A History of hypnosis

1500 BC to present day

As early as 1500 BC reference to hypnosis practices can be found in the Hindu Vedas. The father of Chinese medicine Wong Tai in 2600 BC wrote about techniques related to hypnosis.

Following this further references to hypnosis can be found in Ancient Egypt and Greece.

"Hypnos" The Greek word for sleep and the Greek God of sleep relates to the origin of the word and practice of Hypnosis. Hypnosis however is very different to sleep.


Franz Mesmer 1734 - 1815

Allow me to Mesmer-ise you

More recently just over 200 years ago an Austrian physician named Franz Mesmer (1734 – 1815)  took his place as one of the modern pioneers of hypnotherapy. Allow me to "Mesmerise" you. Mesmerism the very word was derived from his name and though mocked by the medical world of his day,


Mesmer was a brilliant man. He developed the theory of ‘animal magnetism’ – the idea that diseases are the result of blockages in the flow of magnetic forces in the body, today many pioneers of spiritual practice believe in the same theory, that the body and mind are one and operate as one. 

Fixation Hypnosis

James Briad developed an interest in fixation hypnosis quite by chance. One day, when he was late for an appointment, he found his patient in the waiting room staring into an old lamp, his eyes glazed. Fascinated, Braid gave the patient some commands, telling him to close his eyes and go to sleep. The patient complied and Braid’s interest grew. 


He discovered that getting a patient to fixate upon something was one of the most important components of putting them into a trance and James Braid started to use the swinging watch, which many people associate with hypnosis, the watch was popular in the early days as an object of fixation.


Pioneer James Braid (1795 – 1860)


James Esdale (1805 - 1859)

Hypnosis as an anaesthetic

James Esdaile a British surgeon in India recognised the enormous benefits of hypnotism for pain relief and performed hundreds of major operations using hypnotism as his only anaesthetic.


On his return to England his attempts to convince the medical establishment of his findings failed. He was mocked and laughed at. Medical establishments declaring that pain was character-building (although they were biased in favour of the new chemical anaesthetics, which they could control and, of course, charge more money for).

So hypnosis became, and remains to this day, an ‘alternative’ form of medicine

Auto Suggestion

‘Every day in every way I am getting better and better.’

The famous phrase developed by Emile Coue as he pioneered the use of auto-suggestion and moved away from traditional medicine. Affirmations are widely used now in meditation and spiritual practice. Emile's technique was based on affirmation and many people use daily affirmations today. Coué believed that he did not heal people himself but merely facilitated their own self-healing.

It could also e said that Coué also anticipated the placebo effect. "The treatment of no intrinsic value the power of which lies in suggestion: patients are told that they are being given a drug that will cure them"

Recent research on placebos is fascinating. In some reports statistics state that placebos can work better that many of modern medicine’s most popular drugs. One could surmise that while drugs are not always necessary for recovery from illness belief in your recovery is!


Emile Coué (1857 – 1926)


Milton Erikson (1901 - 1980)

Healing Hypnosis

Milton was a psychotherapist who became fascinated by observing and analysing people as a teenager while recovering from Polio and associated paralysis, he was so severely paralysed doctors believed he would die.

Working with his own mind and what I like to call "inner pharmacy" he began to recall "body memories" of the the muscles in his own body and how they had previously worked and felt.

By concentrating on his memories, he slowly learned to give attention to specific muscles and start to regain control of parts of his body.

 He was eventually able to talk and use his arms.

Erikson became famous for using "indirect techniques" in psychotherapy and hypnosis, working with metaphor, confusion and humour

Erikson was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis  He is noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-generating.

Present day Hypnotherapy 

Melanie Meik - Clinical Hypnotherapist Hip. dip. GNHQ

Today Hypnotherapy is widely practised. The General Hypnotherapy Standards Council and The General Hypnotherapy Register are continually working to regulate Hypnotherapy and together present an exemplary model for the simultaneous protection of the public and the provision of practitioner credibility and services.

It is a professional association and register of practising hypnotherapists, comprising in excess of 3,000 UK based individual practitioners, together with registered therapists in 35 countries. For more information and to find a registered Hypnotherapist click on the link below.