Franz Anton Mesmer
The man, who introduced the world to what is now known as hypnosis, was Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815) who at times was mistakenly referred to Friedrich Anton Mesmer.
Mesmer was born on May 23, 1734 to his parents Anton and Maria, (known as Ursula) Mesmer. In Mesmer’s early adulthood he spent his time studying theology and law at the universities of Dillingen and Ingolstadt, both in Bavaria Germany. At the age of 25 he took up the study of medicine at the University of Vienna.
Mesmer became a German physician whose interest was in astronomy, and theorized that there was a “natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects” (Wikipedia, 2013). He also theorized ideas about the tidal “influences of the planets mentioning that they also operate on the human body through a universal force” (History of Hypnosis, 2012), he termed these two theories combined Animal Magnetism. These studies he completed while a student at the University of Vienna in 1776. This new theory of “Animal Magnetism” made him famous and very popular at the time.
At the age of 33, Mesmer started a perfectly conventional medical practice in Vienna. Aging closer to his forties Mesmer became dissatisfied with the practice of conventional medicine due to “a combination of bleeding, purgatives and opiates that was often more painful and terrifying than the conditions it sought to treat” (History of Hypnosis, 2012).
Mesmer’s breakthrough case was that of Franzl Oesterline. A woman at the age of 27, suffering from “convulsive malady” (History of Hypnosis, 2012), “the most troublesome symptoms of which was that the blood rushed to her head and there set up the most cruel toothaches and earaches, followed by delirium, rage, vomiting and swooning” (History of Hypnosis, 2012). These symptoms were so severe that Oesterline moved into Mesmer’s house so she could receive twenty-four hour care.
Returning to the theories of his student days, Mesmer created a cure, by using a magnet to disrupt the gravitational tides adversely affecting Oesterline. He succeeded in inducing in Oesterline a sensation, which was like that of a fluid draining from her body taking with it her sickness. Oesterline recovered from her illness completely and practically instantaneously.
From a modern day point of view, Mesmer’s ability to induce in Oesterline the sensation of “a fluid draining from her body” would not be obscure in modern day hypnotherapy.
This success was the carp launch Mesmer needed to drastically change his practice from the typical blood and guts medical practice, to a more psychological aspect in the practice of medicine.
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James Braid (June 19, 1795 – March 25, 1860) was truly the man behind the name “Hypnosis.” Braid, a Scottish surgeon and financially independent scientist was a significant and influential pioneer in the fields of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
Braid first saw the procedure of Animal Magnetism performed while at a public performance of the Swiss magnetic demonstrator Charles Lafontaine at the Manchester Athenaeum, Saturday, November 13, 1841.
Lafontaine was a dramatic artiste. To demonstrate that Animal Magnetism (aka mesmerism) was truly a success, Lafontaine would prove the viewers that his patients or subjects were “impervious to pain” (History of Hypnosis, 2012). To prove this point, Lafontaine would shock his patients with a live battery, or burn them with candles.
Braid was amongst the medical physicians that Lafontaine invited to the stage to get a close-up view of the performance. At the end of the performance, before the patients were released from their hypnotic state, Braid had the opportunity to examine Lafontaine’s mesmerized patients. Braid found Lafontaine’s patients or subjects to be in a sleep-like state concluding that the patients were in definitely “in quite a different physical state” (Wikipedia, 2013).
Braid started to regularly attend Lafontaine’s meetings, and by his third attendance he was convinced that some of the techniques used by Lafontaine were actually valid, and the effects that were derived from the valid techniques were phenomena.
However he believed the magnets were actually of no use and had no actual relevance of the effect that Lafontaine’s procedure (mesmerism) had on his patients.
Braid started his own experiments trying to find a reason for the trance that “mesmerism” caused on people. His experiments were first conducted on his wife, a friend and a servant. Braid’s subjects were instructed to gaze steadily at an object; he then found that he was also able to bring his subjects into a state of trance as well.
Often times his subject’s eyes would become strained to the point that their eyelids would close spontaneously, believing that sleep was the result of the fatigued eyes.
After continued experiments Braid found that the trance could be induced, not only by a fixed stare upon an object of his choice, but through his mere suggestion.
Having concluded that the state of trance was indeed a form of sleep, Braid then named his new and improved method of mesmerism, Hypnos, from the “Greek god of sleep and master of dreams” (The James Braid Society, 2011).
Although in 1847 Braid did discover that this state of trance was not actually a form of sleep, the name “Hypnos” was already so ingrained in society that his attempts to rename Hypnos to “Monoideism” (The James Braid Society, 2011)were to no avail.
Braid suddenly passed away of a heart attack on March 25, 1860 at the age of 65, leaving his mark on the medical field forever.
- The positive effects or results are too numerous to be able to mention all. For starters though, here are a few.
- Lower Stress Levels
- Heal just about any part of the body
- Heal mental issues
- Help overcome addictions
- These are just to name a few. However, there are just as many negative side effects or results of hypnotism that hypnotists and hypnotherapists alike seem not to make publicly aware.
- Identity crisis
- Panic attacks
- Deficit of attention
- Distorted sense of self
- Sexually aberrant behaviors
- Unexpected trance-like state
- Delusional thinking
- Feelings of guilt
- Histrionic reactions
- Impaired memory
- Changes in personality