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By:Rick Gambrino
The Encarta Encyclopedia defines hypnosis as,”altered state of consciousness and
heightened responsiveness to
suggestion; it may be induced by normal persons by a variety of methods and has been
used occasionally in medical and
psychiatric treatment. Most frequently brought about through actions of an operator, or
“hypnotist”, who engages the
attention of a subject and assigns certain tasks to him or her while uttering monotonous,
repetitive verbal commands; such
tasks may include muscle relaxation, eye fixation, and arm leviation. Hypnosis also may be
self-induced, by trained
relaxation, concentration on one’s own breathing, or by a variety of monotonous practices
and rituals that are found in
many mystical, philosophical, and religious systems.” Another generally reliable source
Webster’s New Universal
Unabridged Dictionary defines it as,”a sleep like condition psychically induced, usually by
another person, in which the
subject loses consciousness but responds, with certain limitations, to the suggestions of the
hypnotist.” As I stated earlier,
these two sources are very reputed and the general population believes that they are
correct. Yet, however often they
may be correct, in this case they are not, or at least not completely. Not according to the
scientific community at least.
My sources for this statement are The World Book Encyclopedia, The Wizard from
Vienna: Franz Anton Mesmer,
Applied Hypnosis: An Overview, American Medical Journal, and Hypnosis: Is It For
You? Although they state it in
different ways they all basically agree that nobody can give a very accurate definition or
description of hypnosis, or
hypnosis. Although some may get the definition partly correct, the chances of doing so
completely are very, very low. So
although I will probably not be able to give a totally accurate account of hypnosis and its
workings, I will try. Although
evidence suggests that hypnosis has been practiced in some form or another for several
thousand years, such as in coal
walking, the earliest recorded history of hypnosis begins in 1734. It begins with a man
named Franz Anton Mesmer.
Although he was eventually disavowed by the scientific community because of his
unorthodox methods that made him
seem more of a mysticist that a scientist, he is generally known as the father of hypnotism.

Mesmer called his methods
Mesmerism, thus the word mesmerize, but the name didn’t stick, it later changed to
hypnosis, its name being derived from
Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep. He believed that hypnosis was reached by using a
person’s “animal magnetism”. He
used “mesmerism” to cure illness. In 1795 an English physician named James Braid, who
was originally opposed to
Mesmer’s methods became interested. He believed that cures were not due to animal
magnetism however, but the power
of suggestion. This was the generally accepted opinion of the scientific community. Then in
1825 Jean Marie Charcot, a
French neurologist, disagreed with “The Nancy School of Hypnotism”, which followed the
guidelines of James Braid’s
ideas. Charcot believed that hypnosis was simply a “manifestation of hysteria”. He revived
Mesmer’s theory of animal
magnetism and identified the three stages of the trance; lethargy, catalepsy, and
somnambulism. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov
(1849-1936) was not a scientist who worked with hypnosis. Although he had nothing to
do with the hypnotic
development itself, his Stimulus Response Theory is a cornerstone linking and anchoring
behaviors, particularly NLP
(Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Emily Coue (1857-1926) a physician, formulated the
Laws of Suggestion which are
greatly used in the hypnotic community. Her first law is The Law of Concentrated
Attention: “Whenever attention is
concentrated on an idea over and over again, it spontaneously tends to realize itself”. The
second law is- The Law of
Reverse Action: “The harder one tries to do something, the less chance one has of
success.” Finally, the last law is The
Law of Dominant Effect: “A stronger emotion tends to replace a weaker one.” Milton
Erickson (1932-1974), a
psychologist and psychiatrist pioneered the art of indirect suggestion in hypnosis. He is
considered the father of modern
hypnosis. His methods bypassed the conscious mind through the use of both verbal and
nonverbal pacing techniques
including metaphor, confusion, and many others. He was definitely a major influence in
contemporary hypnotherapy’s
acceptance by the American Medical Association. There are many misconceptions about
hypnosis that are totally without
basis. Such as, “Hypnotized persons will tell secrets or will always tell the truth.” The truth
is, hypnosis will not cause a
person to tell information the do not want to tell and a person under hypnosis can

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