History of Hypnosis

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Hypnosis has been used throughout the world for over 4000 years as a way of curing ills and gaining knowledge. For many early years it was seen as a “dark art” of occultism but the same practices forged into our scientific knowledge of today. In the 1700’s Franz Anton Mesmer was the first to propose a rational basis and a consistent method of hypnosis, he passed this on to his followers as a ritualistic practice he called mesmerisation. Mesmer liked to perform mass inductions by linking patients together by a rope. He performed these mesmerisations or animal magnitisms dressed in a cloak and using a wand . These theatrics led to his downfall and hypnotism was still seen as a dark art. In the early 1800’s doctors risked their reputations to practice hypnosis, John Elliotson and James Esdaille pioneered its use in the medical field, risking their reputation to do so, whilst researchers like James braid researched the science of the subject. These three “greats” influence change and by the end of the century hypnosis was accepted as a valid clinical technique. Jean-Martin Charcot, Director of Medicine at the famous/infamous Saltpêtrière Women’s Asylum. Charcot related hypnosis to hysteria and neurological disorders, since the symptoms of hysteria, as he saw it, exactly matched the three “stages” of hypnosis that he’d been able to identify. Charcot was fascinated by the ready susceptibility that hysterics displayed towards hypnosis, and formed the conclusion that hypnosis was another form of hysteria – in short, an abnormality. He took great pleasure in public displays and commonly used his female asylum patients as demonstration subjects. Women were generally more hysterical than men. In opposition to this, a school of thought grew up around the writings of Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault and Hippolyte Bernheim; professors of medicine at the University of Nancy. Attacked Charcot’s findings, arguing the “three stage” model of hypnosis and proving suggestibility...
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