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Hypnotherapy Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy Hypnotherapy is the induction of a trance state during which there is access to that aspect of the mind which creates the experience of reality. During this state of relaxation and trance that aspect of the mind is open to suggestion. Because it has integral connections to the entire nervous system, and thus the entire body, skilled trance induction and proper suggestion has earned a place in medicine and dentistry for treatment of a variety of conditions. It has also earned a place as an adjunctive tool in the hands of psychotherapists.

For hypnotherapy, the road to acceptance met the usual barriers along the way by the closed- minded mental set of traditional medicine and dentistry, however the usefulness of hypnotherapy inspired its proponents to persist until the majority of the medical and dental communities at least acquiesced to its use. Ironically, nutritional medicine as well as other natural medicine approaches are now in the same position vis-a-vis the medical establishment which was endured by hypnotherapists earlier in the twentieth century and late in the nineteenth century.

In 1955 the British Medical Association finally approved the use of hypnotherapy and American Medical Association followed suit three years later. Approximately fifteen thousand doctors utilize hypnotherapy in the U.S. today and studies show that 94% of patients experience positive benefit from it.

Partial List of Modern Uses for Hypnotherapy

  • pain syndromes
  • headache
  • facial neuralgia
  • sciatica
  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • whiplash
  • menstrual pain
  • strain syndromes
  • burn pain
  • anaesthesia for some surgeries
  • anaesthesia for some dental procedures
  • reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • circulatory enhancement
  • control of bleeding after surgery
  • tension syndromes
  • addictions
  • psychotherapeutic issues
  • loss of memory

History  of  Hypnosis

Although not called "hypnosis" until 1842, in the religious and healing ceremonies of all primitive peoples there exist the elements necessary to place the subjects into a hypnotic trance. Hindus, Fakirs, Yogis, snake charmers, and Eastern magicians induce themselves and others in cataleptic states by eye fixation and other mesmeric techniques, and are able to perform unusual physical feats and eliminate pain.

The modern history of hypnosis begins not with a physician but with a clergyman, a catholic priest who lived at Klosters, Switzerland  Father Gassner used hypnotic techniques to perform what he considered to be exorcisms. Franz Anton Mesmer was said to have watched a number of performances by Father Gassner in the early 1770's and it was Mesmer who introduced the phenomena to the medical profession.

Franz Anton Mesmer was born May 23, 1734, at Iznang on the German side of Lake Constance.  He received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1766. Mesmer, unable to believe Father Gassner's hypothesis that patients were possessed by demons, believed that the metal crucifix held by the Father was responsible for magnetizing the patient and hence developed his ideas and explanation of the results into a theory of animal magnetism, which he first tested in 1773 by treating a 28 year old female, Franziska Osterlin.

Mesmer published his first account of the magnetic cure in 1775, under the title of, Schreiben Uber die Magnetiker.  Although his fame continued to spread, he was forced to leave Vienna following the famous Paradis case, in which Dr. Von Stoerck and Dr. Barth opposed him.  In 1777 Maria Theresa Paradis, a blind child pianist, and favorite of the Empress, recovered her sight after treatment by Mesmer despite the fact that she had been under the care of Europe's leading eye specialist for ten years without improvement.  Influenced by jealous doctors, the child's mother took her away from Mesmer's care before the cure was complete.  In an emotional scene, the mother struck the child across the face because she resisted leaving Dr. Mesmer's clinic and the hysterical blindness reasserted itself. Mesmer founded a clinic a clinic in Paris and published his famous book, Memoirre Sur La Decouverte Du Magnetisme Animal in 1779.

In 1784 the French Government investigated Mesmer, and pronounced him a fraud.  However, Benjamin Franklin, who was a member of the investigating committee, wrote the minority report, which stated the phenomenon was worthy of further consideration.  D'Eslon, the pupil of Mesmer, propounded the laws of animal magnetism, some of which were wild assumption and quite unscientific which was detrimental to the reputation of the nascent technique.

Mesmer's patients were placed in a tub filled with water and iron filings protruding from which were larger iron rods, Mesmer would suggest to them that as he touched them with his magnetic rod that they would become magnetized and go into a state of "crisis" from which they would emerge cured.  His patients invariably did this and Mesmer considered the crisis necessary for the cure.  Mesmer made a very impressive picture in his long flowing robes, holding his magnetic rod and passing from room to room in his clinic.

In 1814 the Abbe Faria suggested that the phenomena described by Mesmer were not due to animal magnetism, but actually due to suggestion. However the popularity of Mesmer was so well established that Faria's hypothesis was soon forgotten.  Dr. Wolfart journeyed from Berlin to Frauenfeld in 1812 at the request of the Prussian government, to investigate Mesmer, and to learn all he could about animal magnetism, and bring it back to the University of Berlin.  At the same time Koreff was already in Paris on a similar mission.  

Mesmerism spread rapidly throughout Europe, including Switzerland, Italy and even as far north as the Scandinavian countries.  This produced many experts including Eschenmayer, Kerner, Lallemant, Schelling, Passavant, Kluge, Pace, Ostermeyer, Pfaff, Pezold, Selle, Bartels and many others.

Although James Braid is best known for renaming Mesmer's art "hypnotism," he was also responsible for a number of ideas that still persist until the present day.  They are as follows:/p>

  1. Hypnosis is a powerful tool which should be limited entirely to the medical and dental professions.
  2. Although hypnotism is capable of curing many diseases for which there have formally been no remedy, it nevertheless is not a panacea and is only a medical tool which should be used in combination with other medical knowledge in order to properly treat the patient.
  3. In skilled hands there is no great danger associated with hypnotic treatment and neither is there pain or discomfort.
  4. More study and research is necessary to thoroughly understand a number of theoretical concepts regarding hypnosis.

The fact that these concepts remain virtually unchanged today speaks highly for the brilliance of this great physician and hypnotist from Manchester.

A Scottish physician, John Elliotson, stated in no uncertain terms that it was the duty of physicians of that age to carefully and dispassionately review the results of hypnotic treatment in insanity, epilepsy, hysteria, stammering, neuralgia, asthma, torticollis, headaches, functional difficulties of the heart, rheumatism, tic-douloureux, spasmodic colic, sciatica, lumbago, palsy, convulsions, acute inflammations of the eyes and testicles, and reports of hundreds of painless operations.

Dr. James Esdaile probably performed more surgical operations under hypnoanesthesia than any physician up until the present. Some physicians who felt that his patients were hysterical criticized him in the medical journals.  Esdaile's comment on this was that his own report of the cases was still worthy of mention if only as an example of an epidemic of insanity. He was that rate person, a doctor with a sense of humor.

Dr. Ambroise-Auguste Liebeault is widely known as "The Father of Modern Hypnotism."  The reason for this is primarily because Liebeault was the man who concluded and published the observation that all the phenomena of hypnotism are subjective in origin.  Liebeault was a humble French physician, who though generally speaking was uninterested in research, nevertheless was a genius at clinical treatment.

Jean Martin Charcot, the famous French neurologist, was born in 1825 and died in 1893.  He is probably the most famous physician to embrace hypnotism at that time and, in addition to his work with Hypnotism was known for Charcot's bath, Charcot's disease, Charcot's joint, Charcot's syndrome, etc., as well as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, and his work with progressive neuropathic muscular atrophy is well known to all medical students.

Despite his great fame in the medical field, he plunged into hypnotism without the usual careful research that had attended his other works.  When Charcot died, Babinski denounced many of his cures, stating that some were faked and others were figments of Charcot's imagination.  This bitter attack on Charcot by Babinski, more than any other thing, was responsible for the decline of the use of hypnosis in France.  This decline continued until modern times with only a few experts such as Pierre Janet and Joseph Morlaas using hypnosis until it was officially introduced to the French medical schools once again in the fall of 1958.

Dr. Josef Breuer made an accidental discovery that changed the methods of hypnotherapy and introduced an entirely new art as it was Breuer's work which attracted Freud and led him into methods of psychoanalysis which are so common to psychiatrists today. Breuer had been treating a patient whom he called "Anna O." The case is long and involved and is well known to students of psychiatry.  During one portion of therapy she became unable to drink water.  In fact, regardless of how intense her thirst became, she felt it was a physical impossibility for her to swallow water. Thereupon, she subsisted for a number of months on watery fruits and melons until, during a hypnotic session, she revealed in a fit of anger how, to her great disgust, a former governess had permitted a dog to drink water from a glass in her presence.  As soon as she awoke from the trance she immediately asked Breuer for a drink of water, drinking the entire glass of water easily.

This led Breuer to the realization that the simple recall of the dog drinking the glass of water was responsible for removing the symptoms.  After coming to this conclusion, Breuer then attempted to associate all of the patient's symptoms with traumatic experiences from the past.  After working with Anna O. for over a year, Breuer was able to remove her symptoms of blindness, paralysis, deafness, the contracture of her right arm, her anesthesia's, cough, trembling, and all of her other symptoms, merely by repeated trances which revealed more and more of her previous traumatic experiences.

The importance of Breuer's work lies in the change of emphasis in hypnotic therapy, from the direct removal of symptoms to the dealing with the apparent cause of these symptoms. Although Janet simultaneously arrived at this conclusion, Breuer has been given credit for the discovery.

It was Breuer's work that attracted Sigmund Freud and led him to publish his famous book co- authored with Breuer, Studies of Hysteria, which was published in 1895.  Breuer and Freud correctly concluded that hysterical symptoms developed as a result of repressing traumatic experiences and that if these damaging experiences were once again released from the subconscious mind by a mental catharsis, the hysterical symptoms would be eliminated.

Breuer accomplished this through the use of hypnosis, but Freud found that free association coupled with psychoanalysis were vehicles by which he could better accomplish this work.  Parlour has pointed out that although Freud spurned formal "hypnosis" he nevertheless used many hypnotic techniques.

Because of Freud's denunciation of hypnosis in favor of psychoanalysis, people began to associate hypnosis with "direct suggestions" (only one aspect of hypnotism).  Hence, the general public and lay people as well began to think in terms of psychoanalysis versus direct suggestion.  Because of Freud's great brilliance and popularity, the words "free association" and "psychoanalysis" became the buzz words of the day, and hypnosis again took a nosedive into obscurity.

However, its usefulness was so great that it could not possibly remain in the dustbin of history and it made a progressive comeback over the first half of the twentieth century until its formal acceptance by the establishment powers in the mid-1950s. Even now, individual, poorly informed members of the medical and dental communities scoff  at hypnotherapy and in so doing reveal just how far behind the times it is possible to be.



The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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