Hypnosis and Psychoanalysis: Toward Undoing Freud's Primal Category Mistake

Am J Clin Hypn. 2018 Jan;60(3):262-278. doi: 10.1080/00029157.2018.1400841.


Hypnosis predates psychoanalysis, when autohypnotic pathologies were identified through the lens of hypnosis, and labeled "hypnoid hysteria" in the language of the day. The broad spectrum of disorders then subsumed under that term is still reflected in ICD-10's subset, "F44-Dissociative (Conversion) Disorders." Freud initially embraced both hypnoid hysteria and hypnosis, but came to abandon hypnosis and, by extension, hypnoid hysteria as well. Since that fateful decision, which I term herein Freud's "Inaugural Category Mistake," references to both hypnosis and hypnoid pathology largely vanished from the psychoanalytic mainstream, thereby neglecting conditions afflicting a significant portion of the mentally ill, and needlessly restricting the therapeutic repertoire of psychoanalysis. This contribution argues that psychoanalysis could best re-embrace hypnosis and hypnoid pathology together, as a related pair, and would benefit from doing so. Two examples of the differences of understanding and interventions such a rapprochement might encourage are offered: (a) how hypnoid pathology alters the transference and countertransference; and (b) how the appropriate use of hypnosis alters the nature of interpretation.

Keywords: dissociation; hypnosis; hysteria; psychoanalysis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Freudian Theory*
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis / methods*
  • Hysteria / psychology*
  • Psychoanalytic Interpretation*
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy / methods*
  • Transference, Psychology*