Within the framework of my lectureship on Hypnosis: Empirical findings, Theses and Implications at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München the following topics were researched:
1. Hypnotic arm levitation
During our study stay with Milton H. Erickson in 1978 (together with my wife Alida Iost-Peter and my colleague Wilhelm Gerl) the technique of arm levitation both for trance induction and several other applications such as ideomotor signaling intrigued me a great deal. I have been using it in therapy and training ever since. Patients as well as trainees often sit with an uplifted, levitating arm without experiencing any strain. Is that merely a phenomenon of compliance or a “genuine” trance phenomenon? Are there differences in muscle tension compared to lifting and holding one’s arm deliberately? These questions were examined in several studies with the help of electromyography and electrodermal reaction. Due to the fact that arm levitation has not been examined with these psychophysiological means up until now – at least we could not find any published results on it – these studies were exploratory. Our findings are published in the following articles:
- Peter, B., Schiebler, P., Piesbergen, C., & Hagl, M. (2012). Elektromyographic investigation of hypnotic arm levitation: Differences between voluntary arm elevation and involuntary arm levitation. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 60(1), 88-110.
Main result: During hypnotic arm levitation the total muscle activity in the right arm was 13% lower (p < .008) than during holding it up voluntarily; moreover, the activity in the deltoideus was 27% lower (p < .001). The hypnotic arm levitation was subjectively felt less strenuous (p < .027).
- Peter, B., Piesbergen, C., Lucic, T., Staudacher, M., & Hagl, M. (2013). The role of tactile support in arm levitation. American Jounal of Clinical Hypnosis, 56(2), 115-142.
Main results: More than half of the participants did not require any initial tactile support for arm levitation, the remaining – except for 2 – also achieved arm levitation autonomously, though more or less successful, after receiving brief tactile stimulation. Those without tactile support went faster into hypnotic trance, rated it to be deeper and experienced more involuntariness; the values of electrodermal activity (EDA) were higher than the EDA-values of those participants who sometimes or always required tactile support. Higher EDA is interpreted as greater physiological activity which is necessary in hypnotic arm levitation as a form of “attentive hypnosis” in contrast to pure “relaxation hypnosis”.
2. Work patterns and personality stiles of practitioners of hypnosis
Little research has been done on the question what makes a good therapist and practically nothing is known about the distinguishing qualities of a good hypnotist or hypnotherapist. That is why we surveyed members of professional German-speaking societies of hypnosis by means of the Persönlichkeits-Stile- und -Störungs-Inventar (PSSI) (Personality Styles and Disorders Inventory (PSDI)) about their personality traits and with a separate questionnaire about their work profiles. Owing to the fact that there are many presumptions on this matter, but apparently no scientific examinations, our study was a pilot study. The results are published in the two following articles:
- Bose, C., Peter, B., Piesbergen, C., Staudacher, M., & Hagl, M. (2012). Work patterns of German-speaking practitioners of hypnosis. Hypnose-ZHH, 7(1+2), 7-30.
Main Results: 203 professional participants indicated an overall frequent use of hypnosis. About 43% of the respondents each do or do not make explicit use of the word “hypnosis” when working with their clients. About 90% of the respondents consider themselves as medium to high hypnotizable. Furthermore, results show that indirect techniques are used predominantly while there is comparatively little use of direct techniques. About 30% of the participants indicated deficient competences in using direct techniques; factors such as feelings of safety and well-being, fear of making mistakes and manipulating, private experiences, opinions regarding potential advantages and experiences of success influence the application of direct techniques. Two factors, expertise acquired through extensive training and positive personal experience, both providing an increase of professional self-efficacy, seem to be of central importance for the use of direct techniques.
- Peter, B., Bose, C., Piesbergen, C., Hagl, M., & Revenstorf, D. (2012). Personality profiles of German-speaking practitioners of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Hypnose-ZHH, 7(1+2), 31-59.
Main results: There were moderate to strong, but no clinically remarkable effects on nine of the 14 subscales of PSDI: below average characteristics in the willful-paranoid (PN), independent-schizoid (SZ), impulsive-borderline (BL), self-critical-avoidant (SU), loyal-dependent (AB), critical-negativistic (NT), calm-depressive (DP) and the helpful-selfless (SL) personality styles and above average characteristics in the agreeable-histrionic (HI) style. Comparisons between the occupational groups revealed significant differences on five subscales: intuitive-schizotypical (ST), impulsive-borderline (BL), loyal-dependent (AB), conscientious-compulsive (ZW) and helpful-selfless (SL), while mainly dentists and psychological psychotherapists differed from each other. The results can be interpreted in the following way: practitioners of hypnosis and hypnotherapy are capable of (1) entering and maintaining a respectful and trusting therapeutic relationship with their patients, (2) building on the resources of the patient, (3) but also intervening actively when therapeutically necessary.
One of the results from the PSSI particularly aroused our attention: Within the group of surveyed users of hypnosis the dentists were unselfish-self-sacrificing (SL) to a normal degree, doctors a little less, medical psychotherapists even less and psychological psychotherapists were close to being “pathologically” non-self-sacrificing. Therefore, we compared the personality profiles of these 203 professional users of hypnosis to the personality profiles of 52 students of psychology and pedagogy who had participated in previous hypnotic studies and had also completed the PSSI. Their profiles generated a similar picture with two differences: (1) While among the users of hypnosis a relatively large number of extreme manifestations could be found, namely below-average results on different personality scales, the students showed more moderate profiles closer to the norm. (2) Strikingly, the students were relatively unselfish-self-sacrificing, whereas, as mentioned above, this style was significantly marked below average within the group of professional users of hypnosis. This could be explained by occupational socialization processes: psychotherapists in general and hypnotherapists in particular teach their patients how to activate their own resources. Published in:
- Hagl, M., Piesbergen, C., Bose, C., & Peter, B. (2013). Persönlichkeitsstile von studentischen Teilnehmerinnen an Hypnoseexperimenten im Vergleich zu Hypnoseanwendern [Personality styles in female undergraduates who participate in hypnosis experiments vs. personality styles of practitioners of hypnosis or hypnotherapy]. Hypnose-ZHH, 8(1-2), 87-101.
3. What is hypnotizability?
Hypnotic suggestibility or hypnotizability is a personality trait which is – similar to other personality traits such as musicality – normally distributed throughout the population: approx. 20 % of the population are low hypnotizable, 60 % medium and 20 % high hypnotizable. This was confirmed by us in several studies, for instance published in:
- Piesbergen, C., & Peter, B. (2006). An investigation of the factor structure of the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A (HGSHS:A). Contemporary Hypnosis, 23(2), 59-71.
- Peter, B., Geiger, E., Prade, T., Vogel, S. E., & Piesbergen, C. (in press). Norms of German adolescents for the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
To measure the hypnotic suggestibility of 99 German adolescent secondary school students aged 15 to 19, the German version of the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A (HGSHS:A) was administered to them. In contrast to other studies, the gender distribution was relatively balanced with 57% of the participants being female and 43% male. Results were compared to those of 14 earlier studies and did not show considerable differences with regard to distribution, mean and standard deviation. With .67 the reliability was even better than the one obtained in the previous German study by Bongartz (1985), which is all in all lower than the reliabilities of the studies carried out in the original language, but by all means comparable to other studies with non-English versions. The mosquito-hallucination-item of the current study shows the same low values as that of the other five studies since 2003. Some peculiarities in contrast to the 14 previous studies are pointed out. It is concluded that the HGSHS:A can be used as a valid and reliable instrument to measure hypnotic suggestibility in adolescent samples. So far, it had not been explicitly tested for this population.
3.1 Hypnotizability and attachment
Much research has been done on hypnotic susceptibility in the past, also with the aim of looking for connections to other personality traits. The results were altogether disillusioning. Connections were indeed found with personality aspects that are more or less linked to hypnosis, e.g. the ability of absorption or imagination, which are, however, not distinct personality traits in the strict sense such as intelligence or “genuine” personality traits like the so-called Big Five. A possible connection with psychopathology was also repeatedly considered in theoretical and clinical discussions. Therefore, we conducted a series of experiments on this matter. The first dealt with the question if hypnotic susceptibility correlates with attachment styles:
- Peter, B., Hagl, M., Bazijan, A., & Piesbergen, C. (2011). Hypnotic suggestibility and adult attachment. Contemporary Hypnosis and Integrative Therapy, 28(3), 171-186.
We assessed the relationship attitudes in a sample of 117 undergraduate students with the Relationship Style Questionnaire (RSQ) as well as their hypnotic suggestibility (HGSHS:A). Participants with insecure attachment styles showed higher hypnotic suggestibility. Two RSQ scales in particular, namely “anxiety" and “lack of trust”, correlated positively with hypnotic suggestibility. Thus, hypnotic suggestibility seems to be also connected to “problematic” aspects of human personality traits.
However, a replication of this study could not confirm this connection for the collective sample. This may have been influenced by unfavourable environment variables during the test for hypnotic suggestibility. Yet, the correlation could be found for the group of high hypnotizable participants when considering dissociation values as a moderating variable. Published in:
- Staudacher, M., Hagl, M., Piesbergen, C., & Peter, B. (2012). Are hypnotizability and attachment not correlated after all? Report on a replication. Hypnose-ZHH, 7(1+2), 81-98.
Results: Results indicated a weak but significant correlation between dissociation and hypnotic suggestibility, as already described in some of the research literature. In contrast to Peter et al. (2011, 2012) neither the reported attachment attitudes nor the resulting attachment styles were associated with hypnotic suggestibility. Looking only at the subgroup of highly suggestible subjects there was no correlation with attachment attitudes either. However, after a median split on the basis of dissociation scores, there were significantly higher scores in the RSQ scale lack of trust within the highly dissociative subgroup comparing to the subgroup of highly suggestible subjects with low dissociation. Context effects or sample differences as possible explanations for our failure to replicate previous findings seem rather unlikely. A more sophisticated analysis of possible subtypes with regard to moderating variables might clarify the issue further.
3.2 Hypnotizability, attachment, personality, and gender
Being curious, we continued our search for potential moderating variables: If the attachment style alone is not significant enough to explain hypnotic suggestibility, could personality styles play an additional role? We seized the opportunity of another study on 99 secondary school students investigating the connection between hypnotizability and intelligence (see below) and tested these students aged between 15 and 19 years also with the PSSI and RSQ. With the gender distribution being rather balanced, we analysed the data with regard to gender differences and received remarkable results, published in:
- Peter, B., Vogel, S. E., Prade, T., Geiger, E., Mohl, J. & Piesbergen, C. (2014). Hypnotisability, personality style and attachment. An exploratory study. Part 1: General results. American Jounal of Clinical Hypnosis, 57(1), 13-40.
- Peter, B., Prade, T., Vogel, S. E., Geiger, E., Mohl, J. & Piesbergen, C. (in press). Hypnotisability, personality style and attachment. An exploratory study. Part 2: Results with particular focus on sex. American Jounal of Clinical Hypnosis, 57(1), 41-56.
It was of interest to us whether attachment and personality styles are useful as moderator variables to explain hypnotizability. Some relationships seem remarkable to us, especially when we take gender into account. The results we obtained from 99 adolescents aged between 15 and 19 years with a balanced gender distribution can be summarized as follows:
Attachment style – personality style – hypnotizability
1. Regarding the whole sample (males and females) the unselfish/self-sacrificing (SL) personality style proves to be the best predictor for hypnotizability explaining 11% of the variance. Yet this connection is moderated by attachment style: It only manifests within the group of the securely attached and then accounts for 30% of the variance.
2. For those with insecure attachment style, the intuitive-schizotypal (ST) personality style explained 12% of the variance of hypnotizability. High hypnotizable persons with an insecure attachment style were significantly more intuitive-schizotypal, in contrast to securely attached high hypnotizable persons who were the least intuitive-schizotypal.
Gender – personality style – hypnotizability
3. There were no gender-specific differences among high hypnotizables. In general, highly hypnotizable males resembled highly hypnotizable females with respect to their personality profile.
4. In females, no relationship between hypnotizability and personality styles were observed. The personality profiles of low, medium and high hypnotizable females did not differ significantly.
5. Males, however, showed a statistically significant relationship between hypnotizability and personality styles: the personality profiles of low, medium and high hypnotizable males differ greatly.
- low hypnotizable were, in comparison to high hypnotizable males, less spontaneous/borderline (BL), less self-critical/avoidant (SU) – both outside the normal standard deviation (below 40) – and less unselfish/self-sacrificing (SL), and they had the highest values on the assertive/antisocial scale (AS);
- low hypnotizable males were, in comparison to low hypnotizable females, significantly less intuitive/schizotypal (ST), less spontaneous/borderline (BL), less self-critical/avoidant (SU) and less loyal/dependent (AB);
- medium hypnotizable males were, in comparison to medium hypnotizable females, less self- critical/avoidant (SU) and less loyal/dependent (AB).
7. High hypnotizable males and females had similarly high values in the personality style unselfish/self-sacrificing (SL). For males, this style proved to be the best predictor for hypnotizability, accounting for 40% of the variance.
Gender – attachment style – personality style
8. Findings from literature into attachment, which often find that insecurely attached people have greater vulnerability to psychopathology, are supported by our data. Specifically, it revealed a relationship between insecure attachment style and certain personality styles which contain – in extreme forms – psychopathological connotations, such as spontaneous/borderline (BL), self-critical/avoidant (SU), loyal/dependent (AB), passive/depressive (DP) and unselfish/self-sacrificing (SL). A gender-specific analysis, however, shows that this relationship only applies for females, not for males. This surprising result is reaffirmed by the following finding:
9. Comparing male and female personality profiles according to attachment styles, an ascending hierarchy arises for the self-critical/avoidant (SU) and the loyal/dependent (AB) personality style, in line with gender stereotypes: securely attached males with the lowest values, followed by insecurely attached males and securely attached females, and the finally insecurely attached females with the highest values. This suggests that securely attached males are the least self-critical/avoidant (SU) and loyal/dependent (AB), while insecurely attached females are the most.
This last result would be somewhat concerning if interpreted as generally valid. It should be pointed out again that the sample consists of 15- to 19-year-old students. One can assume that the psychological and emotional state of adolescents in this phase at the end of puberty differs according to gender. Our results should therefore be reexamined based on a new sample with a different age span.
Gender – attachment style – personality style – hypnotizability
10. Both with regard to the whole sample (Figure 1) and to the subsample of securely attached high hypnotizable participants of both genders (Figure 4.1), two peaks can be seen in the charming/histrionic (HI) and the optimistic/rhapsodic (RH) personality styles that prompt us to speak of a hypnosis-prone personality style. Those peaks cannot be found among insecurely attached people of either gender.
These two results can be interpreted as follows: It seems there are two groups of high hypnotizable people that differ with regard to their attachment styles:
- The securely attached high hypnotizable participants of both genders make up a large group of charming (HI), optimistic (RH) and unselfish/self-sacrificing (SL) hypnosis-prones, which can well be described by socio-cognitive models of hypnosis.
- The group of the insecurely attached high hypnotizables can be principally distinguished from the securely attached high hypnotizables: with an intuitive/schizotypal (ST) personality style they seem to form a psychopathologically vulnerable group. The dissociation theories of hypnosis seem to be more suitable to describe them.
To conclude, our results suggest that single personality styles significantly predict the variance in hypnotizability, if attachment style acts as a moderator, and gender differences can be observed in personality style and hypnotizability. Furthermore, our analysis points to a hypnosis-prone personality style. However, further studies are needed.
3.3 Hypnotizability and intelligence
After decades of more or less fruitless research regarding the question of a possible connection between hypnotizability and intelligence the search was abandoned at the end of the 1970s. The sociopolitical mindset of that time that considered differences between individuals as mainly determined by culture and education may have played a role. Within the framework of the general issue of hypnotizability, however, this specific matter interested me again and I initiated the following examination:
- Geiger, E., Peter, B., Prade, T., & Piesbergen, C. (2014). Intelligence and hypnotic susceptibility: Is there a connection? International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 26(3), 310-329.
99 secondary school students, aged between 15 and 19 years, were tested for intelligence by means of the I-S-T 2000 R and for hypnotic susceptibility with the HGSHS:A. No correlations could be observed for the overall sample unselected by gender because the negative correlations for male participants canceled out the positive correlations for the female subsample. These are significant for the total value of intelligence (r= .288) and highly significant for the subcategory ‘verbal intelligence’ (r= .348), yet non-significant for the subcategories ‘numerical intelligence’ and ‘figural intelligence’. Females seem to be more able to imaginatively process semantic contents induced verbally. They also seem to have a higher task motivation than males – at least during adolescence.
3.4 Hypnotizability of adolescents
The Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A (HGSHS:A) has not been explicitly tested on an adolescent population. In this study, the German version of the HGSHS:A was administered to 99 German adolescents aged 15 to 19. In contrast to other studies, the gender distribution was relatively balanced: 57% female and 43% male. Results were comparable to 14 earlier studies with regard to distribution, mean, and standard deviation. Some peculiarities in contrast to the 14 previous studies are pointed out. It is concluded that the HGSHS:A can be used as a valid and reliable instrument to measure hypnotic suggestibility in adolescent samples.
- Peter, B., Geiger, E., Prade, T., Vogel, S. E., & Piesbergen, C. (2015). Norms of German adolescents for the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 63(1), 1–18.
3.5 Is there a “hypnosis-prone” personality – does the "Homo hypnoticus" exist?
Whenever we used the PSSI in our hypnosis-studies tree personality styles appeared as dominant: ominous/schizotypal (ST), charming/histrionic (HI) and optimistic/rhapsodic (RH). That these three personality styles were or are, respectively, something special and probably make up a special personality, which we labelled “hypnosis-prone”, we discovered only when we looked closer, e.g., at the data of Barbara Bochter:
- Bochter, B., Hagl, M., Piesbergen, C., & Peter, B. (2014). Persönlichkeitsstile von Psychologiestudierenden im Vergleich zu Studierenden sogenannter MINT-Fächer [Personality traits of students of psychology compared to students of STEM-fields]. Report Psychologie, 39(4), 154-165.
Then, we wanted to find possible personality differences between students of psychology and students of so-called STEM-fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) because there are prejudices regarding personality traits of psychologists and students of psychology, as there are for almost any vocations and fields. However, empirical evidence concerning typical differences between university majors is scarce. In an online survey on a sample of 313 undergraduates it was very amazing to us to find only minor personality differences between 99 university students majoring in psychology and 214 students majoring in STEM-fields. So, contrary to our expectation, we found little evidence for special personality traits in psychology students. However the data of Bochter et al. (2014) differed significantly in one aspect from all other PSSI-data we collected so far in the context of “hypnosis”: The HI- and RH-peaks were missing. It was easy to se the difference: the latter, Bochter´s data were collected without any mention of the term “hypnosis” and also without any context of “hypnosis”; the former, i.e. all other data, were collected in the context of and/or under the term “hypnosis”. We went on to differentiate and substantiate our results to which we gave first hints in
- Prade, T., Geiger, E., & Peter, B. (2014). Persönlichkeitsstile und Studien- bzw. Berufswünsche jugendlicher Schüler und Schülerinnen, die sich für Hypnose interessieren. (Personality and career aspiration of adolescent students interested in hypnosis). Hypnose-ZHH, 9(1+2), 45-67, as well as in:
- Peter, B., Prade, T., Vogel, S. E., Geiger, E., Mohl, J. & Piesbergen, C. (2014). Hypnotisability, personality style and attachment. An exploratory study. Part 2: Results with particular focus on sex. American Jounal of Clinical Hypnosis, 57(1), 41-56.
Finally we brought together all results we got since 2015 and were able to "proclaim" the "Homo hypnoticus"
- Peter, B., & Böbel, E. (2020). Does the Homo hypnoticus exist? Personality styles of people interested in hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 68(3), 348-370. doi: 10.1080/00207144.2020.1756294
It may be that individuals who are interested in hypnosis will volunteer for hypnosis experiments or practice hypnosis. Do these “hypnosis-prone” individuals differ from hypno-neutral, nonhypnosis-prone individuals? If so, could one speak of a personality type, the homo hypnoticus? This study reports on 3 samples of individuals where there was no indication of hypnosis or no interest in hypnosis (NONHYP: N = 1426) and 4 samples of individuals who were interested in hypnosis (HYP: N = 1048). Using the Personality Styles and Disorders Inventory, we calculated contrast ana- lyses for the contextual effect of HYP vs. NONHYP and gender effects. Results suggested there may be a homo hypnoticus personality style with the characteristics of intuitive-schizotypal, rhapsodic-optimistic, and charming-histrionic. These distinctions appear mostly in women.
The bigger part of my earlier work is concerned with the history of hypnosis in Germany. On the occasion of the 15. International Congress of Hypnosis, which I organised in Munich 2000, I dedicated a complete issue of our journal Hypnose und Kognition (Hypnosis and Cognition) to this subject. In this issue I published the first version of my basic historic article, which later was published several times in revised versions in the hypnosis manual by Revenstorf and Peter:
- Peter, B. (2000). Zur Geschichte der Hypnose in Deutschland. Hypnose und Kognition, 17(1+2), 47-106.
For a detailed analysis of the history of hypnosis I prefered a person-related approach.
4.1 Franz Anton Mesmer contra Johann Joseph Gasser
Usually, Mesmer—not Gassner—is considered to be the real predecessor of modern hypnosis and, in consequence, of psychotherapy. I question this commonly accepted view and assert that Gassner’s therapeutic approach was much more elaborate and psychologically oriented than Mesmer’s medically oriented approach. In light of the present understanding of psychotherapeutic and hypnotherapeutic techniques, Gassner’s methods can be characterised as a special kind of hypnotic training in self-control. In an article
- Peter, B. (2005a). Gassner´s exorcism - not Mesmer´s magnetism - is the real predecessor of modern hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 53(1), 1-12.
I describe Gassner’s kind of exorcism and its similarities to hypnotherapy. I also go into personal and socio-cultural factors relevant to the debate surrounding Gassner’s theory and procedure. This debate was the most heated dispute of the Enlightenment that took place in Munich around 1775 with Mesmer as an important part of it: he was instrumented by the Bavarian Academy of Sciences as an important reviewer in its battle against Gassner. I discuss whether Father Gassner, rather than Mesmer, should be placed at the beginning of modern psychotherapy and, in consequence, is the real predecessor of modern hypnotism.
4.2 Justinus Kerner
Just like I had come across Johann Joseph Gassner, I discovered another important German figure in the history of hypnosis through collecting and reading old and rare books: Justinus Kerner, a doctor from Weinsberg. (His „Geschichte zweyer Somnambülen“ [Story of two Somnambulists] was indeed the very first antiquarian book that I purchased in Strasbourg/France in 1993.) In Kerner’s description of his treatment of The Girl from Orlach (“Das Mädchen von Orlach”) I discovered some resemblances to modern methods of trauma therapy for treating dissociative disorders. I outlined these points in an article:
- Peter, B. (2011). On the history of Dissociative Identity Disorders in Germany: The doctor Justinus Kerner and the girl from Orlach, or possession as an "exchange of the self". International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 59(1), 1-21.
The history of hypnosis is closely linked to the theme of possession because the forerunner of hypnosis, animal magnetism, has replaced exorcism (see dispute between Mesmer and Gassner). Authors of the 1980ies and 1990ies refer to remarkable similarities between states of possession and dissociative states. The treatment of possession by animal magnetism and exorcism represents the special romantic–magnetic therapy of the German medical doctor Justinus Kerner at the beginning of the 19th century. In this paper I describe the man, his methods and thinking and presents one of his most famous case studies, the girl from Orlach which, by today´s knowledge, can be regarded as a true case of dissociative identity disorder (DID). It will be shown that contemporary principles of treatment have already been used 175 years ago and that controversial issues about nature and causes of DID have already been discussed.
4.3 Karl Christian Wolfart
Finally, the last and most recent major historical article is about a rape case related to magnetism at the beginning of the 19th century in Berlin. It is based on an earlier paper dealing with this case:
- Peter, B. (1995). Magnetismus und Immoralität, oder das schnelle Ende des Magnetismus in Berlin um 1819/20. [Magnetism and immorality, or the rapid end of magnetism in Berlin around 1819/20]. Psychotherapie, Psychosomatik, Medizinische Psychologie, 45(8), 266-276.
Together with my spouse Alida Iost-Peter I went on to investigate this „Wolfart case“ and place it into a greater socio-cultural and professional context in ordert to trace the development oft the therapeutic relationship which is considered an important basic principle for effectiveness in psychotherapy. This point of view, however, developed rather late. Previously, Mesmer’s animal magnetism dismissed a psychological component for this relationship. Two books from 1821 and 1822 describe contrary perspectives on a scandal in Berlin, a presumably sexual abuse in the context of animal magnetism. By this example, different context variables are described that show how psychotherapy struggled in its early stages, as well as psychotherapy’s general focus of interest and the relationship factor in particular. Psychopathological, socio-cultural, political, scientific and career political aspects are outlined. The problems inherent to the orthodox mesmerism, with rapport regarded as physical, could only be solved by a new psychological understanding that was developed during the romantic somnambulism in the first half of the 19th century. This understanding granted priority in the first place to the psychological dimension of magnetic rapport and the therapeutic relationship, respectively.
- Peter, B. & Jost-Peter, A. (2014). The “Wolfart case” or the problem with the magnetic rapport. On the development of the therapeutic relationship in the early stages of psychotherapy. Hypnose-ZHH, 9(1+2).
4.4 Sigmund Freud
It was often argued—especially in angloamerican hypnosis literature—that Sigmund Freud’s criticism of hypnosis contributed to its arrest in development during the late 19th century, leading to its decreased therapeutic relevance still observed today. Examining Freud’s attitude towards the hypnotic technique more closely, however, has brought these claims into question. Despite immense scepticism from his contemporaries, Freud became interested in hypnosis and started using it in his clinical practice. His experimental efforts and clinical experiences with hypnosis led him to the discovery and development of psychoanalysis. Given his growing interest in the development of psychoanalysis, he himself became less interested in the hypnotic technique as a therapeutic intervention. He, however, never spoke against it. He accepted and recognised it as a useful tool in addition to psychoanalytic technique. Although Freud found himself to be critical of hypnosis (with regards to its therapeutic effect), he was not entirely adverse to it. Once he had established psychoanalysis as an alternative form of therapy, he was able to value hypnosis in its own right.
- Schröter, J., Peter, B., & Helle, M. (2013). Sigmund Freuds Einstellung zur Hypnose [Sigmund Freuds attitude towards hypnosis]. Hypnose-ZHH, 8(1+2), 131-144.