every day, in every way, I am getting
better and better" 2) if someone thinks that they want to do
something, but they can't the harder they try, the less they will
be able to (i.e., always thing positive); 3) "when the imagination
and the will are in conflict, the imagination always wins"
(used as a theory of why hypnosis worked); and 4) an idea always
tends towards realization and a stronger emotion
a weaker one. Many others in Europe (but not in US) worked with
suggestive techniques. Coue was an amazing success. Coue is considered
the initiator of T. H. Schultz's autogenic training, which is derived
from hypnosis. This is a method of physical conditioning to produce
psychobiological alteration in the subject with no psychological
techniques used. The patient obtains control over the voluntary
muscles (with which he is most familiar), and then the circulatory
system, heart, respiration, organs and head. The hypnotist is not
needed and results can be measured.
In the 1930's
in the US, psychosomatic medicine (concerned with the numerous diseases
cured by suggestion. These included: hemiplegia, multiple sclerosis,
cerebrospinal sclerosis, lead poisoning, hysterical disorders, neuropath
disorders, neuroses, pares and pareses and contractures, gastrointestinal
disorders, various pains, rheumatic diseases, neuralgia, menstrual
disorders, anemia, intermittent fever, tuberculosis, tremors, and
spasms, involuntary quivering of eyelids, chronic torticollis, amaurosis,
mutism, constipation or dyspepsia, Chorea, stammering, moistness
of hands, neurasthenia, obsessions, consumption, influenza, asthma
or nervous origin, mental imbalances, phobias, obsessions, tics,
psychosexual anomalies, morbidtendencies, functional language
Disorders, and functional language disorders, and organic diseases.
During wartime, hypnosis was used to put soldiers back into action.
Hypnosis reduced the stress and the soldier was able to overcome
environmental pressure (such as in the case of Anna O). Although
hypnosis was not an accepted practice, there were so many soldiers
with illnesses caused by wartime trauma that many psychiatrists
used the same technique as Breuer, a reliving of the emotional stressful
war situation, to cure the patient quickly. This worked well, and
hypnosis gained some respectability.
(hypnotism in dentistry) was begun in 1948 and has become wide spread.
The American Society of Psychosomatic dentistry (an association
of ethical dentists who are trained and certified to apply hypnotic
techniques) has been established.
tried everything on a 15-year-old boy who had ichthyosis ("fish
skin" disease). In 1951, after hypnotherapy with Dr. A.A. Mason,
the boy's arm was cured in ten days. In slightly more than a month,
the rest of his body was healed. Because this was a reversal of
the natural course of a congenital disease, this incident helped
in Great Britain's official recognition of hypnosis in 1955 as an
example of psychosomatic medicine.
Dr. Mason also wrote of a girl who, because of chemical anesthesia
for breast surgery, stayed in the hospital for a month after surgery
with postoperative deliriums, continuous vomiting and excessive
bleeding. She needed a second operation. As a hypnotic test, she
had a tooth extracted while in a trance with no pain) when he accidentally
got alcohol in her eye thus enabling the nurse to wipe the alcohol
out of her eye. Dr. Mason indicated how many surgical accidents
could be avoided this way, especially in preserving the coughing
reflex, since blood, saliva, or vomit entering the respiratory tract
causes most deaths under anesthesia.
In 1958, the American Medical Association approved a report on the
medical uses of hypnosis. It encouraged research on hypnosis although
pointing out that some aspects of hypnosis are unknown and controversial.
Medical Association expressed a similar opinion shortly thereafter.
Later, the Italian Medical Association for the Study of Hypnosis
used in law and the FBI to aid memory and rehabilitate criminals.
The most famous example is the Chowchilla, California kidnapping
case. Under Hypnotic induction, a school bus driver recalled a license
number that led the police to the abductors of a school bus full
of children. Hypnosis was also used as psychotherapy for some of
the children who had been greatly disturbed. Some police departments
have appointed their own official hypnotists. The NYC police hypnotist
has won national acclaim in solving difficult criminal cases. Today
hospitals, psychiatric clinics, jails, courtrooms, sports, schools,
even churches and synagogues use hypnosis.
Until his death in 1980 Milton H. Erickson, almost single-handedly
took hypnosis off the stage and into respected medical practice.
Erickson, a noted psychiatrist, who studied with some of the most
influential hypnotists of modern times, including Clark Hull, among
others. A contemporary of Andre Weitzenhoffer, a partner in training
with Leslie Lechron (who is given credit for ideomotor signals).
From Erickson came two gentlemen by the names of Richard Bandler
and John Grinder who formally modeled Ericksons genius in hypnosis
on the advice of Gregory Bateson (one of the geniuses of the 20th
century). This came to be known as Neuro-Linguistic- Programming,
NLP. The purpose of this discipline is to model people of true genius,
from hypnosis to business to psychotherapy and even to pistol shooting
in the military.
Since its beginning
in the early 1970's it has grown into a popular and useful addition
our knowledge of hypnosis. One of the most important developments
from NLP is the notion that you can use words to induce a hypnotic
trance, and even more importantly produce change. What came to be
known as the Milton Model, Bandler and Grinder modeled Erickson's
ability to produce covert trance with just words. These two very
capable gentlemen proved that trance didn't have to be direct, as
in the stage hypnotist approach, to be useful and functional.
In the 1990's,
hypnosis has come full circle, it has been talked about on radio,
shown on most national TV talk shows, from Oprah to Donohue, and
been written up in major magazines, from Cosmopolitan to Success
Magazine. Most everybody has a friend or a family member who has
gone to a hypnotist for something. Even medical doctors are sending
their patients to a hypnotist for habit control - stop smoking,
weight control, stress reduction, as a first choice. This was unheard
of 20 years ago, as doctors only referred to a hypnotist as a last
resort. As hypnosis becomes more and more popular, whether or not
it becomes main stream, only time will tell.
Copyright 1995, Daniel Olson