How long has the powerful, trance-inducing experience called hypnosis been practiced? That, in fact, might be hard to determine. It is known, however, that 4,000 years ago sleep temples were used by the Egyptians in Heliopolis to facilitate dream interpretation and meditation. In some cases, individuals visited particular temples to have their ailments treated by way of chanting, and thus entering a trance-like state. Ancient written records suggest that practices resembling hypnosis, albeit by a different name, originated not only with the Egyptians but also with the Chinese, Hindus, and Greeks along with other cultures of the Middle East.
While hypnotic processes continued to spread through Europe during the dark ages and middle ages, it was notably during the 18th century when both physicians and philosophers helped craft and hone the fledgling science. During this time, Dr. Frantz Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician, started experimenting with magnets to remove ailments by putting the human body into a trance-like state. He theorized that the human body possessed an etheric current which he later called “animal magnetism” that flowed from the head to the feet: Mesmer held large “salons” where patients lined up to be treated for various conditions. Despite the fact his work stirred up much controversy, Mesmer did receive credit for helping to establish a connection between the treatment of the emotions and a patient’s physical health.
Meanwhile, in 1842 a Scottish surgeon named Dr. James Braid expanded upon Mesmer’s work and coined the term “hypnosis” based on the Greek word, “Hypnos” for sleep. Braid misconstrued the idea of hypnosis as a tool to induce a sleep-like state, which led to a brief period of time where members of the medical community utilized hypnosis as a sedation tool for surgical procedures. Other significant thinkers of the era, including Sigmund Freud, also attempted to better understand the benefits of hypnosis. As we now well know, psychoanalysis became one of Freud’s greatest achievements.
In the early 19th Century, Dr. James Esdaile, a British physician, used hypnosis to induce surgical anesthesia in over 300 patients in India. Meanwhile, in the United States, the first extensive medical application of hypnosis alongside anesthesia occurred during the Civil War. This effort was spearheaded by Dr. Henry Munroe, a dentist trained in hypnotherapy. Dr. Munroe hypnotized his patients into a very deeply relaxed state, enabling them to feel numbness in their jaw prior to dental surgery. As a result, he administered a much lower dosage of chloroform. Dr. Munroe also taught hypnosis to two young men, the Mayo brothers, who proceeded to assist thousands of patients during dental surgery. Later these two brilliant, enterprising young men founded the Mayo Clinic.
Today, hypnotherapy is highly regarded by JAMA (The Journal of American Medicine) for its effectiveness in pain management.
Why is hypnosis so effective? Simply put, once you are deeply relaxed, your subconscious mind facilitates a deeper connection between both your body and your mind. This heightened state of awareness, along with powerful hypnotic suggestions, promotes transformation and healing at very deep levels.