We’ve learned a LOT about the mind and suggestibility and the nature of experiential trance since the days of Jean-Martin Charcot and his assumptions that hypnosis was only possible with personalities prone to hysteria or his celebrity hysterics who he would wheel out and induce heysterical attacks at will.
However, Charcot has indeed made a lasting impression upon the practice and understanding of hypnosis . . . some folks today still use his methods and still accept his conclusions, even the ones that have long been disproven.
While in the 19th Century Hysteria was a fairly common diagnosis, it has all but vanished today . . . although this assumption may be a bit of a misnomer as many folks who previously would have been diagnosed as hysterics are given very different diagnoses today, albeit with similar symptomology . . . essentially, there are more drawers in the cupboard instead of a catchall bucket.
Laura Barnett has a fascinating visit back to the world of Charcot and asks what we can take away from his work today as she reviews Asti Hustvedt‘s beautifully written book “Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris.” Read her full treatment at http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jul/25/hysteria-all-in-the-mind.
BTW, the illustration above is of Charcot inducing a hysterical fit – whose description is very close to full on orgasm – within a woman using a lantern. He had a number of patients who he routinely brought in front of lectures and induced spasms and hysterical fits or episodes via a number of trigger response induction protocols. Of course, we can do the same sort of thing today within very different contexts and with a very different understanding of the mechanism and quality of the experience.