History of Hypnotherapy
A Brief History of Hypnotherapy
Though practitioners haven’t always understood how it works, studies by respected and peer-reviewed publications such as the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and Health Psychology show that hypnosis can measurably improve outcomes for many different types of therapies. While hypnotherapy and hypnosis are largely considered a more new-age treatment for a variety of medical and emotional conditions, the truth is that this practice has deep roots and has been around for thousands of years. In fact, there is evidence suggesting that hypnosis has existed since the beginning of recorded history through the practice wasn’t termed hypnotism until around 1841.
While hypnosis hasn’t always been understood in the same way that it is today, the practice is recognizable throughout history. Ancient Hindus, for example, would induce something they called temple sleep which was a type of self-induced hypnosis brought on by meditation to heal various ailments. The first known written indicator of the practice was in a 1027 publication called The Book of Healing. More religious practitioners in countries such as Austria and Ireland associated hypnosis with prayer, and it was a part of many spiritual ceremonies, leading to its supernatural mystique.
An Evolving Practice
By the late 1700s, hypnotherapy had moved away from mysticism and into the scientific realm. The practice was closely associated with the study of magnetic forces for treating ailments and was, for a time, actually called animal magnetism. By the early 1800s, however, some scientific minds were starting to discern the fact that the process worked even without the use of magnets. In fact, a priest named Abbe Faria created quite a stir by publicly demonstrating his ability to alter someone’s state of mind with just technique and the cooperation of his subject.
The history of Faria’s discoveries
Just a few years later, Faria’s discoveries allowed physicians to successfully use the principles of hypnotism as a viable form of anesthesia for major surgeries. Still, scientists were skeptical, and it was widely misunderstood how and why this worked. Also, a wide variety of critics were put off by the seeming lack of control that accompanied hypnosis, and by the Civil War period in the 1860s, there was greater access to more reliable anesthesia such as chloroform. At this point in history, the practice switched from a medical phenomenon to a principle of psychology, with hypnosis used more frequently to treat mental health conditions. By the late 1800s, The First International Congress for Experimental and Therapeutic Hypnotism was populated almost entirely by scientists who studied the human mind such as Sigmund Freud.
Today, hypnotherapy is used to treat a variety of disorders, including depression, anxiety, addictions, and PTSD. Unlike the past, hypnosis is understood and integrated into modern medical technology. In some ways, the practice has come full circle as it is now used to enhance anaesthesia as well as directly treat both physical and mental conditions. Many countries regulate hypnotherapy in the same way that they do other types of medicine, and doctors will often recommend these types of ‘alternative’ treatments.
Most people associate hypnotherapy with stage tricks and dramatic shows, but it’s clear that there have always been serious applications for this little-understood science and that there is more evidence than ever that it is a safe and effective field of medical study.
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