The early history of hypnosis actually begins before any recorded history exists.
In the religious and healing ceremonies of all primitive peoples on the face of the earth there exist the elements essential to place the subjects into a hypnotic trance.
It is assumed, therefore, by the study of ceremonies of primitive peoples who still exist in Africa, Australia, and elsewhere that even before history was recorded, induction's were accomplished by rhythmic chanting, dancing, monotonous drum beats, together with strained fixations of the eyes accompanied by catalepsy of the rest of the body.
Primitive ceremonies had the essential of a central focus of attention, with surrounding neurology areas of inhibition, which two factors are responsible for 95% of the induction of the hypnotic trance.
Whether these were called religious ceremonies, healing ceremonies or a combination of religious and healing ceremonies is actually immaterial.
The fact is that trances did exist and were hypnotic in character.
Hypnosis is named after the Greek word for sleep, "hypnos", although the actual state of hypnosis is very different from sleep. It has, however, been called different names by different cultures, different religions, and different individuals
1734 -1815: Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer - Mesmer's dissertation at the University of Vienna (MD. 1766), suggested that the gravitational attraction of the planets affected human health by affecting an invisible fluid found in the human body and throughout nature.
In 1775 Mesmer revised his theory of "animal gravitation" to one of "animal magnetism" wherein the invisible fluid in the body acted according to the laws of magnetism. According to Mesmer, "animal magnetism" could be activated by any magnetized object and manipulated by any trained person.
Accused by Viennese physicians of fraud, Mesmer left Austria and settled in Paris in 1778. There he continued to enjoy a highly lucrative practice but again attracted the antagonism of the medical profession, and in 1784 King Louis XVI appointed a commission of scientists and physicians to investigate Mesmer's methods; among the commission's members were the American inventor and statesman Benjamin Franklin. They reported that Mesmer was unable to support his scientific claims, and the mesmerist movement thereafter declined.
Whatever may be said about his therapeutic system, Mesmer did often achieve a close rapport with his patients and seems to have actually alleviated certain nervous disorders in them. More importantly, the further investigation of the trance state by his followers eventually led to the development of legitimate applications of hypnotism.
1784: Count Maxime de Puysegut - Count Maxime de Puysegut discovered a form of deep trance he called somnambulism.
1795-1860: James Braid - British surgeon and a pioneer investigator of hypnosis who did much to divorce that phenomenon from prevailing theories of animal magnetism. In 1841, when well established in a surgical practice at Manchester, Braid developed a keen interest in mesmerism, as hypnotism was then called. Proceeding with experiments, he disavowed the popular notion that the ability to induce hypnosis is connected with the magical passage of a fluid or other influence from the operator to the patient. Rather, he adopted a physiological view that hypnosis is a kind of nervous sleep, induced by fatigue resulting from the intense concentration necessary for staring fixedly at a bright, inanimate object. Also Braid and other scientists of the era, such as Ambroise-Auguste Liebeault, Hippolyte Bernheim and J.M. Charcot, theorized that hypnosis is not a force inflicted by the hypnotist, but a combination of psychologically mediated responses to suggestions.
Braid introduced the term "hypnosis" in his book Neurypnology (1843). He hoped that hypnosis could be used to cure various seemingly incurable "nervous" diseases and also to alleviate the pain and anxiety of patients in surgery.
1808-1859: James Esdail - A British surgeon in India, James Esdail, performed 2,000 operations, even amputations - with the patients under hypno-anesthesia and feeling no pain.
1856-1939: Sigmund Freud - Sigmund Freud, father of cathartic method, free association and psychoanalysis, become interested in hypnosis and began to practice it. Not being very good at it, he went on to develop psychoanalysis instead!
1857-1926: Emile Coue - Another Frenchman, Emile Coue, pioneered the use of autosuggestion and these affirmations e.g. "Day by day in every way I am getting better and better". Although stressing that he was not primarily a healer but one who taught others to heal themselves, Coue claimed to have effected organic changes through autosuggestion.
1894 : Svengali - The name Svengali has come to designate an authority figure or mentor who exerts great influence, often evil, over another person. Its source is a fictional character, the villain of the romantic novel Trilby (1894) by British author George du Maurier. In the novel, a young woman named Trilby O'Ferrall falls under the spell of Svengali, a magician who through hypnosis transforms her into an acclaimed singer whom he manages. Trilby lives entirely under Svengali's control until he dies; she then loses her voice and fame.
Clark L. Hull - The next major event in the history of hypnotism came as a result of the progress of behavioural psychology in American university research. Clark L. Hull, an eminent American psychologist, published the first major compilation of laboratory studies on hypnosis, Hypnosis & Suggestibility (1933), in which he conclusively proved that the state of hypnosis and the state of sleep had nothing in common. Hull published many quantitative empirical findings derived from experiments using hypnosis and suggestion and thereby encouraged subsequent research into hypnosis by mainstream academic psychologists. Hull's behavioural psychology interpretation of hypnosis, in terms of conditioned reflexes, rivaled the Freudian psycho dynamic interpretation in terms of unconscious transference.
1901-1980: Milton H. Erickson MD - Milton H. Erickson MD, the recognized leading authority on clinical hypnosis, a master of indirect hypnosis, was able to put a person into a trance without even mentioning the word hypnosis.
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