A Night Out At The Movies

Last Friday night my wife and I left our 3 kids at my parents and went out to the movies.

Not such an unusual event perhaps, but these 2 movies were presented by an internationally renown hypnotherapist.

The movies were archival footage from the 1950’s that were an important part of the change in hypnosis become accepted as a medical therapy.

There were two films:
1954 – Hypnosis for pain-free Childbirth.
1956 – Thyroidectomy using hypnosis as the only anesthetic.

Both these films are still very impressive examples of hypnosis even today.

Childbirth is a common enough area for hypnosis, but the idea of complete control and elimination of pain during birth and delivery is still a very unusual one. It’s just not how these events are meant to be. Where is the screaming, the swearing, the drugs, the drama?

My wife had hypnosis in preparation for the birth of our third child, and both she and I were quite happy that most of the drama was on the midwife’s side rather than ours.

The footage of the thyroid operation was even more outstanding.

The thyroid is a gland in the front of the neck, and the surgery was to cut it out.

This woman used self-hypnosis in the dramatic and direct style of the 1950s, and made her neck go numb as if it had had a local anaesthetic injected into it.

Then as she lay back the surgeon set up the operating drapes and then took a scalpel and cut open the skin of her neck, pulled back the layers, clamped off the few bleeding blood vessels and proceeded to dissect away her thyroid.

The woman was aware and alert during the entire operation and at one point mentioned that she felt some pressure on her windpipe. They halted the operation, waited for that to settle, and when it was better went on to complete the operation without further interruption.

It was a great couple of historic movies of hypnosis.

There was just one further twist to the evening.

In the discussion at the end the hypnotherapist presenting the movies mentioned that he had had an operation on his knee the year before and had opted for chemical anaesthesia.

My wife wasn’t the only one to question why someone who had worked with the doctor who made these films, and who had been teaching hypnosis around the world for the past 30 years, would not have used hypnosis for his own operation.

Someone else in the audience asked the question for us, and reason this hypnotherapist gave was that he had too little time, only 3 days, to prepare for the surgery.


This type of paradox is why I don’t talk much about hypnosis.

Hypnosis dramatically demonstrates what the human mind and body can do, but I haven’t seen people get great results from hypnosis on themselves without someone else guiding them.

Many self-help methods are best learnt directly in the presence of someone else, and hypnosis or self-hypnosis seems to me to one of these.

-Dr Martin Russell

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