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A brief look at the history of Hypnosis

Updated: Dec 9, 2018

The history of hypnosis started long before David Braid coined the term 'hypnotism' in 1841. While David Braid's study of hypnotism have greatly influenced the modern aspects of hypnosis, his studies have been a refinement of skills that have been use in India for thousands of years.


The history of hypnosis begins with hypnotism being a form of meditation that was used to help influence the body's ability to heal. By instilling the subconscious belief that the body was healing and the pain was receding, the stresses on the body were lowered which often resulted in an easier recovery by those who were ill. This form of hypnotism, also called mesmerism, happened in places called sleep temples, where priests in India would treat the ill. This is the earliest known use of hypnotherapy, although this was strictly a physical use of the skill.


Hypnosis was not only used in India. While the history of hypnosis is cloudy, there are accounts of Arabic nations using hypnotism on patiences as well.


It is believed that modern hypnotism comes from two forms of work done by Magnetists and Mesmerists. These two sects of people form the foundation of the history of hypnotism, although the skills were not used as they are today. Today, hypnotism is often used to conquer habits and change ways of thinking. In the past, magnetism and mesmerizing were used to conquer physical ailments.


An example of a famous Magnetist is Irishman Valentine Greatrakes, who was known for his ability to lay on hands and use magnets over a patient to cure him. Greatrakes lived between 1628 and 1666.


The original Mesmerist was Dr. Franz Mesmer, who lived between 1734 and 1815. His efforts in establishing the art of animal magnetism and mesmerism were later debunked as the workings of the imagination.


While neither Magnetists or Mesmerists of the early days of the modern history of hypnosis were able to fully succeed, the motivation of the ancient Hindu temples provided ample motivation to continue research into hypnotherapy. While the initial years are often viewed with scorn by the scientific community, some forms of modern hypnotism are known to work well with medical scientists. Hypnotism is most commonly used now with modern scientists as an alternative to pain medications where the medications would interfere with surgeries or treatment.


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