Simulating hysteria for fun and profit

I’ve just found pages from a 1941 French hypnotism manual on the (tastefully NSFW) Au carrefour √©trange blog that has some wonderful illustrations of hypnotism ‘in action’.

A few are particularly curious because they seem to be directly mimicking famous images of hysteria from the 1800s.

Hysteria is the presence of neurological symptoms without any detectable neurological damage that could account for it (see previous) and the top image on the right is taken from a late 1800s book ‘Lectures on the Diseases of the Nervous System’ by Jean-Martin Charcot who argued that patients with hysterical epilepsy can show this type of body posture he called the ‘Grande Hysterie Full Arch’.

It’s an iconic image and can be seen to the left of the famous painting entitled ‘A Clinical Lesson with Doctor Charcot at the Salp√™tri√®re’ by Andr√© Brouillet that Freud had hung above his couch. You can still see it there in fact, in Freud’s old house, now the Freud Museum in London.

The image below is taken from the 1941 French hypnotism manual. In fact, all the images of the woman mimic Charcot’s famous photos or drawings of hysterical patients.

For example, here’s the Charcot original of a woman between two chairs, and here’s the image from the manuel d’hypnotisme.

Unfortunately, the Au carrefour √©trange website doesn’t have text from the book, but the images suggest that it is encouraging practitioners to simulate these famous poses.

Interestingly, Charcot was the first to suggest that hypnotism and hysteria may rely on similar neurological and psychological processes owing to the fact that it is possible to temporarily simulate hysteria with hypnosis.

Over 100 years later, there is growing evidence that this is the case, as neuroimaging studies have shown that hysterial paralysis and hypnotically-induced paralysis activate remarkably similar brain areas.

However, his classifications of the different body postures of hysteria are now thought to useless, and likely caused by Charcot’s own suggestions to his patients.

The pages from the hypnotism book are on a site with tasteful but NSFW images, so be cautious at work, or be ready with your excuse about a historical interest in Charcot.

UPDATE: The same blog has images from another French hypnotism book called Nouveau cours pratique d’hypnotisme et de suggestion from 1929. Dig that cover!

Link to pages of ‘Manuel pratique d’hypnotisme’ (via MorbidAnatomy).

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