Deliberately creating trance states for healing purposes is mentioned in records from early times in the Egyptian, Greek and Indian civilizations, as well as in tribal societies. Modern study of the subject began with Dr Franz Mesmer (1734-1815), who, following Paracelsus and other "magnetic healers" such as his teacher Maximilian Hell, believed that there was a healing "force" which either was magnetism or was related to magnetism, and which flowed from the healer to the patient in order to bring about healing. (Magnetism held a place in the science of the time similar to quantum physics today - advanced science which nobody understood very well and which seemed miraculous to the layman. If Mesmer was working today he would undoubtedly talk about "quantum forces" rather than magnetism, as in fact many people do, with just as little scientific basis.)
As well as using actual magnets in his healing, Mesmer believed that "animal magnetism" was transferred by the gestures he made around the patient's body. He also made sure to create a suitable atmosphere of drama. This suggests that he was aware at some level of the role of the patient's imagination in the process, even if he did not include it in his theory.
Mesmer's theory was discredited in his own lifetime by a "placebo-controlled" trial devised by a group of distinguished scientists including Benjamin Franklin, and conducted with the assistance of Mesmer's follower d'Eslon. (Mesmer himself would not participate.) The commission of which Franklin was a part correctly concluded that "imagination" was what was operating, not magnetism - disproving Mesmer's theories, but not invalidating his results. Disciples of Mesmer continued to operate, however, for some years.
Abbe Faria, an Indian of Portuguese descent, introduced "oriental" hypnosis to Paris in the early 19th century. His form of hypnosis did not use physical objects or mesmeric "passes", and he claimed that it operated based on the expectancy, cooperation and ability to concentrate of the hypnotic subject - the beginning of a shift in thinking from a view of the power residing in the hypnotist to the realization that it resided in the subject.
Dr James Braid coined the term "hypnosis" in 1842, seeing it as a physiological process of creating a trance state by fixed attention to a bright moving object. His theory was that this fatigued parts of the brain and caused the subject to fall into a form of sleep. He later modified this theory and tried to change the term "hypnosis" (from the Greek word for "sleep"), but the term had become widespread by that stage and, though inaccurate, continues in use. His 1843 book on the subject is considered the first, and interest was revived in the 1880s based on new translations of it which were circulating in Europe (Braid having died in 1860).
During this period neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot became interested in hypnosis and investigated it as a treatment for mental illness. His pupil Pierre Janet used it in the context of dissociation and in early work with the subconscious, and influenced Sigmund Freud (also a pupil of Charcot). Freud's discounting of its use in psychiatry reduced its popularity in the therapeutic community in the early 20th century, although the British Medical Association had approved its therapeutic use as early as 1892, and it was used in treatment of post-traumatic stress following the first and second World Wars and the Korean War.
At Yale University in the 1930s, experimental psychologist Clark Hull performed rigorous scientific and statistical studies of hypnosis and demonstrated hypnotic anaesthesia and post-hypnotic amnesia to be realities, though he debunked claims of extraordinary improvement in mental abilities.
In 1955 the British Medical Association approved the use of hypnosis for purposes of therapy of psychoneuroses and for pain management in childbirth and surgery, and encouraged all physicians and medical students to study hypnosis. The American Medical Association, three years later, approved a report on medical uses of hypnosis and encouraged further research, noting that some aspects were poorly understood or controversial.
Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980) is one of the more recent innovators of hypnotherapy, using it along with therapeutic metaphor and story in his psychiatric practice. He believed that trance was much commoner than generally thought and was known for his "indirect" method of suggestion in contrast to the more "authoritarian" suggestions used by earlier hypnotherapists. His suggestions were "artfully vague", recognizing that whatever resonates with the subject's unconscious will be effective in enabling them to make the desired change. He also used "confusion" as a means of inducing a variety of trance states.
(Thanks to Wikipedia for some of the above information.)
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