Reconsidering Hypnosis and Psychoanalysis: Toward Creating a Context for Understanding

Am J Clin Hypn. 2018 Jan;60(3):201-215. doi: 10.1080/00029157.2018.1400810.


Sigmund Freud developed what became psychoanalysis in the context of his experiences with hypnosis and the treatment of the grand hysterics of his era, conditions largely classified among the dissociative disorders in contemporary systems of diagnosis. He rapidly constructed understandings of the human mind and human distress that replaced the concept of dissociation and a model of pathology that was passive (associated with reduced psychic cohesion), with the paradigm of an active defensive process he termed repression, and an understanding that psychological discomfort was the outcome of intrapsychic conflict. In short order Freud repudiated hypnosis, initiating the schisms that subsequently separated the study and practice of hypnosis from the study and practice of psychoanalysis. It is timely to reexamine these schisms anew, challenge the basis of the arguments thought to justify them, and explore whether these schisms have deprived psychoanalysis and hypnosis alike of the potentially helpful ideas and approaches each might offer the other. This contribution invites students of hypnosis and psychoanalysis alike to put aside both traditional and stereotypic notions of each other's field of endeavor, revisit the origins, rationales, and outcomes of these schisms that have divided them, and explore their commonalities and their differences from fresh perspectives.

Keywords: dissociation; hypnosis; psychoanalysis.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Historical Article
  • Introductory Journal Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis / history
  • Hypnosis / methods*
  • Psychiatry / history
  • Psychiatry / methods*
  • Psychoanalysis / history
  • Psychoanalysis / methods*