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What Is Hypnosis

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What Is Hypnosis

2093 words.

Most people who hear the word hypnosis associate it with stage hypnotists making people do embarrassing things like barking like a dog and clucking like a chicken. You are feeling sleepy, very, very sleepy springs to mind. Hypnosis is much more than entertainment and is a useful practice in therapy and medicine.

The history of hypnosis goes back thousands of years. Ancient history accounts for examples of hypnosis as early as 2000 BC when Egyptian priests were using techniques of hypnotic induction in death and rebirth rituals in Sleep Temples. The ancient Greeks also practiced a form of hypnosis and healing in sacred temples. In India yogis have used self-hypnosis as a tool to quieten the mind during meditation for thousands of years.

Franz Anton Mesmer also known as the grandfather of hypnosis was a German physician with an interest in astronomy, who theorised that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects that he called animal magnetism sometimes later referred to as mesmerism. The theory attracted a wide following between about 1780 and 1850, and continued to have some influence until the end of the century. He believed that the human body produced an invisible magnetic fluid and the magnets could restore the balance of magnetic fluid and this would cure the patient's illness. He soon discovered that he could reach the same successful results by passing his hands over the patient which he did for hours at times. He used strange mechanisms, ethereal music and created a séance-like atmosphere all of which aided in inducing trance. He was able to perform many cures using the technique mesmerism. However, the medical establishment at the time, the Viennese Medical Council, could find no logical reason for the results he got, and exposed him as a fraud.

Abbé Faria 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. Faria changed the terminology of mesmerism. Previously, the focus was on the concentration of the subject. In Faria's terminology the operator became the concentrator and somnambulism was viewed as a lucid sleep. The method of hypnosis used by Faria is command, following expectancy. The theory of Abbé Faria is now known as Fariism.

James braid was a Scottish (not English as claimed by chrysalis) surgeon and scientist. He was a significant innovator in the treatment of club-foot and an important and influential pioneer of hypnotism and hypnotherapy. He is regarded by many as the first genuine hypnotherapist who in 1841 came up with the term hypnosis from the Greek word hypnos, meaning sleep. Braid, realising hypnosis is far from sleep tried to rename hypnosis monoeidism (influence of a single idea) but was unsuccessful as the original name stuck. In his first book on the subject, Neurypnology (1843), Braid described "hypnotism" as a state of physical relaxation accompanied and induced by mental concentration.

Dr John Elliotson was the first to demonstrate hypnosis in British medicine. He cured a dumb epileptic before an audience of 200 medics and used hypnosis in operations.

Liebeault was a French physician acknowledged as the founder of the famous school known as the Nancy School or Suggestion School and he is considered by many to be the father of modern hypnotherapy. He provided treatment for the poor for free and cured a patient with sciatica who was also a patient of a doctor called Hippolyte Bernheim. Bernheim was not happy about this and branded Liebeault a quack but after meeting him found him to be a genius and decided to work with him. Bernheim is responsible for the lilting screeds we use today.

Jean Marie Charcot disagreed with Bernheim and Liebeault and proposed that hypnosis was a manifestation of hysteria and revived the theory of animal magnetism. Sigmund Freud studied with Liebault and Bernheim in Nancy and also studied with Charcot. Freud continued to support the use of hypnosis, giving talks and translating books by his tutors and attending conferences. He incorporated hypnosis in his work with the use of non-verbal inductions but was never considered to be a great hypnotist and by the mid-1890s he had given hypnosis up. Pierre Janet a French neurologist who on discovering the relaxing effects of hypnosis and the positive healing effects kept an interest in it, and Milton Erickson who pioneered his work in indirect suggestion and is now considered the father of hypnosis.

There have been many different people trying to understand and work with hypnosis, but there has also been many people trying to discredit it.

The way a session is conducted now has become very different to how it was in the past. The advance in science has helped us to explore the depths of the brain. What researchers do know comes from the study of the people who have been hypnotized. Hypnosis is closely linked with dreaming. When a person enters into a hypnotic state they can get the same rapid eye movement (REM) that happens when a person is sleeping. We can also measure the electrical activity of the brain using a method called electroencephalography (EEG). This method is used to measure the electrical activity known as brain waves. It is still not easy to measure hypnosis as it has different effects on different people. Some people may feel relaxed as if nothing had really changed although other people may have a completely different perspective.

There are many questions that people may have when it comes to hypnosis. This is mainly because of programs that have been on the television. One of the main questions that people may wonder is can hypnosis make me do something I don't want to? Hypnosis cannot make a person do something they don't want to, or feel is wrong or is against their will. If a person wants to change something for example they want to stop smoking, hypnosis can help make that change providing the client is willing and wanting to stop.

The subconscious mind stores information that the conscious mind may not immediately process with full understanding, but it stores the information for later retrieval when recalled by the conscious mind. This keeps the conscious mind free so that it can carry on with everyday life. When a person



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