What is Hypnosis? Describe the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis and discuss the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy.
In this essay, we will aim to describe what hypnosis is, look at the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis, look at the history of hypnosis, along with its application in today’s world. The essay will also discuss the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy. This will include the importance and necessity of such a state for the successful application of hypnosis.
Hypnosis can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, Indian, the Middle East, Africa and the Aborigines of Australia. Unfortunately poor documentation from these cultures and times makes it difficult to prove that the ancient world really used hypnosis and, if so, to what end.
The more modern ‘stars’ of hypnotherapy have left behind a fascinating legacy of development and knowledge from which, we learn the aspects of hypnotherapy today. Starting with the real Godfather of hypnosis, Franz Anton Mesmer (1766) and continuing onto others such legends as James Braid (1840), and Freud (1873).
We will then looking at the physical and psychological aspects of hypnosis. Examine the four main types of brain waves (Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta waves), which brain waves come into play during hypnosis, and their relevance. We will also look at the role of relaxation in getting the body and mind to the right physical state, consider the work of Edmond Jacobson (1929) on the effects of muscle contraction and the benefits of relaxation, leading to the role relaxation plays in hypnotherapy today, and the use of the Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) Technique.
What is Hypnosis?
Over the years there have been many versions of hypnosis, dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Australia to name a few. However, the documented history of hypnosis in these times is patchy at best, and a clear definition of how hypnosis was used in these times is unclear.
In more modern times, Franz Anton Mesmer (1766) develop the theory of animal magnetism after observing Father Johann Gassner carry out exorcisms using a hypnotic state and a metal crucifix. Unlike the priest, Mesmer did not believe that people were possessed but in fact, it was the metal crucifix that magnetised them. After studying in Vienna, Mesmer was heavily influenced by a mystic physician called Paracelsus. Mesmer came to believe that a persons health was effected by astrological forces that exerted a “cosmic fluid”, and this could be altered by the use of magnets to improve an individuals health. Mesmer’s work with magnets and electrodes moved onto Mesmer using just his hands to “cure” his patients, including a case in 1777 where Mesmer appeared to restore the sight of a young musician. Taking his talents to France, Mesmer gained the respect of Louis XVI. However, following a commission by the king to investigate Mesmer’s “powers” and the resultant conclusion was that his results were down to “individual fantasy” of the patient. Mesmer left the city in 1785, and spent the last years of his life living in seclusion, finally passing away in 1815. However, the legacy of Mesmer will live on in the name still given to being in a hypnotic state of mind…is to be “mesmerised“.
Its Abbe Faria in 1814 who suggested that in fact, it was not the effect of magnets that had given Mesmer his results, but the suggestions given by the practitioner to the patient which wielded the results. However, due to Mesmer’s popularity, this suggestion was ignored for many years.
It was James Braid in 1840 who coined the phrase “hypnosis”, derived from the word “hypnos” who is the Greek god of sleep. He too believed that it was the suggestions of the practitioner that achieved the results Mesmer had seen, and not animal magnetism. Braid developed the eye fixation technique for hypnosis.
Meanwhile, Dr James Esdaile (1845)...
References: Hidden Depths by Robin Waterfield
Hypnotherapy: A Practical handbook by Hellmut Karle and Jennifer Boys
Chrysalis study material - Module one
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