A History of Mind Body Soul & Healing
The subject of 'mental healing is a vast field and it stretches as far as from the analysts couch, to the faith healer, to the primitive shaman, to the witch doctor, to the soothsayer, and all those wonderful titles in between. We still have the faith healers and shamans, but the choice is much more varied. You can now see a practitioner in Kinesiology, Aromatherapy, or any of the modern day labelled therapists offering what leads ultimately to the patient being healed.
When I studied Philosophy, I was always drawn towards some of the most rebellious figures in our history. These great men & women went against the grain, stepped outside conventional thinking, and dared to come up with their own inventions which have become the basis of all forms of mental healing.
History shows that the first port of call for most illness was usually in the form of herbal doctors, but more often than not, especially in Greek times, an astrologer was called along with the local wizard. The witch doctors and other healers were also consulted, and their advice is still sought today.
Many royal families and heads of State did not make decisions without seeking guidance from a seer. This is still the case in many instances, but may not be advertised or openly spoken of in our times. It is seen as obscure, desperate or even illogical.
The Austrian born physician Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) discovered 'animal magnetism, as he termed it, a new principle of psychotherapy. He regarded all illnesses as the manifestations of disturbance of a mysterious ethereal fluid which linked together animate and inanimate things alike, and which made man equally subjected to the influences of the stars. Whilst astrology is now regarded as a science, hypnosis still lacks scientific fact, except for the biofeedback machines often used to monitor brain wave activity whilst in a trance state. Still, there is enough evidence of positive results today that supports its practice.
Mesmer went on to become whom we call the worlds first hypnotist, claiming to have unprecedented power over people, causing catatonic states and curing mass hysteria. If you were lucky enough to get to see him, then you would surely have been 'Mesmerised. With all his prowess, Id like to think that even he would be astonished that his name would become a part of our modern day language, with a direct reference to his abilities.
One of my most noted influences is the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341BCE-270 BC). He was devoted to a life of pleasure and idle contemplation, and thought that humans should be subject to this life. I couldn't agree more! However, as we grew we came to learn that as humans we were capable of so much more than a leisurely life. He developed the School of Mytilene, which treated nervous disorders, but also how to use reason as a guide for human conduct so you could eliminate pain and suffering. He was dedicated to fortitude against 'discontent of mind, which I see as a blatant relevance to the practice of today that we call 'psychotherapy'. He was one of the first practitioners of 'moral therapeutics in the history of mental healing, coupled with a rationalistic approach which was reinforced by the therapists personal impact upon their patients.
It is a fact that we experience a form of suffering, both mentally and physically. It is a part of human life, and certainly, a part of everyday modern living. This 'human suffering and its connotations, symptoms, and manifestations can be traced back as far as history can show. It has also been 'treated' by various remedies tracing as far back as we can go. Suffering has always been, and it always will be. And so the search continues to find the most efficient and if possible, fastest working 'cures'.
Of course, we now know that 'cures' aren't necessarily obtainable. Many physical and mental illnesses require management, dedicated resolve and a sense of the one thing we as humans find challenging, 'acceptance'. I don't mean accepting the illness, I mean accepting that to experience some relief, even if it's temporary, you must be willing to accept working 'with it, through time, dedication, and sometimes medication, which could include conventional or complementary medicines. Where there is still much debate about the effectiveness of alternative therapies, there is still evidence that they are effective. More clinical trials need to be done of course for it to be regulated. But this is a heated topic, perhaps for a different article.
We know that the Greek physician Hippocrates is known as the 'father of medicine. In the fifth century BC, he believed in the divinatory nature of dreams, another of my interests. With dream analysis we are able to explore the subconscious aspects of wish and desire and the symbolism associated with these dreams. Freud took this to a new level with his book 'Interpretation of Dreams published in 1900. Freud believed that man was always at war with himself, and that by unlocking the secrets of the subconscious mind through dream analysis, you then had the key to unleashing our most hidden 'beast'.
When Freud wrote 'Totem & Taboo it clearly made reference to our desire or wish for the 'omnipotence of thought. In other words, the reference to mastering our thoughts, how we see situations has a major effect on how we handle them. Often the ego (reason and sanity) is at battle with the id (passion & desire).
Paracelsus (1493-1541) was considered an alchemist and as most of the physicians in that day, he practised astrology. He was the first to name the element of zinc, and used mercury to cure syphilis. He also believed that the body's health depended upon the 'harmony' of the man. I see this is a modern day holistic view, where we seek to balance the mind, body and spirit or soul. Our environment, the macrocosm, very much affects man, the microcosm. He may have worded this differently, but this is my take on his teachings and findings. It shows a great concern for treating the patient holistically. But even then, Paracelsus came against conventional and staid views from medically trained professionals who believed that doctors need only make diagnosis in the body and not in the mind.
The Scottish surgeon James Braid (1795-1860) is credited with the idea that 'animal magnetism, which Mesmer discovered, was only a figment of ones imagination. Although he did suggest that there was another phenomena, that of the 'trance state, that could be induced by suggestion. He is credited with the discovery of 'hypnosis, or Neuro-Hypnotism, deriving from the Greek word 'Hypnos, which means 'to sleep.
It is on this basis upon which Freud and Breuer, the Austrian born physician, experimented with hypnosis and hypnoanalysis. James Braid separated animal magnetism from the trance state, and so coined the term 'hypnosis' or nervous sleep. By conducting various experiments, he soon discovered that all the major phenomena of hypnotism such as catalepsy, anesthesia and amnesia, could be induced without sleep. He then thought it a good idea to change the term hypnosis to 'monoideism'. But because of his rising popularity and the immutable use of the term 'hypnosis', it was too late. The term had already caught on.
James Braid is often considered the 'father of hypnosis'. He has a loyal following to this day. This has contributed to the biggest misconception about hypnosis today. Because of the physical condition and the use of the word 'sleep' by early practitioners, most people are under the impression that they will fall 'asleep' when in a trance state, which can happen, but usually does not. What will be achieved is the 'trance state', which is synonymous with hypnosis.
The James Braid Society, of which I am a member, is a club that meets monthly to discuss therapeutic techniques, modern research and inform members of changes in the practice of hypnotherapy. It also conducts workshops, talks and book reviews and keeps their members up to date on recent modern developments in the field. I have held workshops on various topics in regards to hypnotherapy at the Society.
These are just a few examples of how our history of the treatment of both mental and physical illness has evolved. The great men above are just a minute example of the thoughts and ideas that influenced me to study mental health, but also are congruent with my own beliefs and ethics. They contribute largely to my approach in practice.
I have loved every career I have embraced. However, it wasn't until I began to treat mans pain and suffering that I found a resonance that proved unparalleled to any of my previous ventures. And although our modern day training, practice and accreditation are synchronized with 21st Century vigour, I cannot help but feel linked with the passion these pioneers superintended upon their discoveries. In my own practice, though there may be no couch, I hope to bring some of that history to our chairs.
Interesting Faces & Fans of Hypnosis
Thomas Edison used the trance state to see his way forward.
Henry Ford (car manufacturer) used hypnosis to visualise his inventions.
Albert Einstein (physicist) used hypnosis to see himself completing certain tasks.
Louis XVI (of France) assembled a committee to investigate how 'mesmerism' contributed to healing. Benjamin Franklin (US President), Dr. J. Guillotin, and Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry were all on the committee.
Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits used hypnosis to stop smoking.
Jackie Kennedy-Onassis used hypnosis (regression) to heal trauma.
Kevin Costner used hypnosis to remedy his seasickness whilst filming Waterworld. (But that didn't cure the box office sales!!)
Paul Daniels, the magician, remedied his claustrophobia with a former colleague of mine, Dr. Robert Russell at the Hale Clinic.
Paul McKenna, the infamous stage hypnotist & author notes that many people have benefited from his services including Daryl Hannah, the actress, Bobby Davro, Frank Bruno, Robin Smith, the cricketer, and the Crystal Palace football team, just to name a few.
A few of the latest celebrity to sing the praises of hypnosis is Kate Middleton, The Dutchess of Cambridge, Adele, the singer, Fergie, lead singer & solo artist of the R&B group the Black Eyed Peas.
More recently, Matt Damon, Billy Joel, Ellen Degeneres and Drew Barrymore all used hypnosis to stop smoking and have sung its praises.