Hypnosis is older than recorded history. Thousands of years ago, primitive people in Africa and Australia used chanting, drums, and the fixation of their eyes to achieve the state we now know as hypnosis. They were able to effortlessly perform amazing physical feats and easily endure situations that would ordinarily cause excruciating physical pain.

For 200 years scientists, physicians, surgeons, theorists and researchers have been using and studying what we now call hypnosis.

The father of modern hypnotism is Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), an Austrian physician. Mesmer believed hypnosis to be a mystical force flowing from the hypnotist into the subject (he called it "animal magnetism").  Mesmer's assumption that the power behind hypnosis came from the hypnotist, and was in some way inflicted upon the subject, took hold for some time.  Critics quickly dismissed the magical element of this theory, but none other than Benjamin Franklin was on the committee that investigated him, and Franklin thought Mesmer’s claims and abilities were worthy of further consideration.  Hypnosis was originally known as mesmerism, after Mesmer, and we still use its derivative, "mesmerize," today.

In Britain, efforts to harmonize Mesmerism were made by divorcing the induced trance from Mesmer's theories of Animal Magnetism. The Scottish physician, James Braid (1795–1860) coined the word "hypnosis" after discovering that all of the effects of mesmeric trances — including hallucination — could be achieved without the presence of magnets. By 1893, a committee of the British Medical Association concluded that the mesmeric state was different than the hypnotic state and that the latter was beneficial in relieving certain pain and disorders (Ibid., p. 599). Experimentation with hypnosis played an important part in the early development of Psychiatry and Psychology.

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) used hypnotic suggestion as an integral part of his therapy until it was gradually replaced by his "free association" psychoanalytic technique. Freud never rejected hypnosis. Indeed, he claimed that it was the future of analysis, seeing his "free association" as a natural outgrowth of hypnosis ("Freud, Sigmund," "Hypnosis," Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology, pp. 430, 543).

Hypnosis was eventually incorporated into Psychology and seen as an adjunct therapy. The term "Hypnotherapy" was later adapted to describe "the use of hypnosis as a technique to be employed in conjunction with other skills by a trained psychotherapist, physician, or dentist." One popular technique is Indirect Hypnotherapy, developed by Milton Erickson, in which elements of hypnosis are subtly introduced or "embedded" into counseling sessions without the client's knowledge. This form of hypnosis was influential in the development of Neurolinguistic Programming by Richard Bandler and Dr. John Grinder.

Hypnotism And The Brain

The brain is a tangible thing. You know where it is, roughly what it looks like, and what it is made of. It has properties that dictate how it functions, and we know what those properties are. One of them, the one that is most important for hypnosis, is the brainwave.

The level that our brain is operating in dictates how we feel, how we behave, and how we perform. The hypnotic state is attained by taking your brain from Beta, which it is probably in right now, to either the Alpha state or the Theta state, depending on how deeply you need to go for what you'd like to achieve. There has been a lot of research into the four levels of electrical activity that our brains emanate in the form of brainwaves. Here’s a brief review of (or introduction to) the brainwaves and what occurs at each of the four states of consciousness.


  • Logic and reasoning.
  • Awake, normal, alert consciousness characterized by sense-experiences: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
  • When measuring this state of consciousness on an EEG or other biofeedback machine, we find that it registers at 15-40 cycles per second.
  • At its maximum capacity, Beta comprises only 12% of your total being. Relying on Beta is like relying on your motorcycle to pull your double-decker motor home.
  • The place of logic, analyzing, and reasoning.
  • Significantly affects brain’s ability to: store information (memory), access creativity, focus, and concentrate and the workings of the physical body.
  • We spend about 90% of the day with our brains in the Beta level, but when you get stuck here, tension and negative thinking usually result. And the more stressed you feel, the faster your brain will go, and the less likely you are to achieve Alpha, which is where you'd rather be. You'll see glimpses of where you can go and what you can do, but they will be fleeting.


  • Strongest, most prominent brain rhythm.
  • The optimal state for your brain when preparing for competition.
  • When measuring this state of consciousness on a biofeedback machine, we find that its frequency registers at 9-15 cycles per second.
  • Brain’s biochemistry is completely balanced in Alpha and brain functions at optimal level
  • Decision-making at its peak.
  • This level is necessary in order to achieve behavior modification. In Alpha, you are relaxed, calm, and lucid. This is the programming plane, where you can add new programs and delete old ones. You can also control your dreams while here.
  • This is where you are during that first 20 minutes when you are falling asleep, but not quite asleep.


  • This is where you are after that first 20 minutes when you were falling asleep, and before you are sleeping deeply.
  • Active dreaming takes place here (and its accompanying rapid eye movement [REM])
  • The level achieved when you are being hypnotized by someone else, such as during hypnotherapy or stage hypnosis (in other words, it is very difficult to attain through self-hypnosis). This is where you can create hallucinations, amnesia, and physical perception changes.
  • Deep programming takes place.
  • Characterized by deep relaxation and clear mental imagery. This is where you aim to go when you meditate. You can also experience painless surgery, dentistry, and childbirth in Theta.
  • Brainwave frequency is measured at 5-9 cycles per second.
  • Tasks are so automatic that you are not consciously aware of what you are doing (like when you drive home and have no recollection of the actual drive).


  • Deep, dreamless sleep. The body is completely at rest.
  • This is where healing and recovery take place.
  • Brain operates at 1-5 cycles per second (i.e., that’s really, really slow)


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Juliette A. Guidara, CCH, MPNP
Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist
Master Practitioner of Neurolinguistic Programming
Certified, Complementary Medical Hypnotism
Certified, Removing Imprints
Certified Tong Ren Practitioner

Center Of Thought, LLC
Nahant, MA
Tel: 781.593.4222


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