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Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Hypnotic Session

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62(6):588. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.588.
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In 1843, Scottish surgeon James Braid (1795-1860) introduced the term hypnosis(from Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep) and dismissed, by means of his experiments, the claims of the mesmerists of a “magnetic” force that is manipulated by the magnetizer to reestablish physiologic equilibrium and cure the sick. Mesmerism had fallen into disrepute in France in the previous century following the 1784 report of a royal commission. The Royal Commission on animal magnetism was appointed by Louis XVI and chaired by Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790).2 The commission rejected the mesmerists’ claims and suggested that when mesmerist practices worked, the therapeutic agent was not magnetism but the patient’s imagination. “No doubt the imagination of patients often greatly influences the cure of their maladies . . . in medicine faith saves; this faith is the product of the imagination: [it] acts only through gentle means; through spreading calm through the senses, through reestablishing the order in functions, in reanimating everything through hope.”2(p361)

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Sven Richard Bergh (1858-1919), Swedish. Hypnotic Session, 1887. Oil on canvas, 153 × 195 cm. National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden. Photo credit: Erich Lessing, Art Resource, New York, NY.

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