Hypno History

The History of Hypnosis 

Hypnosis is a complex concept that has been extensively investigated in a scientific manner through history and yet no general accepted definition of the phenomenon exists.  Its use dates back to the early Egyptians and Greeks, and images of hypnotic trances can be found in art from such cultures dating back thousands of years.  More than 4000 years ago Wang Tai, the founder of Chinese medicine, taught a therapeutic technique that used incantations. The Hindu Veda, written about 1500 BC described similar theories, while the ancient Egyptians more than 3 millennia ago described healing methods similar to modern day hypnosis. 1 C Muses – Consciousness & Reality 1972

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In the modern age, hypnosis was revived through the work of Franz Anton Mesmer. An 18th century Austrian physician, Mesmer applied his hypnotic method of "animal magnetism", amidst great controversy, leaving his legacy in the phrase "to mesmerize". Many regarded his work as fraud, claiming any cures brought about were due to the patient's imagination, leading Charles d'Eslon, a pupil of Mesmer, to exclaim, "If the medicine of imagination is the best, why should we not practice the medicine of imagination."
Mesmer's believed that it was magnetism, rather than the patient's own mind, that created his outcomes.  This turned out to be a setback for the field of hypnosis from which it took nearly 2 centuries to recover. Even so, Mesmer's work brought a newfound interest in understanding what exactly was behind the mysterious cures provided by his treatment.
Hypnosis was taken to a new level by James Braid, who, in the late 19th century, developed the eye fixation or swinging watch technique which many today consider almost synonymous with hypnotism. It was Braid who coined the term "hypnosis", after the Greek word for sleep, hypnos. At first, Braid felt the trance was a form of sleep, but later grew to understand it as a different state entirely. He also brought to light the understanding that hypnosis is a state that a person reaches internally, with the therapist serving merely as a guide.
Emile Coue, a Frenchman, was an advocate of hypnosis near the turn of the century. Coue felt that the patient's own resources were most important in healing, and this led to him becoming a pioneer in the area of autosuggestion. He would have his patients engage in affirmations, repeating mantras such as "Every day, in every way, I get better and better." twice a day.

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Charcot demonstrates hypnosis on a "hysterical woman"
Perhaps the biggest name in the field of mental health is Sigmund Freud. Freud's initially became interested in hypnotism, having learned the methods from his mentor Jean-Martin Charcot, who used them extensively in dealing with hysteria patients in Paris. Indeed, this early exposure to the powers of the mind may have greatly shaped Freud's future ideas on the subconscious mind.
Freud's interest in the specifics of hypnosis faded, though he did at one point deliver two papers about the topic. Freud's contributions to the understanding of the mind have helped to create a household name for the subconscious and its inner workings. In fact, Freud once quipped, "If ever we are to develop the perfect form of mental therapy, it would, by necessity, have to include hypnosis".
Medically, hypnosis has been used in some of the most widespread and common problems. Furthermore, it is applicable both diagnostically, as well as therapeutically. It can be applied to some of the major illnesses such as cancer, and similarly applied to some of the more everyday minor ailments such as warts, where some claim hypnosis is first line therapy.
The British Medical Association in 1952 and the American Medical Association's 1958 finally endorsed hypnosis as a valid medical therapy, and while different patients have different results with hypnosis, it is very effective for those with whom it is successful. This is so because hypnosis can be applied in some of those situations for which medicine has never truly found a reliable solution. Some of these areas are pain control, cancer treatment, obstetrics and rehabilitation.
The Psychological and Physical Aspects of Hypnosis

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Maldonaldo & Spiegel supplied a useful definition for Hypnosis when they stated “Hypnosis is a natural state of aroused, attentive, focal concentration coupled with the relative suspension of peripheral awareness.  It involves an intensity of focus that allows the hypnotized person to make maximal use of innate abilities to control perception, memory and somatic function.  Hypnotic capacity represents both a potential vulnerability to certain kinds of psychiatric illnesses such as post traumatic stress, conversion and dissociative orders, and an asset in that it can facilitate various psycho-therapeutic strategies.  Because hypnotic capacity is a normal and widely distributed trait, and because entry into hypnotic states occurs spontaneously, hypnotic phenomena occur frequently. Even psychiatrists who make no formal use of hypnosis can enhance their effectiveness by learning to recognize and take advantage of hypnotic mental states” 2

Nowadays, hypnotherapy is understood, by modern science, as when a therapist uses various techniques to bring the client to an ‘altered state of mind’ or hypnotic mental state. This altered state of mind can be seen as a level of enhanced concentration and at this level useful appropriate suggestions can be made. These suggestions aim to make positive changes in the client’s thought pattern which will later reflect in their behaviour. The client has attended for therapy at their choice and given consent. In Hidden Depths, Robin Waterfield quotes from Stephen Fry’s Book – Moab is My Washpot in which Fry describes his experience of being induced and says “the business of being put in a trance seemed childishly simple and disappointingly banal”. He continues, “I was simply told to put my hands on my knees and to feel the palms melt down into the flesh of the knees. After a short time it became impossible to feel what was hand and what was knee, while miles away in the distance rich, sonorous Hungarian tones told me how pleasantly relaxed I was beginning to feel and how leaden and heavy my eyes had become. It was a little like being lowered down a well, with the hypnotist’s voice as the rope that kept me from any feeling of abandonment or panic” 

The altered state of mind Fry has experienced can be classed as a ‘hypnotic trance’ which has carefully been initiated by the therapist. The initial technique in most inductions is a PMR technique. The person is actually conscious and alert but appears as if they are asleep. At the end of the session, the therapist will bring the person back full consciousness and the person will resume with daily life.
Difficulty arises with the need to measure the effectiveness of hypnosis as essentially it is not easily quantifiable when compared to physiological matters such as measuring body temperature or heart rate. This caused significant problems for early pioneers of hypnotherapy such as Mesmer and Braid, but nowadays the use of Electroencephalography (EEG) enables us to measure the electrical activity of the brain, and this science is used widely in the assessment of brain damage and other conditions


EEG is a study of changing electrical potential of the brain. The apparatus used to measure this electric potential of the brain is called electroencephalograph, and the tracing or the printout of the measured brainwave forms is electroencephalogram.
Hypnotherapy in SouthportThe frequency involved is the number of complete repetitive waves that occur in a given unit of time. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz) or cycles per second (cps). According to their frequency brainwaves are divided into 4 main groups, also referred to as "brain states"




Brainwave Frequency
State of Consciousness
Beta Waves
15 to 40
An engaged and focussed mind. A person engaged in active conversation would be in Beta Rhythm. Those debating would be in the high range of Beta waves
Alpha Waves 
9 - 14 cps
Relaxed, Daydreaming Generally associated with right-brain thinking activity - subconscious mind - a key state for "relaxation". Not present in deep sleep but present at times of creativity and in lighter hypnosis & guided navigation
Theta Waves
4 - 8 cps
Deeply Relaxed, Dreaming Generally associated serene calmness, medium to deep hypnosis and feeling emotional surges. Access to insights, bursts of creative ideas - a key state for "reality creation" through vivid imagery
Delta Waves
1 – 4 cps
Produced in subconscious mind and in slowest deepest state of rest. State of detached awareness and sleep. key state for "regeneration" and "rejuvenation"
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The lower a person’s brainwave cps, the more their awareness turns towards subjective experience, accessing their inner world. As a result they are more effectively able to use the power of their mind to create changes in their body. With each lower state they become more fully aligned with the source of power within themselves, with their subconscious
Hypnotherapy has therapeutic applications for both psychological and physical disorders and the importance of relaxation in the process was highlighted In Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide (1993) Future Medicine: Washington, where the Burton Goldberg Group states that “a skilled hypnotherapist can facilitate profound changes in respiration and relaxation for a client to create positive shifts in behaviour and enhance well-being. Both a physiological shift and greater control of autonomic nervous system functions which are ordinarily considered beyond individual control can be observed in an hypnotic state”.  Since the subconscious mind controls autonomic bodily processes, physical change can also be achieved through hypnosis. Pain control is a very good example. The mind alters the awareness of pain all the time - professional chefs, for instance, get burnt on a regular basis, but rarely notice it unless it's particularly severe. Physical events are still occurring, but the subconscious relegates them so you are not aware of them. Hypnosis can therefore be used to amplify this response and apply it to a specific situation, such as the control of headaches.
As we have seen hypnosis can be defined as an artificially induced state characterized by a heightened receptivity to suggestion. The client enters naturally, of their own accord, by following suggestion from the hypnotherapist.
There are many ways of inducing hypnosis. Regardless of the procedure used, the concern during hypnosis is to quiet the client's conscious mind to make the subconscious more accessible. The subconscious, as basically noncritical, has better facility for accepting suggestions effectively than during a normal waking state.

The Role of Relaxation in Hypnotherapy

Those who benefit most from hypnotherapy are people who understand that it is not a surrender of control, only an advanced form of relaxation.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a simple, and influential, method of systematic deep muscle relaxation. It has been widely used for around 80 years to counteract the effects of tension, stress and anxiety. In 1929 the Chicago physician Edmund Jacobson published the book Progressive Relaxation. In it he describes a method by which awareness of muscle tension can be heightened. Research conducted by modern neuro-psychologists shows that most people tend to underestimate the depth of muscle relaxation which they can attain. Jacobson’s original method places emphasis on a slow, disciplined development of muscle tension awareness providing a powerful weapon against stress symptoms.
By going through groups of muscles in turn, tensing them for a few seconds, and very gradually releasing the tension, better levels of muscle relaxation can be attained. As well as deepening physical relaxation and heightening the awareness of areas and levels of tension, this technique reliably elicits the ‘relaxation response’ and affects a more general state of mental and emotional calm. The basic procedure takes a while to learn but once it is mastered the muscles can be relaxed more rapidly providing an ideal basis for other relaxation techniques, visualisation, or self-hypnosis. In the development of hypnotic screeds this has been taken a step further with the suggestion of the relaxation of muscle groups in various ways being used to achieve the same result.

Hypnotism has largely overcome the initial scepticism and is now an accepted and valued part of our health care system. The techniques used by hypnotists are no longer considered mysterious or dangerous and are used in everyday life by increasing numbers looking for solutions in specific problem areas. These include confidence building, smoking cessation, weight loss, stress, phobias, pain management and a variety of addictions.  Hypnosis can be incredibly effective in changing the way people live their lives, it is not a panacea for all things and it works with different levels of success for different people. It is an option to be considered alongside all aspects of health care delivery.  


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