CHA History & CredibilityThere has been great curiosity about hypnosis over the years and in spite of advances in brain neuroscience and a clearer understanding of the mind, there are still many unanswered questions about hypnosis and how it works. In order to understand this ancient art today, it is helpful to reflect back on its origins.
People have been entering hypnotic-type trances for thousands and thousands of years; various forms of meditation play an important role in many cultures' religions. The scientific exploration of hypnosis began in the 1700’s.
The art of hypnosis is linked to the principle laws of associa:on, namely contiguity, repetition, attention, pleasure-pain, and similarity. These basic laws of association were formulated by Aristotle in approximately 300 (B.C.) and by John Locke in the 17th Century. Both philosophers taught that the mind at birth is a blank slate and that all knowledge has to be acquired by learning. The laws they taught still make up the backbone of modern learning theory today. Some theorists believe that that the mind at the moment of birth already has all information (from past lives) stored within the human system and that this information has an impact on our present life. Another concept closely linked to hypnosis is Cognitivism. Cognitivism is the theory that humans generate knowledge and meaning through a sequential development of an individual’s cognitive abilities. This includes the mental processes of recognition, recollection and through the process of analyzing, reflecting, applying, creating, understanding, and evaluating. The Cognitivists' such as Piaget, Bruner and Vygotsky posited that the learning process involves an adoptive learning of techniques, procedures, organiza:on, and structure to develop internal cognitive structure that strengthens synapses in the brain. The learner requires assistance to learn and to integrate new knowledge. The purpose of education is to develop conceptual knowledge, techniques, procedures, and algorithmic problem solving using verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligences. The learner requires scaffolding to develop schema and adopt knowledge from both people and the environment. The educators' role is pedagogical, in that the instructor must develop conceptual knowledge by managing the content of learning activities. This theory relates to early stages of learning where the learner solves well defined problems through a series of stages.
The Art of Hypnosis is one of the oldest (ancient) applications to access the human mind and psyche. Since beginning of time, the art of hypnosis was extensively studied and exercised within many ancient healing modalities. Several accounts can be found throughout history about human evolution including;
a) Jehovah put Adam into a deep sleep and removed a rip (Genesis 2:21)!
b) Ancient Persian Magi
c) Egyptian and Greek sleep temples
d) Hebrew and Christian scripture contain numerous references to the Art of Hypnosis e) The “miracles” of Jesus Christ
f) Pompantius: “When thou art ..... employing the force of imagination.... affect their blood and spirit.... substitute bones of animal for saints....healed”
g) Paraclesus: was persecuted by the church, because he knew and believed that the mind could make one sick and well
￼￼h) First Nation knowledge and cultures that have been using successfully the Art of Hypnosis for thousands of Years, have eventually been destroyed through Western dogma
From a western point of view the work of Dr. Franz Mesmer had a significant influence on hypnosis as it is known today. Mesmer introduced the term “mesmerism” or to “mesmerize” which continues to be associated with hypnosis. During the 19th century hypnosis was studied in more depth and people became curious about its’ positive effects. Surgeons and physicians like John Elliotson and James Esdaile pioneered its’ use in the medical field and James Braid began to investigate the physical and biological underpinnings of hypnosis. Two British psychologists, Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell linked hypnosis to Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and as a result, consciousness is better understood as a series of trance states that we go into and out of all the time.
James Braid (1795-1860) is a major figure in the history of hypnotism and is omen regarded as the “Father of Hypnosis.” He theorized that hypnosis is not a force inflicted by the hypnotist, but a combination of psychologically mediated responses to suggestions. He discovered that eye fixation or attention was the key to mesmerism. He had clients focus on a variety of objects held at different distances from the face; this produced exhaustion in the eyelids which would spontaneously close. He then named the trance like state neuro-hypnotism- from Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep. This is a better understanding that hypnosis has little to do with sleep, but rather, it involves a fixation of attention. Braid worked with individuals with serious health issues- he used hypnosis with stroke victims and with individuals with many other physical issues with profound results.
In the 20th century hypnosis became increasingly popular. A client centered approach was pioneered by Milton Erickson (1901-1980). Many practitioners today use some form of the Ericksonian approach. Erickson believed that by changing the symptoms of a problem he could change the paKern of the problem and he suggested that people hypnotize themselves on a daily basis. Erickson believed that the clients’ unconscious mind held all of the resources necessary for change and he was very skilful in using the language of imagination and metaphor- he saw these as coded messages for the unconscious which is able to see the point of the story even if the conscious mind does not. His approach helped clients to reach their own goals and solutions. His work was truly client-focused and always had the client’s best interest at the forefront of the treatment.
Current research and philosophy suggests that hypnosis provides a way to access a person's subconscious mind directly. Normally, you are only aware of the thought processes in your conscious mind. However, your subconscious mind, which is accessed in hypnosis, helps you to solve problems all of the time. A hallmark of the subconscious mind is its’ automaticity. It is responsible for your moment to moment breathing and the body’s other autonomic processes. During the state of trance, the client’s conscious mind takes a back seat and the hypnotist communicates directly with the subconscious mind.
Researchers have also studied patterns in the brain's cerebral cortex that occur during hypnosis. In these studies, hypnotic subjects showed reduced activity in the lem hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, while activity in the right hemisphere omen increased. Neurologists believe that the lem hemisphere of the cortex is the logical control centre of the brain; it operates on deduction, reasoning and convention. The right hemisphere, in contrast, controls imagination and creativity. A decrease in lem-hemisphere activity fits with the hypothesis that hypnosis subdues the conscious Mind's inhibitory influence. Conversely, an increase in right-brain activity supports the idea that the creative, impulsive subconscious mind takes control (www.science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/extrasensory-percep:ons/brain5.htm).
Numerous research studies have found evidence of the benefits of hypnosis. In a study on the application of hypnosis for depression “hypnosis appeared to significantly improve symptoms of depression (p < .001); Hypnosis appears to be a viable non-pharmacologic intervention for depression” (Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 57(4): 431–442, 2009). Other studies indicate that “Hypnotherapy appears to be a promising adjunctive treatment for inflammatory bowel conditions” (Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 56(3): 306–317, 2008). Furthermore, “the findings indicate that hypnosis interventions consistently produce significant decreases in pain associated with a variety of chronic-pain problems. Also, hypnosis was generally found to be more effective than non-hypnotic interventions such as attention, physical therapy, and education. Most of the hypnosis interventions for chronic pain include instruc:ons in self-hypnosis. However, there is a lack of standardization of the hypnotic interventions examined in clinical trials, and the number of patients enrolled in the studies tended to be low and lacking long-term follow-up.” (Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 55(3): 275–287, 2007). Lastly, “Stanton (1989) conducted a controlled clinical study with 45 subjects matched on their baseline sleep-onset latency and then randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions: hypnotherapy, stimulus control, and placebo treatment. A significant reduction in sleep-onset latency was found only in the hypnotherapy group” (Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 56(3): 270–280, 2008).
There are many studies that suggest there are significant benefits from using hypnosis and we hope that this introductory article on the history of hypnosis and its’ benefits introduces you to the foundations of the Art of Hypnosis and introduces you to some of the new directions and areas where hypnosis is being shown to bring benefit.