Our Short History on Hypnosis begins with early cultures of religious practices and cultural sermons . There is evidence that Egyptians, Greeks, Persians and Hindu’s all practiced trance like states. The Egyptians were thought to have use hypnosis in the use of dream temples, and American Indians in the induction rituals of boys into manhood. Priests or elders may have induced hypnotic states using rhythmical drumming and chanting and often the trance state was attributed to the possession of the person by demons, ghosts or spirits.
The 1600’s ushered in a time period where hypnotic inductions and beliefs were instilled upon people by healers such as Valintine Greatrakes (1628-1661) known as the Great Irish Stroker who believed himself to have been blessed with the divine gift of healing. His nickname was coined because with his hand he would gently stoke his patients body to cure the inflicted aliment. Belief in himself and the belief of his patients in his healing abilities were all attributors to his phenomenal success. His healing abilities were thought to be the divine gift from god rather than a natural occurring human phenomenon.
In the 1700’s Western scientists began to take an interest in what was termed the trance state. Devils and gods were ruled out as a cause, but the alternative reasons were just as bizarre, with hypnotic induction attributed to metals, magnets and the transference of energies.
Dr. Franz Mesmer (1734-1815) formulated a method of rapidly inducing people into a trance state through the use of, magnets, hand movements and metal rods . He attributed his ability to hypnotize people due to the stronger animal magnetism that resided inside himself over his subjects.
Mesmer accounts were soon to be discredited by the likes of Abe Faria, a Portuguese monk who put forth that a state of hypnosis was caused not by animal magnetism but by the intense concentration of the mind. Abbe Faria thought the power of hypnotism worked by the cooperation of the patient and the use of suggestion. Dr James Braid (1795-1860) from Scotland was the first to use the word hypnosis and put forward that hypnotism was induced by concentration. He used bright shiny objects to focus the mind and sleep inducing words such as “sleep” to induce a hypnotic sleep. Dr Braid used hypnosis to perform hundreds of surgeries upon people, to diminish pain.
While the skills Dr James Braid developed may have been were tinkering on the brink of bringing a major advance to anesthesia in the medical world, penicillin also came about at the same time, and the use of hypnosis for pain control was sidelined.
As science has progressed so has our understanding of the hypnosis. No longer do we believe that mystical spirits, magnets or unusual energies cause hypnosis, but that it is a natural state that can be induced by a hypnosis practitioner or by oneself with a little practise. And as the understanding of hypnosis increases so will its application in dealing with pain, self improvement and uses in a therapeutic environment.