During the 19th century, huge advances in the field of hypnosis were made by James Braid and a Scottish Doctor by the name of Dr. James Esdaile. Whilst stationed in India, James Esdaile applied hypnotherapy during operations that he performed. Reports submitted by him at the end of 1846 suggest that he had performed several thousand minor operations and around three hundred major ones, including 19 amputations, all without any pain reported by the patient. He attributed this to the removal of postoperative shock by way of hypnosis, cutting the normal 50% rate of mortality down to a mere 8%! The Medical Association surprisingly accepted the report and assigned Dr. Esdaile to a hospital in Calcutta to continue mesmerist operations.
Although mesmerism was largely a taboo subject in the western world, in countries with an uneducated population it was much more widely accepted. This was especially true in India which has long been known as the home of occult sciences, and where the people readily believed in the power of mesmerism. As such Esdaile experienced a success in India that he was unable to replicate back home, thanks to the British people’s negative attitude and unwillingness to accept it.
The term ‘the Esdaile state’ was coined in Dave Elman’s book Findings in Hypnosis as a mark of respect to Esdaile. It referred to an ultra-deep hypnotic state like those which were induced by him during his sessions.
The Esdaile State Induction
The Esdaile State Induction is how the process begins and there are a number of videos of it available online (search Esdaile State Induction on YouTube). However, the method goes something like this:
I know how relaxed you are, but even in your relaxed state I’ll bet you sense in your own mind that there is a state of relaxation below the one you’re in right now. Can you sense that?
(the client answers, “yes”)
You know that you can clench your fist and make it tighter and tighter and tighter – and you might call that the height of tension. You can relax the same fist until you can’t relax it any more. You might call that the basement of relaxation. I’m going to try to take you down to the basement.
To get down to floor A, you have to relax twice as much as you have relaxed already. To get down to floor B, you have to relax twice as much as you did at floor B, and to get down to C, you have to relax twice as much as you did at floor B. But when you reach floor C, that is the basement of relaxation, and at that point you will give off signs by which I will be able to tell that you are in the basement. You don’t know what these signs are, and I’m not going to tell you what they are, but every person who has ever been in the basement of relaxation gave off those signs … Let’s get started.
You will ride down to floor A on an imaginary elevator and you will use that same elevator to get down to the basement of relaxation. You are on that elevator now. When I snap my fingers, that elevator will start down. If you relax twice as much as you have relaxed already you will be down at floor A. Tell me when you are at floor A by saying the letter A out loud.
(Snap fingers) The elevator is starting down … now.
(Wait for response)
(Snap fingers) Continuing down to floor B … now.
(Wait for response)
(Snap fingers, wait, and watch for signs of depth.)
Test #1 – Anesthesia
When you’re sure he is at floor C, without giving suggestions of any kind for anesthesia, take a pair of allis clamps or towel clips, and make a test for anesthesia. Don’t use a word of suggestion for this. If it is necessary to give suggestions for hypnotic anesthesia, you don’t have a coma state.
Test #2 – Moving an arm or a leg
Ask him to try to move a large group of muscles such as an arm or leg. If he is unable to move the big muscles, he is ready for the third test.
Test #3 – Opening eyes
This should involve a small group of muscles such as those around the eyes. Ask him to try to open his eyes. If he does, he is not in the coma state, and you must take him down a flight further, until the eye muscles will not work.
In somnambulism, when the client tries to open his eyes, you will see a movement of the muscles even though the eyes don’t open. But in the true coma state, those tiny muscles don’t work at all, and you see no movement whatsoever.
Test #4 – Catatonia
Your fourth test should be for catatonia. Realise that catatonia can be obtained in the lightest state of hypnosis. Therefore, it means nothing unless it is the fourth test you take in the coma state. When a client passes all of these four tests in the exact order given, you can be sure you have the true hypnotic coma, and may proceed from there. In your test for catatonia, no suggestions should be given. The catatonia must arrive by itself, without suggestions of any kind.
Never go on to a further test until the client has passed the first one. Don’t make test two until the client has definitely passed test one: don’t make test three until the client has passed tests one and two, and so on.
Hypnosis in Sleep
In order to obtain hypnosis in sleep, it is necessary to complete the following steps.
Count the client’s respirations. Ensure that their breathing is around seven to eight times per minute at the most. If their breathing is even slower then that is better as they are in a deeper sleep.
Approach the client extremely gently as you will need to bypass the critical faculty without waking him from sleep. The bypass must happen instantly. Say the following gently but with confidence: ‘this is (your name) speaking. You can hear me but you cannot wake up’. Repeat the last sentence several times.
The client is normally in such a deep sleep that the sentence must be repeated several times before it can penetrate his subconscious. Continue with: ‘I will know when you can hear me because your thumb, which I am going to touch, will begin to rise. I will know you can hear me when your thumb moves. You can hear me but you cannot wake up’.
When the thumb responds, continue to talk softly, compounding suggestions as you proceed.
When you have completed the hypnoanalysis you must then bring your client out of the hypnotic state so that they may continue their natural sleep until they wake by themselves. Begin by saying: ‘when I stop talking to you, you will revert to the state you were in before I began speaking to you. You will sleep deeply and in the morning will wake up completely refreshed. You will not remember that we have spoken but you will feel (insert here as relevant i.e. not feel anxious about your surgery)’.
You can then say a few more reassuring things about their situation and then conclude with ‘now go to sleep very soundly and I will see you soon’.
(Technique adapted from the book Hypnotherapy by Dave Elman).
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