Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Fascinating History Of Hypnosis

When people think about hypnosis, an image comes to mind of a man sitting and swinging a pendulum in front of someone and saying to them, “You are getting very sleepy.” This is an image that has been portrayed in movies and the media for years, yet the history of hypnosis goes back much further than most people realize, and is said to be very helpful and healing in several ways. Those who have undergone hypnosis often recall events from the past that they previously had no memory of whatsoever, and this technique is often used to bring up repressed thoughts and emotions in order to help a person overcome certain fears or other problems. Taking a look at the history of hypnosis is both fascinating and educational as well.

Humble Beginnings: A Brief History Of Hypnosis

The Hindus in India are said to be the originators of the history of hypnosis by using it as a health tool in which they would take those who were ill within their village to a placed called a sleep temple. Likewise, this practice was used in Greece and Egypt as well. The ancient Sanskrit in a book called the Law of Manu spoke of different states of hypnosis; the “sleep-waking” state, the “dream-sleep” state, and the “Ecstasy-sleep” state. Inductions which were hypnotic in nature were used to lull as person into a sleep state in order to heal them of their sickness or disease.

In the late 1700’s, a man named Franz Mesmer became the first Western scientist to become involved with hypnosis and started researching an effect called “animal magnetism” or “mesmerism,” which is a word still used today. He believed that this power resided inside of humans and animals and used magnetic force as a tool in treating people. In what some consider to be the first placebo-controlled trial study, Benjamin Franklin conducted a trial to test the magnetic theory, and it was determined that mesmerism was only used by the imagination. Within the history of hypnosis, magnetic therapies are still around today as one form of alternative medicine, yet Mesmer himself died obscurely in 1815.

Formal psychological study of hypnotism began to be studied in the 1800’s by a neurologist named Jean-Martin Charcot who prescribed this treatment for hysteria.

He also opened the way in the history of hypnosis for its use in multiple personality disorders as well. This approach is still used today in order to help treat those who suffer with hearing voices, as it can help to sort out and relive these problems.

The Power Of Hypnosis And The Human Body

The proof of how powerful hypnosis can be, comes in many forms. So much so that certain practices have long since been discontinued on the basis ethics and professionalism.

Some years ago, a fairly common practice in stage hypnosis was to induce a state called the full body catalepsy. In this state, the “subject” experiences a complete rigidity of all the muscle groups in his body. He/she becomes completely stiff, like a piece of wood. As a demonstration, stage hypnotists would often position the subject’s head and feet on opposing chairs, without support through the torso and legs. This created a sort of human bridge, upon which the hypnotist would sit or stand.

The full body catalepsy contains no therapeutic use whatsoever. It serves merely for theatrics, and it’s obviously quite frowned upon today. It is unlikely to be seen very much these days for ethical reasons. Despite the fact that you’re unlikely to see such a stunt, it remains a strong example of how powerful hypnosis can be. The act of turning a person’s body into a rod of iron with mere suggestion is quite simply an amazing feat.

To a greatly lessened extent, catalepsy is still used today, but only on isolated body parts like an arm or a leg. This is done to deepen the state of hypnosis, and bears no risk of injury to the subject unlike the full body catalepsy. In fact, they don’t even feel any discomfort. For instance, I can induce hypnosis on someone, and bring about arm catalepsy, and they can remain in this position for an extended period of time, even an hour, without feeling a thing. Try this at home, and within a few short moments, you will feel extremely uncomfortable.

Hypnosis is its own form of pain control. A technique called glove anesthesia can be induced where the hand can be made to feel numb, and experience a total loss of sensation. The anesthesia can then be transferred to other parts of the body by putting the anesthetized hand on another body part, such as the stomach. This is a very powerful technique which I have used many times with great success.

A more subtle example of the power of hypnosis is witnessed regularly if you watch competitive athletes, like runners, as they mentally prepare for a race. There extreme focus and concentration takes them to a place where everything else is tuned out, and they are literally running every inch of that race in their mind, before it even begins, mentally planning every step.

Fortunately, we needn’t go to severe extremes anymore to prove the power of hypnosis. The theatrical impact of hypnosis has of course dropped in popularity over the past decade or so anyway, and practices such as the full body catalepsy are a thing of the past. There is no longer the need for hypnotists to demonstrate the amazing power the mind has over the physical body. The general public is much more aware of the power and effects of hypnosis these days, even if there are still many myths that still remain.