The history of hypnosis is one that dates back to 3000 BC. You may have heard of some of the big names in the history of hypnosis, including Sigmund Freud or Milton H. Erickson. Though they may be known as the forefathers of hypnosis, hypnotherapy has been used in China and by the Ancient Greeks for centuries before their existence. Throughout this article, we will discover how this technique has evolved over the years.

Ancient Hypnosis Techniques

Over thousands of years of testament to the healing powers of your mind

Hieroglyphics found in Egyptian tombs are believed to be 3000 BC old. They demonstrate the use of hypnosis in rituals and the healing process. The Ancient Greeks, Hindus, and Chinese have used hypnotherapy for surgical preparation, healing, and spiritual connection. It was of prime importance in the “sleep temples” of Ancient Greece, which were places of pilgrimage and healing. References to it can be found in the Bible. In the Middle Ages, belief in miracle cures associated with religious shrines was widespread. Healing was brought about by touch, prayer, and belief.

These methods go all the way back to ancient times but the term ‘Hypnosis’ was coined only in the 1800s. ‘Hypno,” meaning sleep in greek, was used to describe what someone appeared to be doing in a deeply tranced state of mind. James Braid, who coined the term, later tried to change the hypnotic experience to be called ‘monoideism’ which means fixation of attention. The name hypnosis stuck and traveling magicians began to use these simple techniques to hold someone's attention and distract them from the sleight-of-hand or magical illusion they were performing. Inevitably hypnosis got a bad association as people thought they had been tricked under sourcery. People became afraid of the rumors that someone could control their mind and have them do immoral things. To this day Hollywood still portrays hypnosis as an uncontrollable trance.

With technologies today we can better understand the actual state of a mind in hypnosis and the effect this mind state has on the brain. MRI and EEG evidence shows brain waves in the frontal cortex are more active during hypnosis and parts of the imagination are more stimulated than during perceived consciousness. The left side of the cortex (reasoning and logic) is less active, while the activity on the right side (creativity) is enhanced. The brain is in no way ‘asleep’ even if the body may appear to be.

Scientists are just now able to prove the potential healing qualities that lay dormant in our conscious and unconscious minds. Leaders, innovators, and dignitaries have seen the proof of these techniques for the past 3,000+ years. Shortly after these techniques were named ‘hypnosis’ they became almost exclusively used by stage hypnotists, thereby projecting a hopelessly distorted view of the very powerful therapeutic tool. Doctors and scientists, wanting to keep a safe distance from the occult disregarded these therapeutic tools as a real means for creating change and healing. Thanks to rigorous study and trial a few dedicated advocates, who tested theories on results and not popular opinion, have kept the true art of hypnosis alive and have perfected and shared these ancient techniques. Hypnosis is one of the oldest forms of therapy used today. It is growing in the field of Alternative Health Solutions and Mind-Body Connectedness. Below are listed some of the prominent personalities and pioneers in the field of Hypnosis:

Franz Mesmer (1734-1815)

Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer was the one who introduced Hypnosis in the 1700s. The word mesmerized is named after him. He believed an imbalance of the magnetic fluid in the body was the cause of illness. He used magnets and other hypnotic techniques like eye fixation to induce a hypnotic trance. He was accused of fraud because his dress, background music, and methods were considered unscientific.

John Elliotson (1791-1868)

Dr. John Elliotson was an English physician who performed numerous painless operations using hypnosis.

James Esdaille (1808-1859)

James Esdaille was a British surgeon who used mesmeric techniques and hypnotic suggestions to perform over 300 major surgeries, including amputations and numerous minor surgeries in India. The mortality rate also dropped to 5% from the normal rate of 20-25%. He was highly successful with healing hypnosis in India but, unfortunately, could not repeat the same in England.

James Braid (1795-1860)

James Braid is often regarded as the “father of hypnosis”. He rejected that hypnotic trance is supernatural or occult and based his study of hypnosis on a scientific basis. He is the one, who introduced the word ‘Hypnosis’ based on the Greek word ‘Hypnos’ meaning sleep. He realized that hypnosis is not the same as sleep and tried to change the term to “monoideism” meaning fixation of attention but the term hypnosis remained and its use continued. He published the first book on Hypnosis, Neurypnology, in 1843.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, used hypnosis in his early work with much success. He later moved his technique toward working with clients fully conscious, emphasizing free association and interpretation of the subconscious. Struggling with the great expense of time that psychoanalysis required, Freud later suggested that it might be combined with hypnotic suggestions to hasten the outcome of treatment.

Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980)

Milton Erickson is credited with bringing back the popularity of hypnosis in the mid-1900s. He was a psychotherapist and used hypnosis intensively in his work. He was the founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis.

Dave Elman (1900-1967)

Dave Elman watched a family friend hypnotize his father for cancer and from then was hooked on learning about the techniques. He soon began to realize the vast possibilities of hypnosis in the relief of pain outside of traditional medical procedures and wrote several books.

Clinical vs Stage Hypnosis?

Truth be told, it’s all actually self-hypnosis, even when facilitated by someone else.

Hypnosis used for clinical conditions is often performed by a trained professional or the use of a pre-recorded audio. This type of hypnosis is often therapeutic and can include visualizations, mind relaxation and focused imagery as a means of holistic healing and habit change. A magician, illusionist, or entertainer usually performs Stage Hypnosis and is meant to shock and awe an audience.

The enigma of hypnotism ‘claims’ on stage: What person in their right mind would bark like a dog, stick a needle in their arm, or drink vinegar? Different people sometimes have an experience of hypnosis on stage with a performing hypnotherapist. What is really going on? We can’t imagine because their experience is so personal. While hypnotized, their actions appear to be more adventurous than what someone would normally do in public. It’s possible that some people may go out of their way to entertain other people since they know they are being watched. When the individuals return to a state of consciousness they seem shocked by what they did while in the hypnotic state and don’t have any memory of the incident. Audience members and skeptics are often resistant to believe the hypnosis worked because often good stage hypnotherapists are also illusionists and entertainers which can make the performance dramatic and unbelievable.

​Remember, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. If you would like to experience hypnosis and all it has to offer the mind, book your complimentary discovery call with certified hypnotist Lauren Hall today. We offer hypnosis sessions to help you quit smoking, get a better night’s sleep, lose weight, and more.

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