Descriptions of the hypnotic process going back 6000 years. During the past 200 years, hypnosis became more formalized but had to battle for mainstream acceptance against organized religion and medical science.

Here is a time line listing of some of the most significant leader in the field involved in the advancement of hypnosis as a legitimate adjunct modality:

Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) The Austrian physician is commonly referred to as the father of Hypnosis. His technique at the time was called animal magnetism which he claimed involved the individual’s psychic and electromagnetic energies.

Even though his work was shunned by the medical community at the time, it was Mesmer who was responsible for spreading the word of the soon to be called hypnosis to the newly settled United States. Now you know where the term ‘to become mesmerized’ originated.

In 1784 the French Academy of Sciences led by Benjamin Franklin were commissioned to evaluate Mesmer. They concluded that he was not the one doing the healing but that his patients were self-healing. They said that the patient’s imagination was enhanced with Mesmer’s technique empowering them to become completely self-healed.

On the surface it seemed that Mesmer was labeled a failure. Actually, the commission proved what we have all come to learn about the true nature of hypnosis; all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. As a hypnotist, I not only teach individuals to independently descend to a powerful level of thought but I also supply them with positive words, images and metaphors.

The result is new patterns, values and beliefs supporting the client’s goals. True power always resides within the client; the hypnotist is merely the facilitator.

James Braid (1795-1860) was an English physician who coined the name ‘hypnosis’ which is a Greek derivative for sleep. Braid soon realized that hypnosis was not sleep at all and unsuccessfully tried to change the name to ‘monoeidism’.

James EsDaile (1805-1859) was the surgeon who successfully performed 345 major operations using only hypnosis as the anesthetic. Soon after his dramatic research was published ether was discovered replacing the need for hypno-anesthesia.

Jean Martin Charcot (1825 –1893) was a French neurologist who labeled the three stages of hypnosis as lethargy, catalepsy and somnambulism.

Pierre Janet (1845-1947) was a French neurologist who advanced the use of hypnosis for the therapeutic value of relaxation and healing. He was in the minority of those who used hypnosis during the growing popularity of psychoanalytic therapy.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) claimed to not prefer hypnosis because he thought he couldn’t hypnotize patients deep enough but it was also commonly known that he was just not that good at it. Freud’s shunning of hypnosis slowed its acceptance by the medical community.

Milton Erickson (1932-1974) was an Arizona psychiatrist who is commonly referred to as the father of modern hypnosis. He was the master of indirect hypnotic suggestion. He played a significant role in the 1958 acceptance of hypnosis by the American Medical Association.

By: Paul Gustafson RN CH