History of Hypnosis

Hypnosis has existed since the dawn of time, and its application has changed with the time and the culture of the people. We know shamanic trances among tribes in Siberia and Latin America. Hypnotic states were practiced in Greece and Egypt of antiquity. Hypnotic techniques have often been part of the arsenal of persuasion for healers, priests, social and political leaders.

Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1816) was the first to have demonstrated, unintentionally, the power of imagination on the psychological and physiological state of the subject in his "animal magnetism cures" and his method can be considered as the precursor of therapeutic hypnosis. His student Marquis de Puységur (1751-1825) describes the hypnotic sleep, or somnambulism, and poses psychological foundations of mesmeric treatment. Anesthesia with "magnetic sleep" during surgery was used by Dr. John Elliotson (1791-1868) in England. The Abbey Faria (1755-1819) describes the methods of hypnosis, especially the hypnotic and post-hypnotic suggestions, hypnotic surgical anesthesia.

In the second half of the nineteenth century hypnosis owed its success to James Braid (1795-1860) who conceptualized it in 1843. Bernheim (1840-1919) called the hypnotic state "sleep determined by suggestion" and concluded that this state of "sleep" is not essential to get hypnotic manifestations in a subject in a conscious state which can be reached only through verbal suggestions. From that time hypnosis became a part of many psychotherapeutic movements.

Freud (1856-1939) in his early practice used hypnosis only to give it up when he created psychoanalysis preferring psychoanalytic knowledge to the power of suggestions and a long term therapy to a short term therapy. We have to note that as Freud was not a big expert of hypnotic techniques, he was resolutely opposed to the use of suggestions in therapy, dreading the transfer phenomenon. Some later writers such as François Borch-Jacobsen and Roustang nevertheless assumed that the transfer identified in psychoanalysis and suggestion, and hypnosis itself, were very close.

Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) interpreted hypnosis from the physiological point of view seeing it as an intermediate state between sleep and an awaken phase with inhibition of the nervous system accompanied by a partial inhibition of the cortex with activation of some brain's zones making possible the establishment of a relationship with the hypnotist. According to Pavlov's physiological theory, a suggestion represents a concentrated activation of a cortex with the inhibition of other areas. Pavlov's theory is the basis of the Russian hypnotherapy school.

In 1911 Johannes Heinrich Schultz (1884-1970) designed Autogenic training based on the idea that a hypnoid state follows muscles' relaxation and gives rise to several therapeutic psychocorporel practices.

WWII renewed interest towards hypnosis in both military camps in order to heal soldiers' neurosis caused by the war and to get anesthesia during many surgical procedures in camps, and to develop and to optimize capacity to fight the enemy on the other side.

The current hypnosis owes its rebirth to Milton Erickson (1901-1980) who has significantly diversified and enriched its tools. Beyond techniques he transformed hypnosis into an art.

Finally, Integrative® Hypnosis* came integrating all existing knowledge in this area and filling gaps by customizing and structuring its therapeutic method. For more information, you are invited to see the article "Ericksonian hypnosis and Integrative® Hypnosis".

Anna Iourenkova

*The Integrative® Hypnosis mentioned here and in all other articles is the one created by Gérôme Ettzevoglov, the founder of the European Institute of Integrative Hypnosis (IEHI), in France, and should Not be confused with its homonym practiced in the United States

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