By: Jacqueline Gaye Terry
My interest in hypnosis began many years ago but I didn’t realize it by that name until the year 2000. Until then I had an intermittent interests in affirmations, altered states and their affect on controlling ones mind and life. Early in 2000 I met Roger Moore. Roger is a counselor and hypnotherapist. The very fact that a professional healer practiced hypnosis took me by surprise. The interest that I had kept private now had permission to come into the open. I began reading everything I could find on the subject of hypnosis. Many of the books I found were of dubious value as academic works but there were several that fed my interest. The first of these books was by Adam Crabtree titled, From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic Sleep and the Roots of Psychological Healing. As the title indicates, it covers the period when modern medicine was becoming a science.
Over the course of a year, I read many books on the subject but I was curious to try this phenomenon myself. I made an appointment to meet with Dr. Moore. The experience was amazing. He kindly explained how he uses this technique in his practice and encouraged my interest. He suggested a couple more books (one I especially loved about Milton Erickson) and gave me the name of an organization that trains and certifies hypnotherapists.
Historical Foundations Of Hypnosis
Throughout the history of mankind magical rites and incantations have been used to induce meditation or trance states. This was done by chanting, breathing exercises, drumming and dancing. It can be clearly observed that the cadence and intonations of prayer in a relaxing environment, posture, eye fixation on an altar or religious symbol, and rhythmic chanting lead to an altered state of consciousness.
Nearly everything I read on the subject of hypnosis referred to its ancient history. From the earliest times there have been people who seemed to have the power to influence the minds and bodies of other people or themselves. These powers of healing, practiced by saints, priests, witch doctors, tribal leaders, and shaman were thought of as miracles emanating from God or from the leader. These hypnotic-like inductions were used to place an individual in a sleep-like state, although it is now accepted that hypnosis is different from sleep.
“The Egyptians, Greeks, Persians and Hindu fakirs used hypnosis thousands of years ago for therapeutic and religious purposes. There were healing places called sleep temples in ancient Greece and Egypt where patients were helped to relax and heal by curative suggestions during their “sleep.” These suggestions were usually made by a combination of religious rituals and surgical procedures.” (Ansari p.1)
Many of the religious rituals used throughout history have all the characteristics of modern day hypnosis. I tested this notion on myself by attending high mass in a Catholic Cathedral. I quickly became aware of how every element of the environment was designed to aid in the trance process. The high ceilings – many stories – created an echoing that seemed to disconnect me from ordinary reality. The music and chanting had a rhythmic cadence that also created trance. The process of standing and sitting and kneeling enhanced the depth of trance. The power of ritual empowered the suggestive metaphors of the art present in the stained glass windows, the sculpture of icons and the frescoed walls. I found it impossible to remain in an ordinary state of consciousness while in this environment. This experience, coupled with my interest in spiritual studies led me to discover descriptions of trance in other arenas. I was led to wonder how hypnosis related to other practices such as meditation, prayer, and contemplation and was led to the notion that trance is a natural state and hypnosis is the guided use of this state.
I learned that during the mid 1700’s, a Viennese Jesuit named Maximilian Hell (1720-1792) was using magnets to heal individuals by applying steel plates to their naked body. One of his students was a young medical doctor named Franz Anton Mesmer, (1734-1815). All study of modern hypnosis begins with Mesmer and his continued research into this phenomenon. Mesmer also studied with Father Johann Joseph Gassner (1727-1779) a Catholic priest of the time, who believed that disease was caused by evil spirits and could be exorcised by incantations and prayer. Mesmer’s observations of Gassner led him to believe that the metal crucifix used by him was, in fact, was magnetizing the patient. From these observations he began to develop his theory of animal magnetism. He chose this term to distinguish it from other magnetic forces used at that time, mineral magnetism, cosmic magnetism and planetary magnetism. He theorized that this particular force or power was only present in the bodies of humans and animals.
While in medical school, Messmer first wrote about his theory of animal magnetism in a purely physical and scientific manner. He believed that there must be tides in the atmosphere, just as there are in the oceans and that there are also tides in the human body, which emanate from the stars. It was this force he called “animal magnetism.” He continued to refine his thinking using magnets to manipulate the “magnetic fluid” of the body. He had come to believe that it was a disruption of this vital fluid that led to disease.
Adam Crabtree points out “The importance of animal magnetism in the development of modern dynamic psychiatry was first compellingly pointed out by Henri Ellenberger, whose book Discovery of the Unconscious (1970) is a classic in the history of psychology. Ellenberger’s pioneering work made it clear that all modern psychological systems that accept the notion of dynamic unconscious mental activity must trace their roots, not to Freud, but to those animal-magnetic practitioners who preceded him by a century.” (Crabtree, pvii)
The medical authorities of the time formally discredited Messmer’s ideas in 1784 but he and many others continued experimenting with the theory. By the early 19th century an Indo-Portuguese priest, Abbé Faria reintroduced the idea of animal magnetism to Paris. He did not use the magnetizing tools of Mesmer, instead Faria claimed that the force was generated from within the mind by the power of expectancy and cooperation of the patient and not from the animal magnetism described by Mesmer. This approach was furthered by the clinical and theoretical work of the Nancy School founded by Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault for the purpose of research into hypnosis. Faria‘s theoretical position, and the subsequent experiences of those in the Nancy School made significant contributions to the later autosuggestion techniques of Émile Coué and the autogenic training techniques of Johannes Heinrich Schultz.
The evolution of Mesmer‘s ideas and practices led James Braid (1795-1860) to coin the term and develop the procedure known as hypnosis in 1842. Popularly titled the “Father of Modern Hypnotism” Braid also rejected Mesmer‘s idea of magnetism inducing hypnosis. He believed that a physiological process involving the prolonged attention on a bright moving object or similar object of fixation induces the trance state. He suggested that “protracted ocular fixation” fatigued certain parts of the brain and caused the trance, which he called “nervous sleep.” This is undoubtedly where the notion of a swinging pocket watch as a tool of trance induction began.
Braid attempted to use hypnotism to treat various psychological and as well as physical conditions. He had little success in his attempts to treat organic conditions. Other doctors had better results, especially in the use of hypnosis in pain control. A report in 1842 described an amputation performed on a hypnotized participant without pain. The report was widely dismissed and there was strong resistance in the medical profession to hypnotism, but other successful reports followed. Braid is credited for writing the first book on hypnosis in 1843 titled Neurypnology.
Dr. James Esdaile (1805-1859) reported on 345 major operations performed using mesmeric sleep as the sole anesthetic in British India. The development of chemical anesthetics soon saw the replacement of hypnotism in this role. Hypnosis was used by field doctors in the American Civil War and was the first extensive medical application of hypnosis. Although hypnosis seemed to be very effective, with the introduction of the hypodermic needle and the general chemical anesthetics of ether in 1846 and chloroform in 1847 to America, it was much easier for the war’s medical community to use chemical anesthesia than hypnosis. This reporting of pain control sparked my interest in further medical applications.
It was during the 1880s that the investigation of hypnosis passed from surgical doctors to mental health professionals. Pierre Janet described the theory of dissociation, the splitting of mental aspects under hypnosis (or hysteria) so that skills and memory could be made inaccessible. Janet stimulated interest in the subconscious and laid the framework for reintegration therapy for dissociated personalities.
The continuing research into the elements of hypnosis focused on the causes of trance. Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault (1864-1904), the founder of the Nancy School, first wrote of “the necessity for cooperation between the hypnotizer and the participant, for rapport.” He emphasized the importance of rapport to support the necessary suggestibility. It was, however, Boris Sidis (1867-1923), a psychologist and psychiatrist who studied under William James at Harvard who formulated this law of suggestion:
Suggestibility varies as the amount of disaggregation, and inversely as the unification of consciousness. Disaggregation refers to the split between the normal waking consciousness and the subconscious.
The popular notion of the laws of suggestion came from Emile Coué (1857-1926), a French pharmacist.
The Law of Concentrated Attention—Whenever attention is concentrated on an idea over and over again, it spontaneously tends to realize itself.
The Law of Reversed Effect—The harder one tries to do something, the less chance one has of success.
The Law of Dominant Effect—A strong emotion/suggestion tends to replace a weaker one.
During the late 1800’s and the early part of the 1900’s this inquiry continued on many fronts. The German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz adapted the theories of Abbé Faria and Emile Coué as well as certain techniques in yoga and meditation calling his system of self-hypnosis Autogenic Training.
It was thought that a person experiencing intense emotion tends to be more receptive to ideas and therefore more suggestible than others. Also, young children are generally more suggestible than older children who are more suggestible than adults.
However, psychologists have found that individual levels of self-esteem, assertiveness, and other qualities can make some people more suggestible than others — i.e. they act on others’ suggestions more of the time than other people. This has resulted in this being seen as a spectrum of suggestibility.
Hypnosis had become a popular phenomenon by end of the 19th century and was crucial in the invention of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud. Freud later witnessed a number of the experiments of Liébeault and Hippolyte Bernheim in Nancy. Back in Vienna he developed abreaction therapy using hypnosis with Josef Breuer. When Sigmund Freud discounted its use in psychiatry, in the first half of the last century, stage hypnotists kept the phenomena alive more than physicians.
The use of hypnosis in the treatment of neuroses flourished in World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Hypnosis techniques were merged with psychiatry and were especially useful in the treatment of what is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The contemporary study of hypnotism is usually considered to have begun in the 1930s with Clark Leonard Hull (1884-1952) at Yale University. An experimental psychologist, his work Hypnosis and Suggestibility (1933) was a rigorous study of the phenomenon, using statistical and experimental analysis. Hull‘s studies emphatically demonstrated once and for all that hypnosis had no connection with sleep. The main result of Hull‘s study was to rein in the extravagant claims of hypnotists, especially regarding extraordinary improvements in cognition or the senses under hypnosis. Hull‘s experiments did show the reality of some classical phenomena such as hypnotic anesthesia and post-hypnotic amnesia. Hypnosis could also induce moderate increases in certain physical capacities and change the threshold of sensory stimulation; attenuation effects could be especially dramatic.
In the 1940s, Andrew Salter (1914-1996) introduced the Pavlovian method of contradicting, opposing, and attacking beliefs. In the conditioned reflex, he believed he had found the essence of hypnosis. He gave a rebirth to hypnotism by combining it with classical conditioning.
Studies continued after the Second World War. Barber, Hilgard, Orne and Sarbin also produced substantial studies. In 1961 Ernest Hilgard and André Weitzenhoffer created the Stanford scales, a standardized scale for susceptibility to hypnosis, and examined susceptibility across age groups and gender.
In 1952, the Hypnotism Act was brought by United Kingdom government to regulate the public demonstrations of stage hypnotists for entertainment. On April 23, 1955, the British Medical Association (BMA) approved the use of hypnosis in the areas of psychoneuroses and hypnoanesthesia in pain management in childbirth and surgery. At this time, the BMA also advised all physicians and medical students to receive fundamental training in hypnosis.
In 1958, the American Medical Association approved a report on the medical uses of hypnosis. It encouraged research on hypnosis although pointing out that some aspects of hypnosis are unknown and controversial. Two years after AMA approval, the American Psychological Association endorsed hypnosis as a branch of psychology.
The U.S. (Department of Labor) Directory of Occupational Titles (D.O.T. 079.157.010) supplies the following definition:
“Hypnotherapist – Induces hypnotic state in client to increase motivation or alter behavior pattern through hypnosis. Consults with client to determine the nature of problem. Prepares client to enter hypnotic states by explaining how hypnosis works and what client will experience. Tests subject to determine degrees of physical and emotional suggestibility. Induces hypnotic state in client using individualized methods and techniques of hypnosis based on interpretation of test results and analysis of client’s problem. May train client in self-hypnosis conditioning.”
I also learned that there are many popular misconceptions about hypnosis. Most people carry some or perhaps all of these misconceptions due to popular media, superstition or stage show hypnotists. The answers to some of the most common misconceptions are:
Loss of consciousness— A client may believe that because he has his eyes closed during the process he will be asleep. The eyes are closed to facilitate concentration. The client will not necessarily lose awareness or fall asleep. The client will likely experience increased attention to the therapist’s suggestions. This concentration facilitates openness to these suggestions. It is this deep concentration that is one of the principal reasons for using hypnosis.
Surrender of Will— Some people are afraid that hypnosis can weaken their moral code or permanently change their attitudes. Depending on the client’s experience with hypnosis they may be afraid of doing something embarrassing or ridiculous such as clucking like a chicken or barking like a dog. They may be concerned that the therapist will tell them to do something that would violate their moral principles. It can be pointed out that they already encounter many strong persuaders every day in the form of peer pressure, mass media and propaganda without giving up their sense of self. Hypnosis will only enable them to concentrate more fully on their beliefs.
Weak-mindedness—It is a common misconception that only weak-minded individuals make good hypnotic subjects. Research has shown that people of above average intelligence, who are capable of concentrating, make the best subjects.
Revelation of Secrets— It will be difficult for a client to reach deep levels of hypnosis if they believe that there is a chance they may reveal some intimate secret during the process. This can be dispelled by telling the client that they will be aware of everything while hypnotized and afterward, unless amnesia is suggested. Amnesia would be suggested only if it were discussed with the client prior to the induction.
Fear of Not Being Dehypnotized— Some clients are afraid that they will not come out of the hypnotized state. It is important to explain that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis and therefore they can come out of the trance anytime they choose. Most clients are taught self-hypnosis. This gives the client the knowledge that they can terminate the hypnotic state at any time. Emphasizing these facts usually allays their fears, anxieties and tensions.
Dominant Personality Required –Some clients have the idea that to be a hypnotist requires a dominant personality. For this reason they may believe that men make better therapists than women. This is definitely not true.
It is important to adequately explain all misconceptions during the initial client visit. It frequently helps to mention that the phenomenon of hypnosis occurs as a part of everyday life and they will soon experience it as a familiar feeling. Removal of all doubts and misconceptions helps to establish a closer rapport between client and therapist. It also helps to establish the motivation necessary for successful hypnotic induction and therapy.
A Variety Of Contemporary Hypnotherapy Techniques
Milton Erickson (1901-1980) developed many ideas and techniques in hypnosis that were very different from those previously practiced. His style is referred to as Ericksonian Hypnosis and it has had a great influence on many modern schools of hypnosis.
Dave Elman (1900-1967) was one of the pioneers of the medical use of hypnosis. Elman‘s definition of hypnosis is still widely used today among many professional hypnotherapists. Although Elman had no medical training, he is known for having trained the most physicians and psychotherapists in America, in the use of hypnotism. He is also known for introducing rapid inductions to the field of hypnotism. One method of induction, which he introduced more than fifty years ago, is still one of the favored inductions used by many of today’s masters. According to his book Hypnotherapy (Westwood, 1964), Elman was able to guide a subject into a coma-like hypnotic state within minutes, and taught his students to do the same. According to Elman‘s supporters, such a deep state of hypnosis had not been seen for a century.
During this study of trance states and hypnosis I found many definitions put forth by the various practitioners. Krasner defines hypnosis as belief + expectation = Hypnosis. Grindes and Kroger describe hypnosis as misdirected attention, belief, expectation and imagination. My teacher and mentor, Roger Moore PhD often says hypnosis is taking control of the trance you are in. However it is described, it is an undeniable and powerful force.
As my studies of hypnosis progressed I learned more about the trance state in which hypnosis takes place. It is also a state we frequently enter into in the normal course of a day and as I paid closer attention to this phenomenon I could feel myself slipping in and out of this comfortable state. There are many examples of trance in our daily lives that we all can recognize; getting into an elevator and watching the numbers flash, one—two—three—four. Another example is the driving trance. Most of us have had the experience of driving from one place to another, arriving at our destination without remembering the process of getting there. Probably the most common day-to-day trance for many of us is that of watching television or reading a book and being transported to another time and place. While in this receptive state advertisers have come to realize we are easily convinced that we need and want a sponsor’s product.
I learned that trance is a normal, relaxed and very useful state. We go into trance all the time. There are, however, key differences between the trance of everyday life and the trance used by a hypnotherapist. The therapeutic trance is the process of being guided with a distinct beneficial purpose. This becomes a major factor for the hypnotherapist when the client is in a trance of his own. When that happens, the client’s trance does not include the therapist. In order to work with the client the therapist must first draw the client out of his own trance and then assist him into a trance based on rapport. Rapport is the basis for success in hypnotherapy. It is the condition in which the client accepts the therapist’s suggestions unconditionally, without resistance, at the unconscious level. Rapport opens the door to trance, the state in which the therapist can communicate directly with the client’s unconscious mind.
Crabtree, Adam (1993). From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic Sleep and the Roots of Psychological Healing. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Zeig, Jeffery K (editor). A Teaching Seminar with Milton H. Erickson. Brunner/Mazel Publishers. New York 1980
Ansari PhD, Masud. Modern Hypnosis: Theory and Practice. Mas-Press, Washingto DC. 1982
Jacqueline Gaye Terry is a Washington State Registered Hypnotherapist and a student of Antioch University and Roger Moore’s Institute of Hypnotherapy.
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