The word hypnotherapy is based on on the term hypnosis,which is derived from the Greek word hypnos meaning ‘sleep’. The word hypnosis was invented in the 19th century by a Scottish surgeon called James Braid who sometimes used the technique of mesmerism when he was performing operations. In India, James Esdaile used it as the only anaesthetic for many operations that he carried out. Both Braid and Esdaile were in complete contravention of the medical opinion of the time, since for over fifty years the theory and practice of mesmerism had been widely condemned.
Mesmerism originated with a Dr Franz Mesmer (1734-1815). Mesmer did a lot of research into the power and use of magnets. He became convinced that magnetism was the magic key that joined everything in the world. Mesmer believed that illness was caused when this force did not flow freely and that to cure ailments, the use of magnets was necessary in order to correct this flow. For at time he was popular but when his methods were found to be unsuccessful he was strongly criticised and forced to move from Vienna to Paris in 1778. In Paris Mesmer found new popularity and success, where his clientele came more for the entertainment than for the cure. His patients were put into a trance by the combination of soft lighting and music as they held a container of iron filings and water. Mesmer maintained that they felt the effects of the magnetism whist he held a rod of iron. It is now thought that his strong personality, charisma and powers of suggestion were the main source of any cures, with his patients being ‘mesmerised’. The french medical profession found that there was no scientific basis for his work and his methods faded into obscurity.
It is only in recent times that hypnotherapy has regained some degree of popularity. Hypnotherapists view the trance as a condition in which the mind and body can be calm and serene. While in this state, alterations can be made which are not possible when the patient is still completely conscious. When in a trance the person can still function correctly and also carry out tasks, converse sensibly and carry out requests. Both physical and mental changes can be effected, such as the the reduction of pain, healing disorders and encouraging relaxation. At times a patient may have a problem that originates with an event that happened some time ago, such as in childhood. If this is the case and the patient can be helped to accept what has happened in the past through hypnotherapy, this can boost morale and confidence.
When using hypnotherapy, both the therapist and the patient need to work together to bring about a cure. There is a large number of disorders that have been treated with success. These include migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and skin disorders along with other problems caused by stress and anxiety. Illnesses known as hysterical illnesses are a common problem that hypnotherapists treat. These include phobias, insomnia and asthma.
Hypnotherapy often receives bad publicity. It is frequently associated with television shows and entertainment where people are sometimes made to look foolish when hypnotised. Not all hypnotists are charlatans as many now use their skills for therapeutic purposes. Even orthodox medicine now recognises the importance of hypnosis as an alternative treatment.
Hypnosis is not sleep. It is a condition where a person withdraws from the normal state of consciousness but has not reached the unconscious state. When in a hypnotic state, one remains, to some extent, aware and deeply absorbed but is also open to hypnotic suggestion.
Some people are easier to put under hypnotic suggestion than others. If hypnotism is to work effectively the patient needs to believe in its power. The therapist in turn has to act in a neutral manner with calmness and authority. The patient is encouraged to think relaxing thoughts and to concentrate upon a fixed object or something that is moving slowly. The patient gradually becomes totally focused on the picture that he or she sees in their mind and all outside thoughts and images disappear.
In this state of focused concentration the patient becomes suggestible. The patient will be helped in achieving their goals by the therapist who will encourage the patient to be more positive in outlook; to realise what that they can achieve and to understand events in their past and how they might be likely to react in the future. It is not unusual for a patient to use hypnosis on themselves after their ailment or problem has been resolved. If further treatment is needed this will help them in the future.
Increasing numbers of the medical profession now use hypnosis to overcome the the pain of chronic headache, backaches, childbirth, cancer and more. Some psychologists use hypnosis to help patients overcome bad habits, anxiety, phobias and depression. Family doctors have also begun to use hypnosis to treat psychosomatic illnesses, to control appetite and to reduce the need for medication in chronic illness.
Andrew Tomkinson has written many articles on alternative health. Subjects include Reiki, Meditation, Spiritual Healing and Reflexology.