Hypnosis has had a chequered history and reputation and for some still can elicit a wariness regarding its power. From the beginning of consciousness the mind was and is susceptible to suggestion. The problems arose because Dictators and Despots understood this and used it to their own advantage.(Generals and religious leaders too)
Ironically visiting a hypnotherapist is often the way to become de-hypnotized, and see the world from a different perspective than the one we were ‘told’ to see. Dictators and some more extreme church leaders sought to demonize it and keep it for themselves. Add to that writers such as Dickens, who portrayed hypnosis as an occult force, and one of the first Disney cartoons of Minnie mouse being kidnapped by a malevolent hypnotizer and one encouraged the negative perception some people still hold.
Bluntly, these preconceptions should be forgotten. They make as much sense as holding the car responsible for a car crash! Hypnosis is neither good nor bad, moral or amoral, it is just a series of techniques that allow or facilitate suggestion – by others or by oneself, to bypass the critical faculty and allow the most powerful part of our mind to attempt to grind out whatever suggestion is implanted. (I say attempt, not always does)!
Hypnosis is merely a label for skills practised within all cultures and from the dawn of consciousness. However for simplicity most books start with Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). He became a doctor of medicine in 1766 and became acquainted with hypnosis but felt its origins had more to do with animal magnetism. Mesmer was undoubtably succesful, however a royal commission set up & headed by Benjamin Franklin reported that basically imagination without magnetism produced results, but that magnetism without imagination produced nothing! In other words the results were due to the ‘arousal of the imagination’. (Which I believe was an actual validation of hypnosis rather than the opposite depending on what is meant by ‘imagination’ in that context!)
There have been many physicians over the following years that successfully incorporated hypnotic techniques within their practice. Probably one of the most famous was James Esdaile. An English physician who practiced in Calcutta where he remained for most of his life. He became famous for performing, with great success, more extreme operations using hypnosis than anyone else before him. Where beforehand the patients had usually died – he had more than 135 successes to his credit. By the time he left India he had performed thousands of operations successfully using hypnosis. There have of course been many individuals since that include, Dr. James Braid, Sigmund Freud, Dr. Jean Charcot, and more recently David Elman and Milton Erickson.