Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who is Hippolyte Bernheim?

For a little while, we romanced Charcot and his hysterical ideas that hypnosis could only be experienced by those thought to suffer from hysteria. Well, alas, it is time to wipe our hands clean of the spectral from this early performance art and get back to the therapeutic side. But before you roll your eyes, yawn and click off this post, the story is hardly boring.

It is time to introduce Hippolyte Bernheim, nemeses of Charcot. Can you hear the hisses from the Salpêtrière School (where Charcot practiced)? Enter in the idea of suggestibility. That's right. This is where that whole concept begins to manifest itself into consciousness. (1) Bernheim believed that Charcot's provocation of hysteria during hypnosis came about from suggestions given at that time - hence the hysteria was induced via suggestion not heredity. He also took Charcot's studies forward a bit and believed that hypnosis could be used therapeutically. He even surmised that hypnosis could be used to even treat hysteria. Charcot's main interest was in studying hysteria, not helping those suffering from it. (2)

Now we need to add a little somnambulism to the mix and we have a most modern notion of hypnosis. While a professor at the aculté de Médicine at Nancy (or the Nancy School of Hypnosis), Bernheim learned about a gentleman doctor who worked with patients using artificial somnambulism. This gentleman was Liébeault. So, this acquaintance influenced Bernheim to adjust his views of hypnosis a bit more. He defined hypnosis as a heightened state of artificially induced suggestibility. (2) Amen.

So, powerful advocate of modern hypnosis - Yes! Friend of Charcot - No. Not only did Bernheim disagree with Charcot's ideas, he also implied that the study controls of Charcot's students were suspect, as well as Charcot.

Library of Congress Exhibit

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