By Susanna Sweeney, MSc, MBACP, CHT
Discover the power of hypnosis in this brief article I have put together for you. Enjoy taking in these ten amazing facts about hypnosis that I am pretty sure you may not have heard before.
The topic of hypnosis has fascinated people of all classes from its inception in the 18th century by Franz Anton Mesmer (1734- 1815).
Although mesmerism/ magnetism continued to be largely rejected by the medical orthodoxy throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, it was highly popular with people of all classes, starting in Austria and France where Mesmer was active, and later spreading to the US.
Where the upper classes were able to afford consultations with
Mesmer and other mesmerists (of which there were many), the lower
classes attended traveling stage hypnosis shows for entertainment, or
received diagnoses of their health problems through mesmerized
Because of its popularity, there were many historic personalities who came in contact with mesmerism. The examples I gave on the info graphic here are only a small selection.
One example not included there is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) whose father Leopold was friendly with Mesmer and used to stay at his house when Wolfgang was a small child starting to perform his music in Vienna. Wolfgang is said to have composed some of his works in a trance state. While it seems plausible that Mesmer may have practiced 'animal magnetism' on Wolfgang, I have not found any clear evidence of this.
The examples included on the info graphic are of more recent times and historic evidence clearly exists that Winston Churchill, Henry Ford, Nicola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Aldous Huxley and Sergej Rachmaninoff all used self help hypnosis for personal growth and to further their careers.
In the 18th and for the first half of the 19th century, conventional medicine had nothing much
to offer people by the way of cures. Medical doctors used forms of
treatment that would be classified as questionable these days. They
included bloodletting, the use of leeches, and severe purging. Many patients died from these treatments and success rates were very low.
a result, many people sought the power of hypnosis for cures with
complaints that medical doctors were unable to help with. There are many
hundreds of documented historic case studies of mesmerism succeeding in
cases where medicine failed.
Even before mesmerists fully understood what it was they were doing, the power of hypnosis tapped into the area of psychosomatic illness-
where the subconscious mind exercises power over the body and causes
physical complaints. Mesmerists/ magnetists were able to cure such
complaints through various methods.
You can read more about the history of hypnosis here.
Many people believe that Freud discovered the unconscious. But these people are wrong.
Throughout human history, people were always
aware of unconscious activities through dreams, visions and similar. In
medieval times these were often attributed to demonic possession, later
to organic causes.
With the onset of hypnosis (mesmerism/ magnetism) in the 18th century, a new framework developed that described different states of consciousness,
such as the conscious and subconscious minds. Hypnotism was an
excellent tool for exploring the mind. Based on hypnosis, philosophers
now developed the idea of ‘alternate streams’ of consciousness.
Freud started his work over a century
after the inception of hypnosis. He came across it by accident when
attending a stage show in Vienna where he was studying medicine in the
1870ies. By the time he graduated, hypnotherapy had become a popular
method. He studied it and practiced hypnotherapy for some time but found
the methods did not suit him. Ultimately he gave up.
Yet, none of these achievements would have been possible without the work of hundreds of hypnotists throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Here you can read more about historic personalities involved with the history of hypnosis.
In my info graphic I have illustrated examples of celebrities
availing of the power of hypnosis for different purposes from smoking
cessation to weight loss, to childbirth hypnosis, to career and self
These cases have all been documented in the mass media, and you will likely have been aware of at least some of them. But did you know that executives, such as CEO’s of large companies, also appreciate the power of hypnosis?
The use of hypnosis by celebrities and executives gives you a good idea of the versatility of how hypnosis can be used. Find out here how hypnosis can help you.
the longest time there has been a scientific debate as to whether
hypnosis is a distinct state or not. ‘No state’ proponents such as
Theodore Barber (1927-2005) argued that hypnosis achieved results simply
through suggestion and that the altered state was not real.
indeed, it has always been difficult to prove that such a state exists.
But recent research from Stanford that used brain imaging techniques has
opened the door to describing hypnotic trance.
Dr. Spiegel and his team worked with a sample of 500 subjects. There was a large group who were put into a hypnotic state, and a control group who were in ordinary consciousness. This allowed the researchers to compare brain scans in ordinary consciousness to those of subjects in hypnotic trance.
The brain scans showed specific changes that take place in the brain in this state.
Anyone who has
experienced hypnotic trance before will be familiar with these three
features from their own experience, but now researchers have been able
to show them.
In combination, these three characteristic features combine to produce the power of hypnosis- used by hypnotherapists to effect changes in your mind that would otherwise be much more difficult to achieve.
See more about the topic of how hypnosis changes your brain state in my article "What is Hypnosis?"
Erickson (1901-1980) whose name you are likely to have come across
somewhere before, is considered one of the most famous, if not the most
Much of his work was centered around hypnotherapy.
Erickson developed his own method of hypnosis, called conversational
hypnosis. This method is very flexible and designed to overcome anyone’s
resistance to going into a hypnotic trance.
Erickson contended that he was able to hypnotize anyone and argued that if a patient was deemed not hypnotizable, it was the hypnotist’s fault. It meant the hypnotist did not use the right methods.
I hope you have enjoyed my article on the power of hypnosis. Seeing that your curiosity may have been sparked, there are other articles in this series that may interest you...
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