History Of Modern Hypnosis

The word hypnotism brings about a scare in a lot of people. Thoughts about ‘losing control’ or ‘own will power’ or ‘getting involved with the unknown’ or just curiosity or something being connected to stage shows – I remember a stage show I’d seen in my college where the wierd guy made my friend dance to an entire college crowd!

But hypnotism has moved a long way from 1765 when Franz Anton Mesmer formed the first theory of ‘mesmerism’. He however believed he possessed the power to ‘magnetize’ people into his control. And that is what people believed till 1840 when Dr James Braid, a physician by profession gave hypnotism its name and said that hypnotism was a suggestible stage, resulting from ‘nervous sleep’. In fact hypnotism in Greek means sleep.

As more people started practicing hypnosis, it began to get popular and probably reached a peak after the Second World War. However, there were many people who ‘could not be hypnotized’ and these people were just classified as ‘poor cases for hypnosis’ and given up. The popularity of hypnosis therefore remained static and hypnosis was kept alive more by artists and fiction writers (remember Mandrake the Magician??) than by the serious professional hypnotherapists.

Later in the 1960’s it was discovered that as far as hypnosis is concerned there are basically two types of people – Physically suggestible and Emotionally suggestible. Physically suggestible were those who respond to suggestions affecting the body and not emotions and the emotionally suggestible were those who respond to suggestions affecting the emotional behavior and not the physical body. These two categories are at the two ends of the spectrum with a lot of people in between, that is, 70% physical and 30% emotional or 20% physical and 80% emotional and so on.

The procedure of inducing hypnosis till then was only of one type and it was most suited for the physical suggestibles. If a person was 100% physical suggestible, he responded best, and the response to induction decreased as one got more and more towards emotional suggestibility. Hence there were people who were poor cases in hypnosis.

With the recognition of the type of suggestible people came the need to evolve different procedures to induce people depending upon the type of suggestibility, hypnosis started to get more scientific and started entering the desks and clinics of therapists from the areas of showmen and stage and theatre.

Today a new breed of therapist called ‘Clinical hypnotherapists’ have evolved who approach hypnosis in a scientific way, purely for the purpose of curing, of relieving not just the emotional and psychological trauma or abnormalities, but also a lot of physical symptoms.