History in

History in hypnotherapy and hypnosis as an alternative healing method dates back as far as recorded history.

Hypnosis / hypnotherapy has been called and referred to by many different names.

It has been long believed by healers all over the world that there is a
mind - body connection.

Even the most ancient cultures and civilizations in the world used different forms of hypnosis (suggestions, sleep analysis, meditation) to assist in healing.

History in Hypnotherapy in Ancient Cultures

  • Pre-History - in the earliest origins of hypnotic-like therapy, it can be inferred that 'suggestion therapy' was performed by some Shaman, witchdoctors, wise women, and tribal doctors.
  • Hypnosis has been traced back to 3,000 B.C. in Egypt where there were 'incubation' or 'sleep temples'.
  • This 'incubation' treatment was associated with Imhotep, the earliest known physician in history; he was the Physician Vizier of the Pharaoh Zoser (2980 - 2900 B.C.).

    The Temples of Imhotep were popular for 'sleep therapy' and 'shrine sleep' which is still found in some areas in the Middle East and Africa.

    During treatments, (of incantations and religious rituals), sick people were psychologically prepared for therapeutic procedures.

  • Ancient Hebrews used magical rites, chanting, meditation, breathing exercises and incantation.
  • These ritualistic practices were very similar to auto-hypnosis and produced an 'ecstasy state' that was called Kavanah.

  • Ancient Greeks and Romans had a lot of history in hypnotherapy. They had sleep temples where people would be put into a trance-like sleep for healing. The priests would interpret the dreams.
  • Greeks and Romans also believed that physical and emotional health effect each other. They believed that a healthy mind leads to a healthy body.

  • Hellenistic Period (500 B.C.) - Sleep Temples were mostly used for the mentally ill. The priests would interpret their dreams, also.
  • It is thought that suggestion was strongly used and the priests would 'cast out bad spirits' with a brush, cloth or physical touch with the hands.

  • In the Bible, both the New and Old Testaments speak of what could be considered hypnosis.
  • Kutadgu Bilig (1069) - This was a book written in Turkish that talks about the efsuncus. These were a medical auxiliary, that used 'suggestion' to ward off demons.
  • Pietro D'Abano (1250 - 1316) - was a teacher of medicine, philosophy and astrology. He has been called a "Suggestionist".
  • He wrote '....that suggestion when practiced by a kind and, at the same time authoritative personality, has definite effects on mentally disturbed people well disposed toward this method of treatment'.

Modern History in Hypnotherapy

Modern history in hypnotherapy began in the 18th century with a few different people.

  • It has been mistaken that Anton Mesmer (1734 - 1815) was the "father of hypnotherapy". Mesmer did not hypnotize his subjects at all.
  • Mesmer was strongly influenced by Father Maximillian Hell, and most notably his mentor's thoughts on astrology, planets and the effect on humans.

    He was a graduate from a famous medical school in Vienna, Austria. He became interested in magnetic healing (using magnets over the body to aid in healing).

    He believed all living things had a "magnetic fluid" in them and if they had enough, they would be healthy.

    This is where the term "animal magnetism" came from, as well as "mesmerize", which is often used interchangeably (by error) with "hypnotize".

  • James Braid (1795 - 1860) was a Scottish surgeon practicing in Manchester, England.
  • He realized that some patients would go into a trance if their eyes were fixed on a bright object like a pocket watch.

    Dr. Braid came up with the theory and words "hypnosis" and "hypnotism" in 1843.

    After being under scrutiny and being compared to "mesmerism", he also said that hypnotism was a scientific and "psycho-physiological" (mind-body) discipline.

  • James Esdaile (1808 - 1859) - was also a Scottish surgeon who was working in India using eye fixation to put patients into a deep hypnotic sleep before surgery.
  • Dr. Braid and Dr. Esdaile were among the first to be taken seriously with their research and use of hypnosis. Their studies were 'scientific' and considered valid.

    These men were the first to remove hypnosis from the context of mysticism, and that it legitimately helped patients with their disorders.

    Other scientific pioneers were Bernheim, Brewer, Freud and Liebeault.

  • Freud was originally a strong advocate of hypnotherapy and traveled to France to study with two reknowned teachers.
  • He wrote several articles on hypnotherapy and translated two books from French into German on the subject.

    He used hypnotherapy on some of his clients in the late 1800's, but by the beginning of the new century, he had moved to using his 'free association' or 'talking' technique.

    Unfortunately, when Freud became disinterested in the use of hypnotherapy, many other people abandoned it's use.

  • During the 1800's, hypnosis was commonly practiced by doctors, especially in Europe. It was used as an anesthetic and pain reliever.
  • With the discovery of anesthesia, stronger pain medication and people's distrusting thoughts of hypnotism, it slowly lost it's popularity during the early 1900's.

History in Hypnotherapy: 20th Century Views

Several people in the last century have influenced the current view(s) of hypnosis. Some of the most notable names are:

  • Ormond McGill was a stage hypnotist who helped keep the public interested in the art of hypnosis.
  • Charles Tebbetts also did hypnosis on stage for audiences, which increased interest and introduced many people to it's therapeutic use.
  • Dave Elman helped hypnosis gain acceptance from the medical community. In 1958, the Council on Medical Health of the American Medical Association accepted the use of hypnotherapy as treatment.
  • Milton Erikson has been called the "grandfather of hypnotherapy" for his important contributions to the acceptance of hypnotherapy as an art and a science.
  • He was a psychiatrist and hypnotherapist who was well regarded and trusted within the medical community. His professional credentials were impressive to his peers.

Other people worth mentioning for their contribution to the advancement of and history in hypnotherapy as both a science and a healing art are: Abramson, Bordeaux, Erwin, LeCron, Magonet, Menninger, Rosen, Shenek, Simonton, Wetzenhoffer and Wolberg.

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