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How did guided imagery become such an accepted part of mental health therapy? Its success and acceptance are thanks to the research into hypnosis conducted since the 18th century. Hypnosis is the precursor to guided imagery and guided meditation, and these forms of therapy have a great deal in common. They’re identical in many ways, and some people call guided imagery self-
Hypnosis is defined as a state of deep relaxation; just short of deep sleep. A popular misconception is that hypnosis is a form of unconsciousness resembling sleep. However, contemporary research suggests that hypnotic subjects are fully awake and while focusing attention, have a corresponding decrease in their peripheral awareness. Subjects also show an increased response to suggestions. In one of the first books on the subject, Neurypnology in 1843, Dr James Braid described “hypnotism” as a state of physical relaxation accompanied and induced by mental concentration. It is a state of well-
Prominent Figures in History
Hypnosis has been used as a therapeutic tool for thousands of years, and its use can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians and other civilizations who used it for healing.
ibn Sīnā (980 – 1037), a Persian Muslim Doctor and Psychologist was known by his Latinised named Avicenna (actual name in Arabic Abū ʿAlī al-
In his book the Book of Healing (Arabic: کتاب الشفاء Kitāb ash-
Paracelsus (1493–1541), was a Swiss-
Maximilian Hell (1720–1792), was a Hungarian astronomer and an ordained Jesuit priest from the Kingdom of Hungary. Around 1771, he was using magnets to heal by applying steel plates to the naked body. One of Father Hell's students was a young medical doctor from Vienna named Franz Anton Mesmer.
Franz Mesmer (1734 –1815), was an Austrian physician began to look into an effect he referred to as mesmerism. Mesmer believed that the very air contained a quasi-
Mesmer is often considered the one responsible for the poor reputation that still clings to hypnosis therapy with his claims of curing patients of “hysterical” conditions, paralysis and blindness with the belief that illnesses were caused by low levels of animal magnetism. He also had a great taste for theatre, and his career was plagued with controversy, eventually bringing his findings into dispute.
King Louis XVI was not taken with Mesmer’s flamboyance and personality and commissioned the French Academy of Sciences to investigate his claims. The members of the board included many prominent minds of the time such as Dr Joseph Guillotine, Paris mayor Jean Bailly and Benjamin Franklin. The tests were conducted at Franklin’s residence in Passy due to his poor health. Mesmer sent his associate Dr Deslon to the proceedings in an attempt to distance himself, and Delson tried to demonstrate to the board how animal magnetism worked to cure patients. Ultimately, the commission issued a public report concluding that animal magnetism was not based on scientific evidence and supposed cures could be attributed to either a regular remission of the illness or a type of self-
Abbé Faria (1756–1819), was a Goan Catholic monk who was one of the pioneers of the scientific study of hypnotism, following on from the work of Franz Mesmer. Unlike Mesmer, who claimed that hypnosis was mediated by "animal magnetism", Faria understood that it worked purely by the power of suggestion. In the early 19th century, Abbé Faria introduced oriental hypnosis to Paris.
John Elliotson (1791–1868), an English surgeon, in 1834 reported numerous painless surgical operations that had been performed using mesmerism.
James Braid (1795–1860), was a Scottish surgeon and "gentleman scientist". He was a significant innovator in the treatment of club-
Alexandre Bertrand (1795-
James Esdaile (1808–1859), was born in Montrose, Angus, Scotland is a notable figure in the history of mesmerism. Reported on 345 major operations performed using mesmeric sleep as the sole anaesthetic in British India. The development of chemical anaesthetics soon saw the replacement of hypnotism in this role.
Hippolyte Bernheim (1840 – 1919), was a French physician and neurologist, born at Mülhausen, Alsace. He is chiefly known for his theory of suggestibility in relation to hypnotism.
Gustave Le Bon (1841–1931), was a French social psychologist, sociologist, anthropologist, inventor, and amateur physicist. He is best known for his 1895 work The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. His writings incorporate theories of national traits, racial and male superiority, herd behaviour and crowd psychology. Study of crowd psychology compared the effects of a leader of a group to hypnosis. Le Bon made use of the suggestibility concept.
William James (1842–1910), the pioneering American psychologist discussed hypnosis in some detail in his Principles of Psychology.
American Civil War 1846 and 1847: Hypnosis was used by field doctors in the American Civil War and was one of the first extensive medical application of hypnosis. Although hypnosis seemed effective in the field, with the introduction of the hypodermic needle and the general chemical anaesthetics of ether in 1846 and chloroform in 1847 to America, it was much easier for the war's medical community to use chemical anaesthesia than hypnosis.
Holy See 1847: On 28 July 1847, a decree from the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (Roman Curia) declared that "Having removed all misconception, foretelling of the future, explicit or implicit invocation of the devil, the use of animal magnetism (Hypnosis) is indeed merely an act of making use of physical media that are otherwise licit and hence it is not morally forbidden, provided it does not tend toward an illicit end or toward anything depraved."
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849–1936), was a Russian physiologist known primarily for his work in classical conditioning. Russian medicine has had extensive experience with obstetric hypnosis. Platanov, in the 1920s, became well known for his Hypno-
Sigismund Schlomo Freud (1856–1939), was an Austrian neurologist, now known as the father of psychoanalysis. Hypnosis, which at the end of the 19th century had become a popular phenomenon, in particular, due to Charcot's public hypnotism sessions, was crucial in the invention of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, a student of Charcot. Freud later witnessed a small number of the experiments of Liébeault and Hippolyte Bernheim in Nancy. Back in Vienna, he developed abreaction therapy using hypnosis with Josef Breuer. When Sigmund Freud discounted its use in psychiatry, in the first half of the last century, stage hypnotists kept it alive more than physicians.
Emile Coué (1857–1926), a French pharmacist and founder of the New Nancy School, broke away from hypnotism to develop his own method of "conscious autosuggestion." He became one of the most influential early 20th-
Boris Sidis (1867–1923), a Ukraine-
William McDougall (1871–1944), an English psychologist, treated soldiers with "shell shock" and criticised certain aspects of Freudian theory such as the concept of abreaction.
Clark Leonard Hull (1884–1952), at Yale University. An experimental psychologist, his work Hypnosis and Suggestibility (1933) was a rigorous study of the phenomenon, using statistical and experimental analysis. Hull's studies emphatically demonstrated once and for all that hypnosis had no connection with sleep ("hypnosis is not sleeping, … it has no special relationship to sleep, and the whole concept of sleep when applied to hypnosis obscures the situation"). The modern study of hypnotism is usually considered to have begun in the 1920s.
Johannes Heinrich Schultz (1884–1970), was a German psychiatrist and an independent psychotherapist. Schultz became world-
Dave Elman (1900–1967), helped to promote the medical use of hypnosis from 1949 until his heart attack in 1962. Elman's definition of hypnosis is still used today by professional hypnotherapists. Although Elman had no medical training, Gil Boyne (a major teacher of hypnosis) repeatedly stated that Dave Elman trained more physicians and dentists in the use of hypnotism than anyone else in the United States.
Milton H Erickson (1901–1980), was an American psychiatrist and psychologist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy. He was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychopathological Association. He is noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-
Ormond McGill (1913–2005), stage hypnotist and hypnotherapist, was the "Dean of American Hypnotists" and writer of the seminal "Encyclopaedia of Genuine Stage Hypnotism" (1947).
Andrew Salter (1914–1996), introduced to American therapy the Pavlovian method of contradicting, opposing, and attacking beliefs. In the conditioned reflex, he has found what he saw as the essence of hypnosis. He thus gave a rebirth to hypnotism by combining it with classical conditioning. Ivan Pavlov had himself induced an altered state in pigeons, that he referred to as "Cortical Inhibition," which some later theorists believe was some form of a hypnotic state.
Harry Arons (1914-
Martin Theodore Orne (1927–2000), Martin Theodore Orne was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania who researched demand characteristics and hypnosis.
Nicholas Peter Spanos (1942-
British Hypnotism Act 1952: In the United Kingdom, the Hypnotism Act 1952 was instituted to regulate stage hypnotists' public entertainments.
British Medical Association 1955: On 23 April 1955, the British Medical Association (BMA) approved the use of hypnosis in the areas of psychoneuroses and hypoaesthesia in pain management in childbirth and surgery. At this time, the BMA also advised all physicians and medical students to receive fundamental training in hypnosis.
Pope's approval of hypnosis 1956: The Roman Catholic Church banned hypnotism until the mid-
a) Hypnotism is a serious matter, and not something to dabble in.
b) In its scientific use, the precautions dictated by both science and morality must be followed.
c) Under the aspect of anaesthesia, it is governed by the same principles as other forms of anaesthesia.
American Medical Association 1958: In 1958, the American Medical Association approved a report on the medical uses of hypnosis. It encouraged research on hypnosis, although pointing out that some aspects of hypnosis are unknown and controversial. However, in June 1987, the AMA's policy-
American Psychological Association 1960: In 1960, two years after AMA approval, the American Psychological Association endorsed hypnosis as a branch of psychology.
Hypnosis Enters the 20th Century…From the beginning of the 20th century until the 50’s, hypnosis was mainly used in classrooms and labs. For example, Joseph Jastrow conducting a course at the University of Wisconsin for many years on the numerous medical uses of hypnosis. Once he retired, he also published a number of books on psychological issues and developed hypnosis techniques for his lay audience. This was during a time when most people thought of hypnosis as some type of mind-
The Work of Clark Leonard Hull Clark Hull Jastrow’s most successful student, Clark Hull, took over his course and released an important text in 1933 called Hypnosis and Suggestibility, which was the first book to compile the results of lab experiments on the subject and the first to use standards of experimental psychology. Previous scientists, on the other hand, typically used their own patients which distorted the results.
Hull is also responsible for starting the great state/non-
estate of consciousness unlike the normal, everyday state of mind. The “non-
Hull was not a hypnotherapist but rather a scientist, and his priority was studying hypnosis in a laboratory setting. He opposed the clinical view of hypnosis to “cure human ills” because he felt it interfered with the scientific study of the phenomena.
The Practical Focus of Hypnosis
Starting in the 1960s, the emphasis on hypnosis began to turn toward clinical and practical applications, although research continued. One of the most important people to develop practical uses for hypnosis was Dave Elman (1900-
The Science of Perception
As technology advanced, and other therapists and psychologists like Stephen Wolinsky and Ivan Tyrrell contributed more to the field, we began to learn even more about the real science of hypnosis. Brain imaging scans were able to show that hypnotic suggestion does indeed change perception. An important study performed at Stanford University (“Hypnotic Visual Illusion Alters Colour Processing in The Brain”) found that the brain’s colour processing regions were activated under hypnotic suggestion and subjects believed a black-
Psychologists Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin also showed a clear link between the REM sleep state and hypnotic trance in their 1999 study “Hypnosis and the Trance States; A New Psychobiological Explanation.” Meanwhile, therapist Stephen Wolinksky proved the deep trance phenomena can effectively be detected during the normal waking consciousness, meaning our normal consciousness is comprised of layers of hypnotic trance that we enter and exit throughout the day.
The 20th century saw the popularization of hypnosis and its transformation into a real clinical tool for therapy and healing. Thanks to the work of researchers, psychiatrists and other professionals in the 1900s, self-
Derren Brown (2007): Derren Brown (born 1970) is an English stage performer with hypnotism in his act.
Hypnotherapy now: Hypnotherapy is still used today for medical purposes and to sort out of people’s psychological problems. It is used all over the world to help people break their habits. The NHS (the UK’s National Health Service) states that there is no strong evidence to show that hypnosis works. Hypnosis does seem to have an effect, though scientists disagree about how it works. Some experts see it as a relaxation technique that uses the power of suggestion and relies on the placebo effect (this is when people believe that a medicine is working, even if it doesn’t have the ability to work, so that actually it is their belief and not the medicine itself that is curing them).
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