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BBC Radio 4

TX Date

16th Aug 2014


Louisa Foxe


David Coomes

The history and science of the use of hypnosis in medicine.
Hypnosis has BMA and BMJ approval; NHS support for helping with the likes of depression, anxiety, burns, and childbirth; and a pedigree of being used to alleviate physical and mental pain for thousands of men in the Great War… Yet in the popular imagination, hypnosis is associated much more with quick-fix quacks and dodgy stage shows.
Perhaps that’s not surprising when one considers the likes of the 19th-century scientist Mesmer and his bogus animal magnetism theories, and more recently misunderstanding of what hypnotism can and cannot do creating a slew of False Memory Syndrome incidents, with families destroyed by erroneous accusations of childhood sexual abuse. And then, under hypnosis, there have been claims of living former lives; so much so that so-called  ’regressive parties’ invited guests to ‘come as they were’!
But as well as the charlatans and fakers, there have also been pioneers in genuine medical hypnosis, whose stories are less often told, but whose extraordinary dedication and impressive willingness to challenge the medical establishment, often at great personal cost, led to the clinical understanding of hypnosis that we have today.
In this Archive on 4, interviewees include psychiatrist Dr John Butler, illusionist Derren Brown, hypnotherapist and hypnotist Chris Green, hypno-birthing expert Tamara Ciafini, and Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago, Alison Winter.
And there is archive not only of the ground-breakers, but also of the bogus and the mystical, and variations both serious and hilarious of ‘happiness sought through radical personal transformation’.