What Is hypnosis?
In the modern age, the word “hypnosis” often invokes images of green-eyed stage magicians or peculiar Victorian pseudo-science. However, the practice of inducing altered states of consciousness to facilitate healing, change behavior, or gain insight has been around for thousands of years. In this article, we will look at the history and different types of hypnosis from its origins in ancient Greece through to its modern applications in clinical psychology and performance coaching.
Ancient Origins of Hypnosis
The word “hypnosis” was coined in 1819 by the Scottish surgeon James Braid. However, hypnotic states of altered consciousness have been observed and documented throughout history. A fragment of clay discovered in Mesopotamia, dating from circa 2000 BCE, depicts figures in a trance-like state. There are also references to hypnosis-like practices in ancient Egypt, Greece, and China. An important early observation of hypnosis can also be found in the Hippocratic Corpus, the collection of medical texts written between the 5th and 2nd centuries BCE by Hippocrates and his colleagues. The Hippocratic Corpus contains a number of fascinating accounts of abnormal states of consciousness. For example, the “Epilepsy” chapter of the “Airs, Waters, Places” section of the Corpus describes the use of hypnosis-like techniques to treat the condition.
Mesmer and 19th-century hypnosis
The first significant contribution to our understanding of hypnosis came from the work of Franz Anton Mesmer in the late 18th century. Mesmer was a German physician who became famous for his use of what he called “animal magnetism” as a healing therapy. Mesmer’s ideas about “animal magnetism” were not well understood in his own time; the rise of modern psychology and psychoanalysis have given us a better understanding of Mesmer’s methods. Mesmer’s therapy involved inducing a hypnotic state and then directing his patient’s attention towards an aspect of their body in order to bring about healing.
The study of hypnosis today is mostly concerned with the induction of a “trance state”. Hypnosis is usually understood as an altered state of consciousness, involving a degree of focused attention, heightened suggestibility, and the suspension of critical faculties. While hypnosis can be induced by a hypnotist using language, touch, or other methods, it can also occur spontaneously. The hypnotic state is sometimes conceptualized as existing along a continuum: at one end, we can be highly focused and concentrated, with our attention directed towards a specific goal; at the other end, we can be so “scatterbrained” that we can barely focus on anything.
Types of Hypnosis
Hypnosis can be divided into three basic types: - Induction: the process of putting a person into a state of hypnosis. This can be done through words, music, or other stimuli. - Deepening: the process of increasing the intensity of a person’s state of hypnosis. - Induced suggestion: the use of suggestion to direct a person’s attention towards a specific outcome.
Hypnosis is a powerful tool with a long history of therapeutic application. However, like all psychological techniques, it must be used with care and respect. The hypnotic state is an altered state of consciousness, involving a degree of focused attention, heightened suggestibility, and the suspension of critical faculties. Although hypnosis can be induced by a hypnotist using language, touch, or other methods, it can also occur spontaneously.