Hypnosis has been around as long as humans have been in existence The one thing that people often forget that hypnosis is not something that was invented it was discovered. The development of hypnosis techniques has depended on observation of humans and then developing methods to utilize this natural phenomenon that we have labeled hypnosis.
There have been suggestions that hypnosis and different techniques that utilize hypnosis have been around since the earliest civilizations. Many hieroglyphic drawings of the early egyptians seem to point to techniques that could be considered hypnosis. Much of what the egyptians discovered has been lost to history and covered in sand so this history will begin with something a little more recent.
F.A. Mesmer, was a Viennese physician during the 1800’s his life took a turn after witnessing a demonstration by a street magician using lodestones (magnets). The magician claimed that he could get people to do what he wanted just by touching them with the lodestones. My guess is that he must have been quite a performer, because it sent Mesmer on a life changing course. He started experimenting with lodestones and there effects on people. Soon after he developed a theory about magnetic flow and health. He theorized that people who were sick had their magnetic flow reversed and it could be corrected by another magnetic force. At the height of his popularity Mesmer was seeing about three thousand people a day. To deal with the sheer magnitude of people that came to see him Mesmer “magnetized” the tree in his front yard so people just had to touch the tree and they would be cured.
Although there is no indication that Mesmer had any idea that he was using suggestion and expectation his example showed many people how powerful these forces are when harnessed. One of those people was James Braid. An english Physician who had a patient spontaneously go into trance during a visit to his office. Braid had studied much of Mesmers work, but he knew that there was a great deal of controversy surrounding Mesmerism. When Braid published a paper on inducing trance in subjects he coined the term Hypnotism. The popularity of Braids work cemented the term into common use.
JM Charcot was another influential figure. He used hypnosis to help treat psychotic and nearly psychotic patients. Unfortunately he spread the idea that his techniques could only be used with psychotic patients, and would be of no help to normal people.
One personality that was able to help increase the understanding about the uses of Hypnosis was Milton Erikson. Erikson was able to help many people relief from their infirmities without having to use formal inductions. Erikson developed a style called conversational hypnosis that was basically a conversation with the patient and after he was done the client would rouse from trance usually unaware that he had ever been in a trance.
Over the years there have really been two separate communities built around hypnotism. One is that of the entertainment industry, this community brings recognition of hypnosis to the general public as a powerful tool. The other is the scientific community that has studied the effects of hypnosis and its particular uses. In recent years these two communities have come together to make hypnosis a highly effective tool for bringing about change in people.