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  Hypnosis

Dictionary definition of hypnosis
“ an artificially induced state of relaxation and concentration in which deeper parts of the mind become more accessible: used clinically to reduce reaction to pain, to encourage free association, etc.”

Hypnosis has been defined as a state of heightened suggestibility in which the subject is able to uncritically accept ideas for self-improvement and act on them appropriately. When a hypnotist hypnotizes his subject, it is known as hetero-hypnosis. When an individual puts himself into a state of hypnosis, it is known as self-hypnosis. In both cases, the subject has achieved a heightened state of suggestibility. Even in hetero-hypnosis, the subject really controls the response to suggestions. Actually, all hypnosis is really a matter of self-hypnosis. The subject enters into the hypnotic state when he is completely ready to do so. This may require from one to many attempts before it is achieved. Even if the subject insists that he wants to be hypnotized immediately, he may be resisting hypnosis unconsciously.

In self-hypnosis the same thing usually takes place. The subject is anxious to achieve self-hypnosis, but somehow the state eludes him. What's wrong? It may be that he is unconsciously resisting it, hasn't conditioned himself sufficiently, or has achieved the hypnotic state and doesn't know he is in the state. This last statement may be surprising, but we will examine it in detail a little later on.

Most experts agree that about 90 percent of the population can be hypnotized. Who among us is not influenced by suggestion? Aren't we all, as we have seen, influenced by the suggestions of advertising? Don't we all have a tendency to believe what we read in the paper, hear on the radio or see on television? Aren't we all convinced that a name-brand article is better than one that is not so well-known? That is suggestion.
 
The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale and other inspirational literature proves that millions of modern people recognize the efficacy of constructive thoughts. What most of them do not recognize is that they are capable of implanting these beneficial thoughts in their own minds without reference to any outside agencies. This can be done through self-hypnosis.

Self-hypnosis is a highly suggestible state wherein the individual can direct suggestions to himself. It is a powerful tool in any therapeutic process, and highly motivated subjects can parallel the success of hetero-hypnosis through their own efforts. Self-hypnosis can be used as a palliative agent and can even afford lasting results in many areas of the organism. Self-hypnosis can alleviate distressing symptoms, substitute strong responses for weak responses, help overcome bad habits, create good habits and help one's power of concentration. The total personality is eventually changed to the point where it can function adequately in an increasingly difficult environment.

In learning self-hypnosis, the subject does not relinquish control of himself as is commonly believed. Actually, more control is gained. Self-sufficiency and self-confidence are inevitable results. It is well to remember, however, that even good things may be overdone, and good judgment is necessary for favorable results. Neither hypnosis nor self-hypnosis should ever be used indiscriminately. The effectiveness of self-hypnosis depends upon many factors. Strong motivation, intelligent application of suggestions and diligence are prerequisites.
We are not suggesting that hypnosis by qualified professional or self-hypnosis can take the place of all forms of psychotherapy. We do recommend it as an adjunct to therapy when indicated. Used judiciously, it can contribute a great deal to the individual's physical and emotional well-being and happiness.
Prior to the 15th century, disease was often considered to be a punishment from God or gods.  Healers of the time, such as shamans, priests and "witch doctors" would induce an altered state of consciousness, to help heal or for spiritual rituals. Sometimes they did this to their "patient", sometimes to themselves, and sometimes both.

They would use many different techniques.  Chanting, drums, dancing, fire and drugs were all incorporated in ritualistic ways.

Suggestions in Ancient Healing
A common important element, was creating a "suggestion" that the patient's conscious and subconscious mind, would "accept", thus utilizing the patients "power of belief".  Believing that they were being healed, would put their own mind power to work healing them.
Ancient Egyptians had the Temples of Sleep, and the Greeks their Shrines of Healing - both places where patients were given curative suggestion while in an induced sleep.
One of the greatest uses and needs for hypnosis was in the area of anesthesia. Because anesthesia as we know it didn't exist at all until the mid-nineteenth century.  

Mesmer and the Misunderstanding of Hypnosis
Paracelsus had a theory that the heavenly bodies exerted an influence upon disease and healing, working through an all-pervading universal magnetic fluid.
In 1765, Franz Anton Mesmer, stated that man could influence this magnetic fluid to bring about healing. He established salons where patients applied magnets to afflicted parts of their body. Later he moved to Paris where he further developed his theory.
In 1784, Louis XV1 set up a commission of investigation, which included Benjamin Franklin, M. La Guillotin, and La Voisier. They concluded that magnetism with imagination had some effect, but Mesmer's magnetism theories were discredited, although his Society of Harmonies continued.

Le Marquis de Puysegur, a member of the Society, believed that the magnetic power was produced in his own mind and was transferred to the patient via his fingertips. He found that he could produce a sleep in which the patient would follow his commands - very authoritarian - and introduced the terms, “perfect crisis” and “profound sleep”.

1800s - Surgery without Anesthetic and "Hypnotic Sleep"

In 1837, Dr. John Elliotson, Professor of Medicine at UCH London, conducted public clinical demonstrations of hypnosis and hypnotic phenomena, demonstrating its effects on voluntary and involuntary muscle, somnambulism, analgesia, hallucinations etc., which he attributed to the magnetism theory.

He was forced to resign, and began to edit the journal, The Zoist. There, he reported on James Esdaile, a Scottish surgeon working in India, who had performed several hundred operations painlessly using only hypnosis (mesmerism) as an anesthetic.

Esdaile would produce something like suspended animation, now known as the Esdaile State, by stroking the patient’s body for several hours. Esdaile's logs indicated that fatal surgical shock or post operative infection occurred in only 5% of cases compared with the then norm of 50%. The medical establishment rejected these claims.

In 1841, the British doctor James Braid saw a demonstration of mesmerism by a French man named La Fontaine. He was impressed, and started using the mesmerism techniques in his practice. He used his shiny bright lancet case to induce his patients to enter a deep "hypnotic sleep". In that state, his patients would accept his "healing suggestions".

He thought the reason this worked, was that staring at a bright object exhausted the nervous system, rather than it involving magnetism. He coined the word Neurypnology (literally ‘nervous sleep’), from Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep.

This was the first use of the word hypnosis.


Hypnotic Suggestion?

In 1884, Dr. Ambroise-August Liebeault, of France, proclaimed that he could cure people in a hypnotic state, by "suggestion".  In 1886, he was joined by Professor Bernheim, from Paris, and together they published ‘De La Suggestion’, which further rejected the concept of magnetism.

About the same time, at the Salpetriere Hospital, Jean Martin Charcot was pushing his views that hypnosis was a pathological state akin to hysteria, and that the two were interchangeable. After a falling out, Bernheim’s theories won out over Charcot, and Charcot was discredited. BUT...

In 1890, two of Charcot’s pupils, Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, changed the approach of hypnosis from "suggesting" away the symptoms, to eliminating the apparent causes. Breuer noticed that hypnosis patients would often recall past events and talking about them would bring about emotional outpouring. Then they would losing their symptoms.

He called this his "talking cure" (such an emotional state would now be referred to as an abreaction). Freud was also experimenting with it, and looking for other reasons behind illness, but eventually stopped working with Breuer, and began developing what would later become psychoanalysis.

During WW1, between 1914 to 1918, the Germans realized that hypnosis could help treat shell-shock quickly. It allowed soldiers to be return to the trenches almost immediately. A formularized version of hypnosis, autogenic training, was devised by Dr. Schultz.

After the second world war, Milton Erickson of the US, had a major impact on the practice and understanding of hypnosis and the mind. He theorized that hypnosis is a state of mind that all of us are normally entering spontaneously and frequently.

Modern Medical Understanding of Hypnosis
On the heels of Erickson's work, hypnosis evolved into a well respected practice, used by doctors, psychologists, business and law enforcement. It's also used for self help, and self improvement.  With the development of self-hypnosis, one doesn't even need to rely on a therapist any longer.
Hypnosis is a tool, not a cure in and of itself. It is used for stress management, stress related disorders, dental and medical anxiety and anesthesia, even in obstetrics.  It is also used for pain management, including pain associated with cancer; as an adjunct to psychotherapy, and in the management of a wide range of phobic, anxiety and other medical and psychological problems.
Hypnosis can also help change your subconscious programming, putting the power of your mind towards improving your life.