Hypnosis is one of the oldest practises on the planet with records of it being used as far back as 3000 B.C. Hieroglyphics found on Ancient Egyptian tombs suggests that they had used hypnotism in association with healing and religion. There is also evidence linking hypnotism to Ancient Greeks, South American Mayas, Persian Magi, Celtic Druids, Hindu Fakirs and African Witch Doctors who all used the practise either ritually or medicinally.
In the 1700s, hypnotism was widely referred to as mesmerism, named for the most famous early practitioner of the time, Franz Anton Mesmer. Mesmer is regularly referred to as ‘the father of hypnosis’, but began demonstrating the practise as a showman, using music and lighting to create a theatrical performance. Mesmer had no idea that his talent lie in his ability to induce a guided self-hypnosis, but his ‘cures’ were treated with scepticism by King Louis XVI and he insisted on their investigation.
This investigation was headed by Benjamin Franklin who concluded that Mesmer’s cures and subsequent miraculous results were in fact the product of the imagination of the people he had hypnotized.
It was not until the 1780s that the Marquis de Puységur, a student and avid follower of Mesmer, discovered hypnotism. He managed to induce his subject into a trance like state under which he showed intelligence and supposed clairvoyant skills. De Puységur has since been credited with discovering and naming the sleep-like trance state know as somnambulism, a term which is still used today.
The pharmacist Emile Coué has been referred to as the father of autosuggestion after he stated that all hypnosis is guided self-suggestion or self-hypnosis rather than being affected by the hypnotist.
Dr James Braid is infamous for his work in the hypnotism field. He believed that the success of induction depended greatly on the subject’s willingness to accept suggestion. Further research and experimentation caused him to discover how to influence and enhance the trance with additional emphasis on the vocal suggestions by the hypnotist. This method is still known as the ‘suggestions method’ and is still practised today.
In 1843 he published the first book referring to hypnotism by that name and in 1848 he discovered ‘waking hypnosis’. His work in understanding the science behind hypnotism has also given him the title of the ‘father of hypnotism’, despite finding very little respect amongst his peers for his research.
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