The idea of altered states go right back through history in all cultures, including amongst shamans (witch doctors, medicine men, healers) and in ancient Greek healing temples that were devoted to the Greek god of healing and similar temples that were seen in ancient Egypt.
Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) – An Austrian Physicist who believed that illness was associated with disturbances of the flow of magnetism (‘cosmic flow’) in the body and that he had the ability to heal this.
The Marquis de Chastenet de Puysegur (1751-1825) – A student of Mesmer. He felt that cosmic flow was not magnetic but electric and that this electric field was generated by every living thing. He preferred therefore to offer healing sessions out in nature and used a relaxed, quiet state of mind to heal.
The Abbe de Faria (1756-1819) A Portuguese priest who attended public demonstrations of mesmerism and then gave them himself. He rejected the idea of animal magnetism and proposed the idea of ‘lucid sleep’ instead. He found that one fifth of the people he mesmerized were capable of lucid sleep which closely resembles today’s figures of the percentage of people that are highly susceptible to hypnosis.
John Elliotson (1791-1868) A UK physician who was a leading figure in the mesmeric movement. He advocated the use of mesmerism including its use in surgery. He reported over 1800 surgeries were performed painlessly.
James Esdaile (1808-1859) A Scottish surgeon who in India used mesmerism to anesthetise patients during surgery with a highly reported success rate.
James Braid (1796-1860) A Scottish doctor who didn’t accept the theory of mesmerism and coined the term ‘Hypnotism’ from the Greek god of sleep. He later tried to change the name but the name Hypnosis had stuck. He developed a new method of Hypnosis induction based on eye fixation.
Jean Martin Charcot (1835-1893) A French Professor who noticed that hypnotic phenomena was similar to the symptoms he saw in his hysterical patients.
Hippolyte Bernheim (1837-1919) & Auguste Ambroise Leibeault (1823-1904) French Professors who rejected Charcots idea that hypnosis phenomena is confined to the mentally ill and demonstrated that the entire range of hypnotic phenomena could be found in 15% of the normal population. They said that expectation is a most important factor for the induction of hypnosis and increased suggestibility a symptom.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) An Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. He used hypnosis in some of his early research, and through his observations of patients entering the hypnotic state recognised the existence of the unconscious. Freud later abandoned Hypnosis as a tool for unlocking repressed memories in favour of free association techniques.
Emile Coué (1857-1926) A French Psychologist and Pharmacist who is best remembered for the phrase “day by day in every way I am getting better and better.” Coué promoted the idea of auto-suggestion, something which we might better understand as self-hypnosis. He also recognised the role of the imagination in solving problems, and was one of the first to realise that hypnosis is something which the client participates in, rather than something which is done to them by a hypnotist.
Dave Elman (1900-1967). An American Hypnotist and author who bridged the gap between stage hypnotism and hypnotherapy, adapting and developing the short, sharp techniques of the stage hypnotists for therapeutic purposes. What took the early mesmerists hours to achieve could now be done in seconds.
Milton Erickson (1901-1980) A US Psychiatrist who pioneered “indirect hypnosis”, the subtle language patterns designed to shift a patient’s perception of themselves and their problems, without necessarily resorting to formal, eyes-closed inductions.
Richard Bandler (1950-present) An American author and trainer in the field of self-help. He is best known as the co-creator (with John Grinder) of Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a methodology intended to understand and change human behaviour patterns. From his work with Milton Erickson he developed the Milton Model.
Paul Mckenna (1963- present) An ex Radio 1 DJ turned stage hypnotist in the 1990s. He has now left the stage hypnotist type shows behind and is more focussed on hypnosis as a therapeutic aid. He is an author of several self-help books, and has hosted self-improvement television shows as well as presenting seminars in hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming weight loss, and motivation. He is a friend of Richard Bandler.
In 1955 the British Medical Association accepted Hypnosis as a therapeutic medium and it was recommended that Hypnosis should be taught in medical schools although these recommendations were never taken up.