This paper aims to give a very brief outline of the vast subject of hypnosis in the context of psychiatry. The word hypnosis, which was derived from Hypnos meaning the God of sleep, has long been associated with magical practices, superstition, witchcraft, occult and many other esoteric practices. The forerunner of hypnosis was the theory of animal magnetism proposed by Franz Anton Mesmer in the 1770s. He began to experiment with magnetic metals and gradually elaborated the theory of animal magnetism. According to Mesmer, a magnetic fluid spread throughout the entire universe and its disturbed balance in the human body resulted in illness. He claimed that a beneficial magnetic fluid could be transmitted from one subject to another by ‘passes’. Braid (1843) refuted the fluidist theory, since according to him hypnosis could be induced by visual fixation. He believed the condition to be a form of sleep and called the technique neurypnology, later to become hypnology and hypnosis. Liebeault (1866) for the first time used verbal suggestion to induce hypnosis. Bernheim stated that “There is no such thing as hypnotism, there is only suggestibility”, and concluded that suggestibility was the process by which the brain “accepts the idea and transforms it into action”.
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