states have been around since the beginnings of recorded
civilization. The ancient Egyptians were familiar with induced
trances, as were the Greeks, who used a form of hypnosis for healing
in Dream Temples.
hypnotism stems from a Jesuit Priest named (believe it or not!)
Father Hell, who effected miraculous cures. He influenced Franz Anton
Mesmer, a Viennese physician who lived in Paris during the
mid-to-late 1700s, and from whom we derived the word
"mesmerize." Mesmer incorporated the use of magnets
in healing, but later discarded them, believing that he could
magnetize people himself. He felt that there was a magnetic fluid
pervading the universe, including people. When this magnetic fluid
was out of balance, illness resulted. It is from his theories that we
have the term "animal magnetism." Mesmer achieved enormous
popularity in the salons of Paris during the age of Louis XVI. His
theories were discredited by an investigative panel of scientists and
physicians, led by Benjamin Franklin, who concluded that such cures
were due solely to the power of imagination. (!)
hypnosis websites incorrectly state that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart studied
hypnotism, known then as magnetism. This is not true. There was,
however, an association, as young Mozart's father was a close friend
of Mesmer, who was himself an accomplished musician. The premiere
performance Wolfgang Mozart's first opera, composed when he was still
a child, was given on Mesmer's palatial estate and, some believe,
commissioned by Mesmer. There is even evidence that Mesmer had a small role in the opera!
students of Mesmer further advanced the body of knowledge about the
hypnotic state and the power of suggestion, and in the mid-1800s the
was popularized by a Scottish physician, Dr. James Braid, who derived
the word from Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep. (Braid was not the
first to use this term.) Meanwhile, James Esdaile, a surgeon from
Great Britain, utilized hypnosis successfully as an anesthetic for
over three thousand surgical operations in India in the mid-1800s,
others were exploring its many potentials in England and Europe, and
stage hypnotists discovered its use as a vehicle for entertainment.
Modern psychotherapy has its roots in hypnotism. Sigmund Freud had a
great interest in hypnotizing patients early in his career. When
hypnotists successfully treated shell shock victims after WWI, the
scientific community began to accept its validity.
In 1958, the
study of hypnosis was endorsed by the American Medical Association.
Current credible scientific studies continue to prove its
effectiveness in helping people relax and reduce stress, overcome bad
habits like smoking and overeating, remove fears and phobias, improve
performance onstage and in sports, manage pain, experience
comfortable childbirth, boost self-confidence, enhance creativity and more.