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History of Hypnosis

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'What is hypnosis?'

Hypnosis is a form of deep relaxation, it can be used in many different ways within therapy to help clients who experience fears, anxiety, pain, addictions, insomnia and many more. Therapists use hypnosis as a initial tool in helping clients to achieve their goals. They do this by narrowing down the concentration of the client to just the sound of their voice making them feel relaxed, safe and calm. By doing this the conscious mind is switched off and the subconscious mind is awoken. The therapist then makes appropriate suggestions in a positive way to change the clients habits or behaviour.

The subconscious, in the right side of the brain, is where we store all our deepest fears and worries. No matter how much we convince our conscious minds not to be afraid of something if it has been logged in to the subconscious it will stay put until re-programmed to think otherwise.

Hypnosis originally comes from the Greek word 'Hypnos' meaning nervous sleep. It was James Braid who named hypnosis but after the Greek God 'Hypnos' (the god of sleep and dreams). James Briad later discovered hypnosis is not a form of sleep but that anaesthesia and amnesia could be induced without sleep, realising he had made a mistake he tried to re-name it to monoideism but unfortunately it was too late as 'hypnosis' and 'hypnotism' had already become part of the English language and was well known to all of Europe and the major European languages.

There is little history on James Braids earlier life though we know he studied medicine at Edinburgh university and became a successful surgeon, then moved to Manchester where he would of lived a quiet life and stayed anonymous to the public and history of today if it had not been for the arrival of Swiss mesmerist, Charles Lafontaine in November 1841.

On the evening of November 13th Lafontaine, a travelling showman, who conducted demonstrations of his abilities,

to the delight and astonishment of his audience. Amongst the audience sat Dr James Braid, he was sure Lafontaine would prove to be a fraud and didn't fully believe his practice until six days later when he returned and was impressed and fascinated with Lafontaine's practice. In braids own words,

'I considered that to be a real phenomenon and was anxious to discover the physiological cause of it'

'Next night, I watched this case when again operated on, with intense interest, and before the termination of the experiment, felt assured I had discovered its cause, but considered it prudent not to announce my opinion publicly, until I had an opportunity of testing its accuracy, by experiments and observation in private.'

James Braid began his own experiments in an attempt to find a scientific reason for the trance like state. He quickly declined the inaccurate theories of the time that mesmeric trances were due to some form of magnetism. Convinced that 'sleep' appeared to be from fatigue of the eyes he began to experiment with his wife, friend and servant. Each of Braid's subjects were made to gaze fixedly at a small bright object, so that the eyes became strained and often closed immediately. He discovered he too could produce a trance-like state. However as he continued in his experiments he found he could achieve trance like states by just suggestions alone.

In 1842 braid published 'Neurypnology or the Rationale of nervous sleep considered in relation with animal magnetism'. This is when he published the word 'Hypnosis'. Suddenly on march 25th 1860 James Braid died after a short illness believed to be a heart attack or by other accounts a stroke.

'Animal magnetism' was first accounted in the early eighteenth century by Franz Anton Mesmer, known to many as 'The Father of Hypnosis'. Born in Switzerland 1734. He moved to Vienna to study theology, philosophy and law, later turning to medicine, he then became a doctor in 1766.

Mesmer believed animal magnetism was an invisible magnetic fluid flowing in the body, and the cause of diseases were because of a malfunction in the circulation of this fluid. According to Mesmer the only way to cure diseases was to correct the flow of the magnetic fluid by passing magnets over the patients body. In 1774 Mesmer produced a false side in a patient by having her swallow a concoction containing iron and then attached magnets to various parts of her body. She reported feeling streams of mysterious fluid running through her body and was relieved from her symptoms for a few hours. Mesmer did not believe the magnets had cured her alone, he felt he had contributed animal magnetism, that he had accumulated in his work towards her. He stopped using magnets in his treatment and moved on to using his hands. He was convinced that anything

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