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  Hypnosis (from Greek hupnos, ‘sleep’) was discovered by a French nobleman Puysegur while investigating the phenomenon called mesmerism. An English physician, James Braid (1795 - 1860), made a scientific investigation of mesmerism and the results of suggestibility on the part of human subjects; he called this phenomenon neurohypnotism, and this was later shortened to hypnotism. By the mid-19th century studies into hypnotism had established a number of genuine hypnotic effects including amnesia, hypnotic suggestion, paralysis and anaesthesia. These were later discovered to have a marked similarity to the condition of hysterical patients suffering from paralysis, and was further investigated by such people as Jean Charcot, the French neurologist, and Sigmund Freud.

The phenomena of hypnosis were concrete examples of the unconscious at work, and its discovery was to enable Freud, working with Breuer, to posit an unconscious in an empirical scientific framework, based on clinical observation. From these beginnings a complex theory of mind, and consequently psychoanalysis, were progressively developed. MJ



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