The Origins of Hypnosis

Origins of Hypnosis
Jean Martin Charcot

The origins of Hypnosis are unclear, but we know that the Egyptians, Greeks and the Chinese already known it centuries before our era.

In 1765 Mesmer used “magnets” to produce a kind of hypnosis that later became very popular, after known as “mesmerism“, and which was based on the doctrine of Paracelsus who argued that the heavenly bodies influence the man through the emission of a magnetic fluid.

But modern hypnosis begins in Portugal around 1825 with the Abbe Faria, who produced trances couching the person, making him suggestions of drowsiness and ordering him, with authority, to sleep. The abbot said that hypnosis is not of divine origin, as was thought in antiquity, neither it is due to magnetism, as Mesmer said. He thought that hypnosis is due to “suggestion“.

In 1841 James Braid, a physician from Manchester, introduced the technique to focus attention on an object, for that he used the box where he kept the syringes, saying to the person to stare it.

Charcot later began to use “hypnotic suggestion” with the women who suffered from hysterical neurosis and he ordered them, while they were hypnotized, to do some action.

Around the same time, in France too, Bernheim and Liebeault were the pioneers in the use of “post-hypnotic suggestion“. When the subject was awakened from the trance he had to do something or, for instance, they ordered to the person that the pain would disappear upon awakening.

Freud also used hypnosis in his early years but later abandoned it in favor of free association, which marks the beginning of a new psycho-therapeutic technique, the psychoanalysis.


(Edited by María Moya Guirao, M.D.)

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