Hypnosis addiction: the scourge of the Victorian lady

I’m currently reading the wonderful but very long book The Discovery of the Unconscious which I shall post more about later.

However, I noticed this little gem about hypnosis in the late 1800s which just smacks of the current hand-wringing over the non-existent (or rather can’t-existent) ‘internet addiction’.

The problems described are so obviously not addiction, and, in fact, like the internet, there’s no specific activity to be addicted to that is defined by the term ‘hypnosis’. After all hypnosis is just where you concentrate and someone makes suggestions – can you be addicted to concentration and listening? Obviously not.

Nevertheless, the concerns got framed in the language of addiction as a placemarker for a fear of the unknown and as a fig leaf for other social problems (from p118):

Deleuze and the early mesmerists also described the evils resulting from too frequent or too prolonged hypnotic sessions. Such subjects gradually became addicted to hypnosis: not only did their need for frequent hypnotization increase, but they became dependent on their particular magnetizer, and this dependency could often take on a sexual slant. This well-known fact was rediscovered by Charcot, who gave an account of a woman who had been hypnotized five times within three weeks and who could think of nothing but her hypnotist, until she ran away from her home to live with him. Her husband took her back, but she fell into severe hysterical disturbances that necessitated her admission to a hospital.

Link to Wikipedia page on The Discovery of the Unconscious.

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