In the history of hypnosis its earliest reference to hypnosis dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece. Indeed, ‘hypnos’ is the Greek word for sleep, although the actual state of hypnosis is very different from that of sleep. Both cultures had religious centres where people came for help with their problems. Hypnosis was used to induce dreams, which were then analyzed to get to the root of the trouble. There are many references to trance and hypnosis in early writings. In 2600 BC the father of Chinese medicine, Wong Tai, wrote about techniques that involved incantations and passes of the hands. The Hindu Vedas written around 1500 BC mentions hypnotic procedures. Trance-like states occur in many shamanistic, druidic, voodoo, yogic and religious practices. History of Hypnosis Pioneers
The modern father in the history of hypnosis was an Austrian physician, Franz Mesmer (1734-1815), from whose name the word ‘mesmerism’ is derived. Though much maligned by the medical world of his day, Mesmer was nevertheless a brilliant man. 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. He believed he could store his animal magnetism in baths of iron filings and transfer it to patients with rods or by ‘mesmeric passes’. The mesmeric pass must surely go down in the history of hypnosis as one of the most interesting, and undoubtedly the most long-winded, ways of putting someone into a trance. Mesmer would stand his subjects quite still while he swept his arms across their body, sometimes for hours on end. The British in the History of Hypnosis.
Another forward thinker was John Elliotson (1791 - 1868), a professor at London University, who is famous for introducing the stethoscope into England. He also tried to champion the use of mesmerism, but was forced to resign. He continued to give demonstrations of mesmerism in his own home to any interested parties, and this led to a steady increase in literature on the subject. The evolution of Mesmer's ideas and practices led James Braid (1795-1860) to coin the term and develop the procedure known as hypnosis, which is derived from the Greek hypnosis (sleep), in 1842. Popularly titled the "Father of Modern Hypnotism", Braid rejected Mesmer's idea of magnetism causing hypnosis, and attributed the “mesmeric trance” to a physiological process—the prolonged attention on a bright moving object or similar object of fixation. He postulated that "protracted ocular fixation" fatigued certain parts of the brain and caused the trance, "nervous sleep." Primarily a Scottish eye doctor, 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. The swinging watch, which many people associate with hypnosis, was popular in the early days as an object of fixation. Following his discovery that it was not necessary to go through all the palaver of mesmeric passes, Braid published a book in which he proposed that the phenomenon now be called hypnotism. Meanwhile, a British surgeon in India, James Esdaile (1808 - 59), recognized the enormous benefits of hypnotism for pain relief and performed hundreds of major operations using hypnotism as his only anaesthetic. When he returned to England he tried to convince the medical establishment of his findings, but they laughed at him and declared that pain was character-building (although they were biased in favour of the new chemical anaesthetics, which they could control and, of course, charge more money for). So hypnosis became, and remains to this day, an ‘alternative’ form of medicine. The French in the History of Hypnosis
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