Hypnosis has been used since ancient times, for thousands of years in Egypt and Greece. Hypnosis is even mentioned several times in the bible (Genesis 2:21, 1 Samuel 26:12, Job 4:13, 33:15, Acts 10:10). However, modern hypnosis started to make its impact in the late 1700’s and has evolved since then as more research has been conducted. Advances in hypnosis continue to occur, even in modern times as we learn more about the human mind and its capacity.
Franz Mesmer (1734-1815) is considered the ‘father of hypnosis’ and was a doctor from Austria. He thought that disease was caused by blockages of magnetic fluid in the blood and nervous system. He used magnets, then his hands, and then the eyes to unblock the magnetic fluid and to treat his patients. This procedure was known as Mesmerism.
The Marquis de Puysegur (1751-1825) was a student of Mesmer who studied what was then called ‘animal magnetism.’ He was able to get subjects into a state of sleep and respond to suggestions. Later, when the subjects woke up, they did not remember anything that took place. Puysegur believed there was a psychological connection between hypnosis and the mind.
In the 1800’s the medical community became polarized on the procedure of ‘animal magnetism.’ One doctor lost his ability to practice medicine due to using the procedure. Another doctor, James Esdaile, successfully used mesmeric sleep as an anesthetic while performing surgery on a patient.
James Braid (1795-1860), a Scottish surgeon started using the term ‘hypnotism’ and ‘hypnosis’ in the 1840’s. He believed that there was a neurophysiological connection during hypnosis. He found hypnosis to be helpful in treating headaches and skin problems. Research on the topic of hypnosis has continued to the present.
Since the 1950’s, hypnosis has been recognized and supported by the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association. It is now used in dentistry, medicine, and psychology and helps treat many conditions along with traditional forms of medicine. In the past century, hypnosis has received negative press due to stage hypnotherapy (Mark, 2002).
Taking the past 300 years into account and looking at how hypnosis evolved as a procedure leads one to realize that hypnosis has various uses. There are four main uses for hypnosis: entertainment, spiritual practice, therapeutic, and psychological (Shelp, 2003).
Research continues to be conducted because researchers and doctors do not know how or why hypnosis occurs. It may take years or centuries to fully understand the capacity of a human brain. Until then, scientific research looks for different ways in which hypnotherapy can help therapeutically, medicinally, and psychologically.