The History of Hypnosis

In all countries and throughout the history of mankind people have experienced altered states of mind that closely resemble what we now call the hypnotic state.

Even Palaeolithic bone carvings and cave paintings suggest the use of these states. Paintings have been found with a deer-like individual standing over a pregnant woman. This could be to suggest that the strength of the animal will pass into the woman so that she will be able to endure the difficulty of giving birth a little easier.

For many centuries, Persian magi used precious stones to enter self induced trances.

In the 1770’s Franz Anton Mesmer proposed the influence of heavenly bodies on the fluid forces in human beings could be the cause of many illnesses and that using magnetism he could reverse these processes. It is after Mesmer that the term “Mesmerise” came about. It was eventually proven that Mesmer’s magnets had no effect and it was all down to his suggestions. Sadly this was lost on the people of the 1780’s and an interesting lead was lost.

In 1841 Dr James Braid coined the phrase “hypnosis” from the Greek word “Hypnos” meaning sleep. Braid was responsible for the idea of getting people into trance by staring at a fixed object.

At a similar time Dr. James Esdaile performed surgeries in India using just hypno-anaesthesia. He recorded 261 operations and had a low mortality rate of 5.5% when at the time it was typically around 90%. This was also despite not having sterile conditions. Unfortunately Esdaile’s work was lost because in 1837 Gas anaesthesia was introduced and this was more reliable and more readily explainable than hypnosis.

The next major event for hypnosis was during the World Wars when large numbers of people needed treating for what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Psychoanalysis had fallen short of the mark in dealing with this and hypnosis proved very effective.

In the 1930’s Dr Clark L. Hull of Yale University is credited with classical experimental work on hypnosis and one of his students was Milton H. Erickson. Erickson became the individual most responsible for the current views regarding clinical hypnosis. He worked and published exhaustively on the subject for almost 50 years.

During the late 70’s Stephen H. Brooks heard of Erickson’s work and pioneered the use of indirect hypnosis in the UK. He had a remarkable gift for understanding the processes involved and unlike Erickson he was able to explain, teach and demonstrate his work at the same time. Brooks has trained therapists in over 20 hospitals and universities and it is Stephen Brooks himself who was responsible for my own training.