Hypnosis is a complex and diverse state of mind that can vary from person to person. However, a general definition is that Hypnosis is an induced state of awareness in which a participant experiences an altered sense of consciousness. This altered state has shown individuals to be more susceptible to suggestion or direction in relation to their own behaviour. This essay will now elaborate on the subject of hypnosis and it will outline hypnosis into its different elements and then evaluate the use of relaxation in hypnosis.
Hypnosis has shown to be a very ancient practice used by the ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks in sleep temples, where they would ingest an infusion of herbs and say a series of prayers before being led into a room where they would have a healing sleep, in which they would experience some form of healing dream. However, this was not known as hypnosis until 1840 when James Braid created the term deriving the word from the Greek God of Sleep, Hypnos. However, what we are aware of today in hypnosis is very different in comparison to the hypnotic exercises the ancient civilisations would practise, as well as how they used to view these practises in terms of spiritualistic events. Although there are a wide range of individuals who have moulded what we now call hypnosis, this essay will only look at the works of three main individuals who have given significant contributions to modern hypnotic practices.
Franz Anton Mesmer is one of the pioneering and prominent names in modern hypnotherapy, his methods range from developing stage hypnosis into using it for its medicinal purposes, which he developed through the late eighteenth century. Mesmer trained as a doctor using all the relevant techniques of the time, but he soon turned his attention to a controversial form of treatment, the power of magnets. This was the theory that illness was a defect in an individual’s vital magnetic fluid, and the use of magnets helped to restore the appropriate level of magnetism. When treating a women using magnetic methods he felt he perceived a fluid flowing through the woman’s body which in turn could be affected by his own influence, this incident gave way to the theory of animal magnetism. This is the theory that every individual has a form of magnetic fluid flowing through the body and illness or disease was caused by blockages or an imbalance of this magnetism. The theory of animal magnetism was put to the test by a board of scientists in Paris. The group of scientists concluded that the body did not contain any previously undiscovered channels or fluids, but any treatment or reaction from patients was solely down to the imagination of the individual. However this theory did not end there, others adapted the concept and even changed certain aspects and incorporated them into their own stage shows.
A second influential name in hypnotism is James Braid, a Scottish born doctor who developed theories of hypnosis after viewing a mesmerist’s show. He claimed he had for the first time separated animal magnetism and hypnotism, and then goes onto discuss how it can be used to alter the nervous system into a new condition, which allows it to become more accessible in the treatment of different disorders. He also claimed that it should not be associated with animal magnetism and should be studied as a separate entity entirely. His scientific approach to hypnotism allowed the theory to gain a more credible following, although at first it did struggle due to the scepticism surrounding mesmerism. He was the first to use object fixation as a hypnotic induction in his practices, where an individual would focus on an object until entering a hypnotic trance. However he later found he could induce this state just as succesfully simply by talking to his patients. Although at the time Braid was not highly recognised in Britain, Braid sent one of his papers to a French association who relished the concepts and gave him