The origins of hypnosis
Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness that has been in use for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used altered states of consciousness in their sleep temples, for healing. It is a very ancient healing method. Hippocrates, the father of medicine (460 - 377BC) recognized the power of the subconscious mind. He maintained that our feelings and emotions arise in the brain, and that the brain controls our body.
Many ancient peoples (American Indian, Africa, India, Asia and the East) have long been able to enter into the subconscious state at will.
Some of the key figures in the more recent history of hypnosis are:
Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer (1720-1792) - was the first man to systematically use an altered state of consciousness (hypnosis) for curative purposes
Dr. James Braid (1795-1860) - was responsible for naming this state "hypnotism" (from Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep). He realized that hypnotism wasn't sleep at all and tried to rename it. However, as his books on the subject had already been published in so many languages, he wasn't successful.
Dr. Hyppolyte Bernhiem (1837-1919) - his contribution to hypnosis was in emphasizing the role of suggestion.
Dr. Emile Couè (1857-1926) - His work lead to the modern understanding of the laws of suggestion. According to Couè, it is not necessarily the suggestion given to the person that produces the results, rather it is how the suggestion is received.
In other words, if the client does not accept the hypnotic suggestion nothing happens. The person needs to accept the suggestion as his or her own.
So any suggestion must be appropriate and congruent with what the person desires to change.
In the twentieth century, two figures stand out …
Dr Milton Erickson - a doctor who used hypnotherapy with thousands of clients, often with remarkable effects. He used metaphor or stories to deliver suggestion.
Dave Elman - trained doctors and dentists in the use of hypnosis and hypnotherapy in the United States. Elman developed and taught fast and easy methods for going into hypnosis.
In more recent times, hypnosis has been used by many professionals: doctors, dentists, counsellors, midwives, coaches, psychologists, teachers, police, first emergency responders, osteopaths, natural therapists, as well as hypnotherapists and others in assisting their clients.
The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
The brain can be described as a biological computer. When you are awake your conscious mind takes in information through your five senses (the things you see, hear, taste, feel, and smell) and transfers it to the subconscious mind to process and store. Just as you put information into a computer via the keyboard, when saved it gets processed and stored on the hard drive.
Your subconscious mind, in reality, is what drives you. It is the goal seeking part of the mind. Most of your automatic actions and reactions come from your subconscious mind. It also processes the physical information your body receives.
It is responsible for your automatic body functions and habitual behaviour. You don't need to think about how to breathe, or how to drive a car - your subconscious mind does that for you. You automatically look before crossing a road - your subconscious mind takes care of that.
The subconscious mind also stores our memories, manages our emotions, and controls automatic behaviour and responses. The interesting thing is that most people already have the resources they need to make changes in their lives, and to be successful. People are capable of making changes in their lives, it's just that sometimes they seem to have something that blocks them, or holds them back from making those changes.
The subconscious mind is also a learning device. We have been learning new skills, abilities and talents all our lives. But we are also creatures of habit, and sometimes the subconscious switches into an unwanted habit, such as poor sleeping patterns, anxiety or nail biting.
It would be great if we could re-programme our subconscious mind by hitting the delete button and typing in new information, just like we do on the computer.
By making changes we can improve the quality of our lives. We can let go of unwanted behaviors and habits. The subconscious always has a positive intention, but does not always choose the best way of achieving it. If we can show it a better way then it can change quickly.
Hypnotherapy is useful because, when we are deeply relaxed it is easier to communicate directly with the subconscious, and to help it to look after us in a more appropriate and resourceful way.