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The Origins of Hypnosis: Ancient Practices and Healing Rituals

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

Ancient wisdom with modern applications, in this blog we explore the history and legacy of past practitioners of hypnosis.

The concept of hypnosis can be traced back thousands of years to various ancient cultures, where it was used in religious and healing rituals. While not explicitly called hypnosis, these early practices often involved techniques to induce trance-like states, which were believed to facilitate communication with deities or spirits and promote healing.

Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, the concept of the "sleep temple" or "healing sanctuary" emerged as a center for spiritual and physical healing. Sleep temples, also known as dream temples or Egyptian sleep temples, are thought to be the earliest example of hypnosis dating back more than four millennia ago.

Sleep temples were essentially medical centers, capable of treating many afflictions from physical to psychological. Patients would be brought into darkness and put in a trance-like or hypnotic state through chanting, incantations, and guided visualization to induce an altered state of consciousness, allowing for the analysis of their dreams as part of the cure.

Ancient Greece

The Greeks also utilized sleep temples, known as Asclepions, which were dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine and son of Apollo. Patients would enter a state of deep relaxation, often induced through meditation or the use of certain herbs, to receive guidance and healing from the god in their dreams.

Shamanic and Tribal Cultures

In shamanic and tribal cultures worldwide, trance states were induced through chanting, drumming, and dance. Shamans would enter these altered states of consciousness to communicate with spirits, seeking guidance and healing for their communities.

The Emergence of Modern Hypnosis

The modern understanding of hypnosis began to take shape in the 18th and 19th centuries, as various medical practitioners and researchers sought to explore the mind's potential in healing the body.

Franz Anton Mesmer

Franz Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician, is often considered the father of modern hypnosis. Mesmer believed in the existence of a universal magnetic fluid, which he called "animal magnetism," that could be used to heal physical and mental ailments. While his theories were later discredited, his techniques involving the induction of trance-like states laid the groundwork for the development of modern hypnosis.

James Braid

In the 19th century, Scottish surgeon James Braid coined the term "hypnotism" to describe the process of inducing a trance-like state through focused attention and suggestion. Braid's work and research laid the foundation for the scientific study of hypnosis and its applications in medicine.

Hypnosis in the 20th Century: From Stage to Clinic

The 20th century saw the popularization of stage hypnosis, which often portrayed the practice as a form of entertainment rather than a therapeutic tool. Despite this, the medical community continued to explore the potential of hypnosis to treat various physical and psychological ailments.

Milton H. Erickson

Milton H. Erickson, an American psychiatrist, was a pioneer in the field of hypnotherapy. Erickson developed a unique approach to hypnosis, focusing on indirect suggestion and utilizing the patient's own experiences and language to facilitate change. His innovative techniques, known as Ericksonian hypnosis, remain influential in the field today.

World Wars and Hypnosis

During the World Wars, hypnosis was employed as a treatment for soldiers suffering from shell shock, now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Hypnosis was used to help soldiers cope with the traumatic experiences they had faced during combat, and as a means of pain management for those injured on the battlefield.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and the British Medical Association (BMA)

In the mid-20th century, both the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association formally recognized hypnosis as a viable therapeutic tool. This recognition marked a significant step in integrating hypnosis into mainstream medicine and led to increased research and interest in its applications.

Modern Medical Applications of Hypnosis

Today, hypnosis is widely recognized as a valuable tool in the field of complementary and alternative medicine. Medical professionals across various disciplines utilize hypnosis to treat various physical and psychological conditions, often in conjunction with other therapies.

Pain Management

One of the most well-documented applications of hypnosis in modern medicine is pain management. Hypnosis has been shown to be effective in reducing both acute and chronic pain, including pain associated with surgery, dental procedures, and conditions such as migraines, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction

Hypnosis has also been proven to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety, which can contribute to a wide range of health issues. By helping patients to enter a deeply relaxed state, hypnotherapists can teach them techniques to manage stress and anxiety in their daily lives, promoting overall mental and physical wellbeing.

Habit Change and Addiction

Many people turn to hypnosis to address unwanted habits and addictions, such as smoking, overeating, or alcohol abuse. Hypnosis can help individuals access their subconscious mind and reframe negative thought patterns and behaviors, making it easier for them to adopt healthier habits.

Mental Health Disorders

Hypnotherapy is increasingly being used as a complementary treatment for various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Hypnosis can help patients access and process unresolved emotions and traumas, enabling them to gain new insights and perspectives on their condition.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Recent research has demonstrated the effectiveness of hypnotherapy in treating certain gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia. Hypnosis has been shown to help reduce symptoms and improve the overall quality of life for individuals suffering from these conditions.

The Future of Hypnosis in Medicine

As our understanding of the human mind continues to grow, so does our ability to harness the power of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes. Recent advancements in neuroimaging technology, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), have provided valuable insights into the neurological mechanisms underlying hypnosis, allowing researchers better to understand its effects on the brain and body.

The integration of hypnosis into mainstream medicine is also being facilitated by the increasing emphasis on patient-centered care and the recognition of the importance of holistic approaches to health and wellbeing. As more medical professionals become trained in hypnotherapy techniques, the use of hypnosis will likely continue to expand across various fields of medicine.


The medical use of hypnosis has evolved dramatically over the centuries, from its ancient roots in healing rituals to its modern applications in pain management, mental health treatment, and beyond. As research continues to reveal the potential of hypnosis as a powerful therapeutic tool, its role in the field of medicine will likely continue to grow and evolve. By embracing the power of the mind, we can unlock new possibilities for healing and personal growth, ultimately improving the lives of countless individuals worldwide.

69 views2 comments


J Austin
Jan 06

Terrific quick overview of the significance & historic uses of hypnosis. Thanks.


Oct 15, 2023

After the reading the present Blog & Vlog's I my life journeys (this is my 3rd life) has tools to help others from my experiences. Thanks for sharing

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