History of hypnosis
Hypnosis has been in use for thousands of years. There is a great deal of evidence to support the belief that Hypnosis was being used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans - for therapeutic benefit - as far back as about the fourth Century BC.
Egyptians had very popular 'sleep temples' in which people were asked to lie down and listen to somebody chanting to help cure illness and problems as far back as 1550BC.
In more recent times Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) (who lends his name to the word 'mesmerised') achieved amazing success with clients in the 1700s although he believed magnetism was the explanation. His dramatic inductions included wearing robes and using a wand which did nothing for the reputation of hypnosis.
In 1791 a boy was in hospital for an operation on a tumour. No anaesthesia was available and so his mother sat beside him and told him a story. It was so interesting that her son became totally entranced by it and felt no pain. The surgery was successful and many years later the boy published the story. The boy's name was Jacob Grimm and the story was Snow White.
Professor John Elliotson (1791-1868) (the person who introduced the stethoscope into England) championed the use of hypnosis in the 1800s but he was ridiculed by a disbelieving medical establishment.
Scottish eye doctor James Braid was fascinated by how someone following a swinging pocket watch would find their eyes tired. He later realised that there were many other ways to induce a trance. He incorrectly thought hypnosis was a form of sleep and named the phenomenon 'hypnosis' after the Greek word for sleep, 'hypnos'. Later, realising hypnosis was not a form of sleep, he tried to introduce another name, 'monoideism' but by then the term 'hypnosis' was too widely used.
Working in India, a British surgeon called James Esdaile (1808-1859) anaesthetised his patients using only trance states. He had amazing success with hundreds of operations. Despite the obvious success of his methods, he too was ridiculed by the medical establishment.
Unlike his predecessors, Coué (1857-1926) believed he did not heal people, but rather, they healed themselves. Most modern hypnotists (with the exception of stage hypnotists) act as 'facilitators' rather than all-powerful showmen and women.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) used hypnosis extensively in his own work before devising his own psychoanalytic therapy. Freud's insights into the unconscious mind and defence mechanisms are still widely used in hypnotherapy.
Milton Erickson, MD (1901-1980), had incredible success with his clients. He developed a form of hypnosis that utilises the client's thoughts, interests, fears, etc. to improve therapy by stepping into the client's world and walking a mile in their shoes.
These days many doctors are receptive to complementary clinical hypnosis. Most refer patient's to qualified hypnotherapists as few have the time they would need to spend with individual patients. Hypnosis is used in the psychological professions too, as well as in business and sport (e.g. to improve confidence and motivation), and for personal change, e.g. tackling weight, smoking, phobias, anxiety, stress, etc.