The history of hypnosis dates way back to at least Egyptian times. Early records show that the Egyptians would have a temple where someone with a particular ailment would take certain herbs and be given a form of hypnotic chanting to put them into a trance or sleep state. Once in this state the client would sleep after the ceremony and would dream of a cure to their illness.
Also in ancient Greece specific “Sleep Temples” were built to help people in much the same way and give them the opportunity to dream of a cure. The interesting thing here is that the idea that we can dream of something to find an answer to a problem is really not at all far fetched and in a state of trance it is often surprising how things long forgotten or seemingly random thoughts and ideas can just seem to “pop” into the mind when we are in a hypnotic or trance like state.
We have all heard the phrase “being mesmerised” and this comes from the eighteenth century physician Franz Anton Mesmer who hypnotised his patients using what he termed “Animal Magnetism” by having his patients sit in a tub fitted with iron rods holding hands and thereby seeming to promote this strange energy.
Mesmerism became very popular for a while and later appeared in India in the nineteenth century when the Sottish surgeon James Esdaile witnessed some amazing operations performed with no anesthetic. Esdaile continued studying this technique and became known in his time as the leading expert in pain free surgery.
Another nineteenth century Scottish surgeon James Braid also witnessed this technique called mesmerism but decided eventually to use the term hypnosis and was the first to bring hypnosis closer to the form that we recognise today.
Later that century Sigmund Freud had been studying with one of the flourishing French schools of hypnosis and decided to use it in his practice although he soon gave it up as he developed his own form of psychoanalysis. Interestingly this new “psychoanalysis” became the mainstream form of treatment for emotional disorders and hypnosis was side-lined as an Academic study. It is argued that but for this hypnosis would have become even more mainstream than it is today.
Hypnosis has often been seen as a directed form of communication until the twentieth century when the father of modern hypnosis Milton Erickson developed his own innovative techniques and language patterns that helped the patient in effect make their own unconscious decisions and choices. Erickson first used hypnosis on himself to help relieve his pain and discomfort from polio and much of his work and techniques still form a strong basis for the study that hypnotherapists have today.
The work of such experts as Erickson, Elman, and the co-founders of NLP Richard Bandler and John Grinder and many others has helped bring hypnosis into the twenty first century as a respected and powerful modality. Modern hypnotherapy is now recognised as an extremely effective modality to help resolve a wide range of issues.