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A brief history of hypnosis


The use of hypnosis, in its general sense, is found in virtually every culture across the world. It most likely stretches back into ancient history. For example, hieroglyphics found on Egyptian tombs, believed to be from 3000BC, depict the use of hypnosis in religious rites and surgical procedures. Ancient Greeks were known to have used hypnosis for surgical preparation as well as for hypno-healing. Hypnosis has also been used by Hindu Fakirs, native medicine men, witch doctors, and shamans.


The modern scientific understanding of hypnosis originates with the pioneering work of a Scottish doctor named Dr James Braid (1795-1860). Having watched a stage performance of magnetism, he came to the conclusion that it was entirely a hoax. He categorically rejected any supernatural explanations of trance and grounded the study of hypnosis on a firm empirical and scientific basis. He coined the term hypnosis based on the Greek ‘hypnos’ meaning sleep. This is an unfortunate term, as hypnosis is not the same as sleep. Having realised this, he later tried to change the term hypnosis, but unfortunately the term stuck and its use persisted. He published his findings in Neurypnology (1843), arguably the first book on ‘hypnosis’.

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