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on 13 July 2011
This was required reading for a course I'm undertaking, so I had no option but to read it. On the plus side, it is a fairly comprehensive history of hypnosis in Europe and America. On the down side, there is perhaps far too much space devoted to Mesmer, at the expense of more recent and more relevant exponents; and whilst there are some quite fascinating sections, there are also parts that I found very dull. The author's style is quite personal and informal, and this generally makes for an easy read. But sometimes the author get a bit carried away, and I feel the book could be shortened without serious detriment to the content.
Would I recommend this as a good read? Well, maybe it's the only game in town, and it's definitely a useful run through of the history. There may be an opportunity for someone to write a more concise and more objective alternative...
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on 17 June 2005
As someone new to hypnosis, currently in training, I found this book to be absolutely fascinating. It explains just about everything to do with hypnosis, from where it's believed to have originated to modern day and its uses. I would recommend this book to anyone, even if its only a passing interest in hypnosis.
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on 24 November 2005
A beautifully presented book. R. Waterfield knows what he is writing about. This book is very well researched and easy to read. It delves into the secrets of hypnotism, its history, how it was used by doctors, presented by film makers, and fiction writers; it explores the theories put forward by its practitioners and critics and the most up to date views on the subject and how it is practiced today. The mystery on hypnotism still remains after you've read it and so his book has revived my enthusiasm to explore hypnosis and hypnotherapy even deeper. Fascinating!
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on 28 August 2012
This is an interesting book - how interesting depends on how deep your fascination with hypnosis and hypnotherapy is...

The introduction has a good coverage of the myths and misconceptions that surround "using words" to help or hinder people...

Robin Waterford has really gone "in depth" and wrote one of the most comprehensive chronological histories of hypnosis and hypnotherapy that I have come across - and I have quite a few books on hypnosis and hypnotherapy in my library...

I am a hypnotherapist amongst other things - addiction specialist - weight loss expert - rowing coach - psychotherapist etc and reckon this should be one of the "text books" on hypnosis courses to help students get a feel for the subject.

It is also helpful book for potential clients who would like the opportunity to experience hypnotherapy as Robin tells of his own experience with Tom Bell - a GP from Okehampton.

The book has 14 chapters covering things like "Mesmeric mania", "Murder, Rape & Debate", "Mind control", and less controversial subjects such as self improvement and hypnosis in the treatment of pain.

It reads a bit like a cross between a reference book and a historical story right up to about 10 years ago - it was written in 2002 and there has been lots of "psychology" over the last 10 years around success, persuasion, cognitive biases etc that cover very similar ground - it's just not called hypnosis...

One of the interesting things about hypnosis - is the lack of agreed upon definition and if you use "hypnosis or hypnotherapy" in your day to day work it makes sense to have your own story and definition to explain to clients or interested parties...

My own take is that I actually "de-hypnotise" people rather than hypnotise - most people are already in an unhelpful trance and all I do is create a nicer less damaging reality with them...

I particularly liked the way Robin ended the book - with a plea to encourage the therapeutic use of hypnotherapy to become more widespread because I am still constantly amazed that I can help someone stop smoking, lose weight, overcome life long phobias just by "talking with them in a structured way"...

The bibliography is also very useful if you want to follow on with some extra reading and Vance Packard's book, The Hidden Persuaders which is mentioned is a real eye opener and over 60 years old - so just imagine - how far the persuasion skill set has progressed...

There are 20 odd illustrations and photos including an American advertisement from the 1960's that promises sexual conquest through hypnosis that tickled me...

The book's priced at less than a tenner for the paperback which makes a pleasant change from the usual £20 + for psychotherapy books and well worth it - especially if you want to "see a hypnotherapist" at some stage as it answers quite a lot of common client questions I get asked...
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on 19 August 2006
Whether you are curious or have already delved into the fascinaintg subject of hypnosis, this book will contain lots of info you didn't know.

Well written and researched, Waterfield's style is rational and informative. The book covers mesmerism, victorian hypnotists, Milton Erickson, hypnotherapy and loads more.

A riveting read.
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on 29 March 2014
The author has clearly done a lot of research however in my view he does not understand and is not qualified to write a book on the history of hypnosis.

As a Master NLP Practitioner and qualified hypnotherapist who has investigated buddhist meditation, rieki healing and shamamism I find the world view of the author incredibly restrictive. His has an unduly tight definition of hypnosis from which he concludes that it was not part of primitive, ancient or the egyptian and greek cultures. He goes on to say that there are no references hypnosis in the bible.

Waterfield also seems to think that mesmerism was really merely faith healing.

Later he dismisses NLP and describes John Grindler and Richard Bandler (the creators of NLP) as "arch-hypnotic imperialists". This, despite the fact that the NLP Milton Model of hypnotic language has clearly facilitated modern teaching of hypnosis in the style of Milton H. Erickson.

There are always two ways to compare things - by similarity and by difference to really understand hypnotic phenomenon (Deep trance Phenomenon - Tad James) we are better comparing hypnotic effects with those of religious experiences (Varieties of Religious Experience - William James), Varieties of Psychedelic Experience (Masters and Houston), the meditation experience (Varieties of Meditation Experience - Daniel Goleman) and the work of Dr James Austin MD (Zen and the Brain)

The we come to realize that hypnotic trance is an altered state that can be induced by breathing, physical awareness, chemicals or hypnotic language (verbal or non-verbal).

If you are looking for a serious and credible book on the history of hypnosis then you might consider Hypnosis - A Brief History by Judith Pintar and Steven Jay Lynn (Blackwell Brief Histories of Psychology series) presents is a much more academically sound book by professional psychologist (and hypnotherapist) and a social historian.

The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness is well worth a look too.
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on 10 February 2012
I managed to finish 1/3 of this book over a span of 2 years. I got to say the history of hypnosis part, though very informative and thorough, was a bit dry and too long to keep me interested. It's more like a record of what happened in the past than the story of hypnosis. The author obviously went through a lot to put all the info together, the book maybe helpful for someone studying this particular area, but not that attarctive for a layman who simply wants to have a glimpse on this 'mysterious' subject. Still, hope the later part can be better.
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on 20 January 2010
Wonderful book. Great non-biased introduction to the history and current theories on hypnosis. Very enjoyable and informative read. Would definitely recommend.
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on 13 April 2013
A really interesting book about the history of hypnosis. I found it fascinating to read. It covers a lot of information on the different eras of hypnosis and teaches about the important people in its development.
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on 10 December 2012
Such a good book. Preferred book for hypnotherapists starting study. So much information. It is a story but takes you right through the history and more and does answer the questions the lecturers ask
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