Hypnosis can be traced back to Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Indians, Chinese, Persians and Sumerians civilisations, all of which conducted extensive studies in hypnosis, altered states of consciousness and parapsychology.
It was popularized in the 18th century by the German physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 – 1815) who developed a theory called “animal magnetism” (later known as “mesmerism”). Mesmer’s ideas were then further developed in the 19th century by the Scottish surgeon James Braid (1795 – 1860).
During this period others such as James Esdaile used hypnosis as an anaesthetic in major surgery. In 1891, as a result of Esdaile’s work, BMA reported, “as a therapeutic agent of hypnotism is frequently effective in relieving pain, procuring sleep and alleviating many functional ailments”. English Physician John Elliotson also advocated the use of hypnosis in therapy, as did French neurologist Jean Martin Charcot who performed landmark experiments from which he found hypnosis relieved many nervous conditions. French physicians Hippolyte Bernheim and Ambroise Auguste Liebeault also used hypnosis to treat more 12,000 patients, Liebeault, who became adept at rapid hypnosis, broadened the scope of hypnosis beyond pain control and realised a deep trance was not necessary.
He suggested away symptoms stating “all phenomena in hypnosis are subjective in origin”. At this point in time other techniques were introduced such as “sleep”, ringing gongs, ticking of a watch or warm plates of metal.
Sigmund Freud relied on hypnosis in exploring the unconscious state, Josef Breuer used it to relieve the symptoms of hysteria in a patient, in the 1880’s Pierre Janet identified the connection between academic psychology and clinical treatment of mental illness.
Since then various American scientists have made advances in the study of hypnotism, such as Morton Prince, Clark L Hull, Milton H Erickson and Harold Crasilneck who demonstrated that hypnotic strategies can be effective with stroke patients. Used Eventually hypnosis became recognized in medicine (1950’s BMA & AMA) and psychology as useful in helping to calm or anesthetize patients, modify unwanted behaviours, and uncover repressed memo.