Before we can begin to discuss anything about hypnotherapy, it is important to discuss what hypnosis actually is. This essay aims to arrive at a definition of hypnosis by describing the psychological and physical aspects and looking at it use by hypnotherapists and the role of relaxation within this. The history of hypnosis dates back to the times of ancient Egypt and it has been quite a contentious history. From Mesmer to de Puysegur in the 1700’s; from the first use of the term hypnosis by Braid in 1840 to it’s use as an anaesthetic in surgery by Esdaile and Elliotson; from the work of Erikson (widely regarded to be the grandfather of modern hypnosis) to the present day, the debate continues and theorists are divided as to the true nature of hypnosis.
These differences of opinion stem from difficulties in actually measuring hypnosis. Hypnosis is a subjective experience and, as such, no two individuals who undergo the process will have exactly the same experience. Often requiring the use of psychological measures, it is, therefore, more difficult to measure reliably in comparison to physiological matters such as heart rate and blood pressure; although, technological advances in the use of EEG’s (electroencephalograms) and neuroimaging have been very useful. Hence, the nature of hypnosis has long been the subject of contentious debate between those who seek scientific experimental explanations of its various psychological and physical aspects and those hypnotherapists who seek to use it as a tool with which to help people. Even today, theorists are divided into two camps: State theorists who believe that the practice of hypnosis brings about an altered state of consciousness and non-state theorists who believe that the hypnotic state or trance is little different from everyday relaxation and that its effects are merely reactions to
References: Hadley, J. & Staudacher, C. 1996, Hypnosis for Change; 3rd edn; Canada, New Harbinger publications Heap, M., & Dryden, W., 1991, Hypnotherapy: A Handbook, OU Press