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Marguis De Puysegur - Modern Day Hypnotherapy

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The state of hypnosis

What is hypnosis? Throughout history this has been a very difficult question to answer for many experts, many have tried and each have their own ideas.

To give a brief history of hypnosis and the different beliefs along the journey to modern day hypnotherapy, we must start with Franz Anton Mesmer. Considered the grandfather of hypnosis, Mesmer had the belief that humans had an invisible liquid flowing constantly through the body and any disturbance of this flow could result in ill health. Mesmer’s first attempts at healing was with the use of strong magnets, believing the patients would become magnetised and would block the flow of the liquid helping them to heal from illness. He also believed that his body was by his own definition “animal type” of magnet and could use his own body to magnetise his patients which brought the term animal magnetism.

It was Marguis De Puysegur who developed the theory which rejected Mesmer’s invisible liquid and believed he had witnessed more of a psychological force. Puysegur soon realised that by communicating with people in hypnosis and asking questions and receiving answers from his patients he could get the same results of improvement.

The next development was by Abbe Faria, who believed that Mesmer’s successful healing was in fact due to the suggestions being made by the practitioner and not the animal magnetism theory.

Dr James Esdaile began using hypnosis while in India, he used hypnosis on his patients that were about to undergo an operation. He had over 400 successful operations but this success wasn’t met with much enthusiasm and considered to both be appropriate for European or British patients. Freud moved away from hypnosis and developed his technic of free association which is a mode psychoanalysis.

Sigmund Freud also invested an interest in hypnosis for a short while, he was convinced that all humans have a very powerful hidden mental processes.  

Pierre Janet then discovered that there were benefits of relaxation on the hypnosis process which developed the application of relaxation to hypnotherapy.

There are many more concepts of hypnosis throughout history and definitions from various experts, these definitions are also influenced by the media which still brings about a level of scepticism towards hypnosis.

The closest theory to define hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness which is also a very natural state, as humans we are experiencing this state on a daily basis without being aware of it. The hypnotic state helps to enhance an individual’s concentration and also makes them more susceptible to suggestions, which can help towards making positive changes to someone’s behaviour, change how they think about a particular subject or situation and even alter their physiological state such as giving pain relief.

To achieve a state of hypnosis there needs to be a certain level of brain wave activity which puts the mind between the conscious and subconscious. The best way to achieve this state is by a process of relaxation which can slow down the brain waves to enter the alpha state of mind. It is in this state the brain is open to suggestions, able to easily access memories and also store new information. Once in this state is achieved then the therapy section of the session can begin.

The physical aspects of hypnosis

In hypnosis there are several distinctive physical characteristics that can and do manifest during a session. At the start of the hypnotic session the body is made to completely relax, this will then open up to other physical changes. The heart rate will slow down considerably, which in turn changes the breathing of the client. Each breath becomes deeper and more rhythmic.

There is also changes in brain activity which will bring about a different mental state. There is evidence of the brain activity which was produced by Hans Berger who tested hypnotised subjects with an EEG (electroencephalogram). This device is able to measure electrical activity in the brain known as waves.

There are 4 types of brain waves:

Beta – this level of brain activity would have an engaged and focused mental mindset.

Alpha – In this state there is a heightened sense of a relaxed state of wellness and creativity. This is also the desired state for hypnosis as the body is completely relaxed.

Theta – this state of activity gives a serene calmness and would be a medium to deep hypnotic state. These waves are also linked to the subconscious.

Delta – this is the slowest and deepest state of rest, with dreamless sleep and possibly represents deep hypnosis.

To gain a state of hypnosis the brain activity will descend from beta to alpha, to theta and then lastly to delta. The reverse will then happen to bring the subject out of hypnosis back to the normal state being beta.

The psychological aspects of hypnosis

Alongside the physical effects of hypnosis there are also psychological characteristics.

The first psychological aspect will be the trance like state which is considered to be a very natural state, one that happens on a daily basis. During this state there is a heightened concertation and a strong focus which can be directed towards a memory, a phobia or even a specific habit that needs to be removed or changed.

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