On this day in 1795, James Braid was born. He was a doctor and surgeon who helped move hypnosis from the realm of “animal magnetism” (wink nudge) and mesmerism to being a legitimate treatment with an understood scientific grounding.
Braid is regarded by many as the first genuine “hypnotherapist” and the “Father of Modern Hypnotism”.
Braid also popularized the very vocabulary of hypnosis and the idea that concentrating the hypnotized subject’s focus on one idea would help open their mind to useful effects.
Although Braid was the first to use the terms hypnotism, hypnotize and hypnotist in English, the cognate terms hypnotique, hypnotisme, hypnotiste had been intentionally used by the French magnetist Baron Etienne Félix d’Henin de Cuvillers (1755–1841) at least as early as 1820. Braid, moreover, was the first person to use “hypnotism” in its modern sense, referring to a “psycho-physiological” theory rather than the “occult” theories of the magnetists.
So next time someone tells you to relax your breathing, focus on an object or idea and let your mind drift, remember a Scottish doctor is responsible for our modern understanding of it.