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An Uber Short Introduction to the History of Hypnosis

In every single hypnotherapy class that I teach, I always have students asking me whether hypnosis is some new-agey woo woo practice. While there is an increasing number of practitioners fusing hypnosis with other new age practices, hypnosis in fact has a fascinating history that spans centuries. From mesmerism to modern-day practice, hypnosis has evolved into a respected form of psychotherapy, which effect has widely been acknowledged by medical communities, like the American Psychological Association and the British Medical Association, just to name a few. In this article, we'll take you on an exciting adventure, demystifying hypnosis and uncovering its ancient roots.

1. Mesmerism and Animal Magnetism:

Let's travel back to the late 18th century when a German physician named Franz Mesmer, who introduced the world to mesmerism. Mesmer believed in the power of animal magnetism, a force that could rebalance the body. It may sound a bit far-fetched nowadays, but back then, it intrigued many doctors who witnessed mesmerism's ability to ease their patients' symptoms. Although the magnetic theory was later debunked, Mesmer's ideas set the stage for the exploration of hypnosis.

2. James Braid and the Birth of Hypnosis:

Fast forward to the mid-19th century, where we meet James Braid, a Scottish ophthalmologist. Braid coined the term "hypnosis" (from the Greek word for "sleep"), but here's the twist: hypnosis doesn't actually induce sleep! Braid discovered that it's more about enhancing external focus. His groundbreaking work challenged the common beliefs of the time and laid the foundation for understanding hypnosis as a unique psychological phenomenon.

3. Josef Breuer, Sigmund Freud, and Psychoanalysis:

Now let's dive into the late 19th century, where Austrian physician Josef Breuer employed suggestive hypnosis to treat patients with hysteria. Breuer's methods caught the attention of his colleague, Sigmund Freud, who went on to revolutionize the field of psychoanalysis. While Freud eventually moved away from hypnosis, his exploration of the unconscious mind during hypnotic states played a crucial role in shaping his psychoanalytic theories.

4. Milton Erickson and Ericksonian Hypnosis:

In the 20th century, American psychiatrist Milton Erickson took hypnosis to new heights. Erickson believed in the power of language and communication with the unconscious mind. His innovative approach, known as Ericksonian hypnosis, focused on helping patients release symptoms rather than solely searching for the root causes. Erickson's methods became influential and paved the way for other approaches, like Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) etc.

5. Modern Developments and Recognition:

In recent decades, hypnosis has gained recognition as a legitimate therapeutic tool. The American Psychological Association established the Division 30 Society of Psychological Hypnosis, sparking rigorous scientific research and development in the field. Today, trained professionals widely practice hypnosis to address various challenges, including anxiety, phobias, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and smoking cessation.

Far from the mysterious and new-age concept some may think hypnosis is, its history is in fact deeply rooted in the world of psychotherapy, with mesmerism as its starting point. From there, pioneers like Braid, Freud, and Erickson shaped it into the respected practice it is today. So, the next time you hear about hypnosis, remember its ancient origins and the journey it has taken to become a valuable tool in the field of psychology. To learn more about hypnosis, join us in one of our training programs.

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