Course Code: HITCH1S 14
Tutor: Karen Ferguson
“ What is Hypnosis?” Describe the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis and discuss the role of relaxation in Hypnotherapy.
In this essay I am going to explain what hypnosis is and both the psychological and physical aspects of it. In order to do this, it will be necessary to look at the origins of hypnosis and hopefully dispel some of the myths attached to it. I will then move on to explain the significant role of relaxation in hypnosis.
Stage hypnotists such as Derren Brown and Paul McKenna, have not done any favours to the reputation of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Hypnosis has become a reputable therapy helping many to overcome their difficulties. It has come a long way from the early days of weird and wonderful rituals and trances that we now understand to have been forms of hypnotic inductions and hypnotic states.
The Hypnotic state is voluntary and we can choose to come out of it at any time, which in itself dispels some of the myths and fears surrounding hypnosis. The earliest evidence of hypnosis is to be found among shamans, also known as witch doctors who evoked a trance like state, which they referred to as the lower world, using peaceful places and rhythmic drum beats, chanting and dancing. The shaman then used his focused subconscious mind to visualize the healing of the sick person.
More recently and probably more relevantly an Austrian doctor Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815) believed in a type of animal magnetism where a cosmic fluid was present in objects such as a magnet and could be used to cure patients. He combined some of the ancient beliefs regarding healing with this idea of animal magnetism. He would dress flamboyantly and use dimmed lighting and soft music. His patients would sit in a circle around a vat containing iron filings. The patients would then hold on to iron rods that were in the vat and these were thought to carry the curing force. He used magnets to cure for a while until he gave them up believing himself to be as a magnet, through which the healing force could travel. There was never any proof of Mesmer’s theories of cosmic fluid and animal magnetism but they remained popular for some time. It was concluded that the patients were ‘mesmerized” into believing that they could be cured. Mesmerism preceded the belief of hypnotic suggestion.
During the time of Mesmer, The Marquis de Puysegur also believed in a form of cosmic fluid and mesmerism. However, during his activities he noticed that some of the patients entered a sleep like state and in this state they could still communicate and respond to suggestions made by the mesmerists. He had discovered the hypnotic trance without realizing it.
Other theories emerged over time and more research was done into the phenomenon of the hypnotic trance. In France Auguste Ambroise Leibeault (1823 -1904) and Hippolyte Bernheim (1837-1919) were the first to regard Hypnosis as a normal phenomenon.
They asserted that “expectation is a most important factor in the induction of hypnosis, that the increased suggestibility is its essential symptom and the hypnotist worked on the patient by mental influences.”
Hypnosis became more acceptable and was viewed as less fanciful the more research that was done. It was during this time that Freud began to show more of an interest in hypnosis, and as he was observing Leibeault and Bernheims work, he recognized the unconscious state. However, he favoured his own techniques of cognitive behavior therapy which included dream analysis, to unlock repressed memories and, as a result, hypnosis became less popular.
An American named Milton H Erikson (1901 -1980) conducted several studies based on his own experiences, largely through his observations whilst seriously ill with polio. His studies were taken seriously and as a result of others following up his studies and showing great interest, hypnosis became much more respected as