Early and contemporary developments in the history of hypnosis have shown what a truly fascinating subject it is. It was only in the latter part of the 19th century that the words "hypnosis" and "hypnotism" became widely used, however the true history of hypnosis began long ago when the potential for mental and physical health benefits through hypnosis and suggestion - though obviously not referred to in these terms at the time - was first recorded by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Hindus.
Some of the early Western researchers into hypnosis - Dr James Braid being one of the most prominent - observed connections between ancient Eastern practices involving yoga and meditation and the hypnotic trance state itself. This view conflicted with that of Franz Mesmer, whose theory of animal magnetism, also later termed as "mesmerism", first came to be studied by scientists and doctors around 1775.
Another of the earliest researchers into hypnosis, or "somnambulism" as he termed it was the Marquis De Puysegur, a French aristocrat who had been introduced to the study of Mesmerism by his brother, the Count de Chastenet.
To some contemporary students of hypnosis the name Thomson Jay Hudson may not be instantly recognisable, but he was one of the first researchers to introduce a recognisably coherent and insightful explanation and summary of the mental processes that are involved with hypnosis and suggestion, clarifying the relationship between the conscious and subconscious minds.
The theory and practice of autosuggestion was further advanced by Emile Coue who became seriously interested in the power of suggestion by a spontaneous and unplanned demonstration of the placebo effect.
In many people's minds there's an almost inextricable link between the concept of subliminal messaging and the more lurid depictions of hypnosis, especially through some movies and magazines of the mid 20th century. On the one hand, many of these depictions are of course ludicrously exaggerated. On the other hand however, there's no doubt that various forms and degrees of subliminal hypnosis have, at least in the past, been used by certain elements of government and media organizations.
Similarly, there exists in the more recent history of hypnosis and in the collective consciousness a link between hypnosis and various mind control methods. This collective perception is not entirely misguided, as in order to "control" the mind of an individual or a large or small group of individuals, some element of or technique of suggestion has to be employed.
Stage hypnosis as it is known today has its roots and background in the early demonstrations of Mesmerism and such like. However today virtually all stage and street hypnosis shows are created and operated with entertainment as the primary aim. Many commentators remain sceptical as to whether genuine hypnosis induction techniques are being used, and indeed some stage hypnotists are more inclined to use terms such as "thought projection" etc.
Personally I'm not really qualified to go into this in much depth, never having been to a stage hypnosis show, though I have been impressed or let's say curious about the apparently objective claims of some participating audience members that they truly were deeply "under" and could not remember taking their clothes off, flapping like chickens etc etc. We could however speculate that there's a possibility that successful stage/street hypnotists have become expert in covert or conversational hypnosis as this clearly could contribute towards a possible explanation of the phenomenon.
As with many things, the mass/mainstream media has - largely - got it wrong on hypnosis, at least until fairly recently. Many people's perception of hypnosis has been ironically skewed by repeated suggestions and imagery put out on TV and movies which often portray the hypnotist as some sinister Svengali type figure. Find out here which hypnosis myths have prevented lots of people from finding help and relief from a whole range of problems.
For anyone seeking to increase their knowledge of or learn hypnosis techniques, an in depth look into the history of hypnosis is an excellent place to start. This is a subject which has tremendous possibilities for anyone interested in the workings of the mind and of its potential, both in career terms and as a tool which can be used to considerably enhance the quality of your life.
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