The History of Hypnotherapy goes back a very long way. Early forms of Hypnosis involved trance work. We have significantly developed wonderful techniques into the 21st Century and it is now considered and accepted that Hypnotherapy can change people’s lives for the better.
The Grandfather of Hypnosis is well documented – Franz Anton Mesmer. Mesmer was born 1734 in Germany and he primarily studied Theology at University. He later went on to study law and then medicine. He received his doctorate in 1766 with a dissertation: The influence of the planets on the human body. Whilst he was a student, Mesmer was influenced by the Physician Paracelsus who was interested in astrological influences and human health. Mesmer carried out his own experiments in an attempt to use magnets for healing. He developed the theory of animal magnetism. Mesmer applied magnets to his patient’s bodies and attributed his success at healing with the concept, that the body was analogous to a magnet and that the fluid ebbed and flowed according to the laws of magnetism. Healing sessions developed into group sessions and Mesmer moved from magnets and electrodes to the use of his hands. Popular theory grew that Mesmer’s own body was the actual source of the “animal” type of magnetism. Mesmer had many followers and techniques grew with a further insight into the effects of suggestion employed.
The story of Hypnosis follows on with one of Mesmer’s disciples, the Marquis de Puysegur, who had been originally persuaded by his two brothers to join a Society called The Society of Universal Harmony. This was run by Mesmer. Examples of his work include, a patient who was deeply hypnotisable. He found that he was able to talk to the patient during hypnosis and was able to ask the patient questions and got responses. Mesmer continued to practice in Switzerland for a number of years and died in 1815.
An English Doctor called James Braid was born in 1795. In the 1840’s he established the term “Hypnosis” from the Greek God of Sleep Hypnos. This name is not ideal as it gives people the false thought that they will fall asleep whilst in a Hypnotic trance. He did realise his mistake and tried to rename Hypnosis but the original name stuck. He carried out further developments and when he carried out his first scientific study, he concluded that many cures involved were not due to animal magnetism but the power of suggestion. James Braid died in 1860.
In 1901 Milton Erickson was born. He was one of the most creative, dynamic and effective Hypnotherapists of the twentieth century. He used unconventional techniques with remarkable success.
At the age of 17 he had his first attack of Polio, which resulted in him being paralysed. He could only move his eyes and was barely able to speak. Over the next two years, Milton taught himself to walk again. (This was encouraged by watching his baby sister learning to walk). He closely observed how human beings communicate and how the subconscious mind works. Thus one of the hallmarks of Hypnotherapy was born – indirect suggestion.
Milton went on to qualify as a doctor and engaged himself with psychiatry. Later in his life, he contracted Polio for a second time and he suffered significantly with pain and muscle weakness. But having been through the experience once before. He now had a strategy for recovery with the aid of using Self-Hypnosis. He turned this experience to good use and was highly effective in treating people with pain using Hypnosis.
Milton Erickson was a very successful Hypnotherapist and delivered a life-long service in order to help and change people’s lives for the better. Milton Erickson died in 1980, aged 78. And to this day, many successful Hypnotherapists use his wonderful techniques.
Dave Elman was born in 1900. His connection with Hypnosis began early in his life as he was influenced by his father who had a great interest in the subject. When he was eight years old his father was diagnosed with cancer. His father obtained the help from a friend who was skilled in the use of Hypnosis for pain relief. Dave Elman saw the benefits that his father gained from Hypnotic techniques.
Elman developed a career in the music industry and worked with celebrities. On one occasion in 1948, he was let down by a host who was supposed to be supporting him with a musical performance. Dave Elman used self-hypnosis and the performance was a great success. At the time, the performance was being watched by doctors who were intrigued. And this resulted in Elman being asked to teach them his skills for use in their practices. From then on Elman practised Hypnosis successfully until his death in 1967.