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How did spirals get associated with hypnosis?

February 26, 2011 by relax  
Filed under Hypnosis Questions & Answers

Question by Pat R: How did spirals get associated with hypnosis?
Spirals and pocket watches go hand and hand with hypnosis. I was just curious if anyone knew the origins of the spiral.

Best answer:

Answer by Kerbear
Have you ever watched the water when you let it out of the tub, or a whirlpool in a lake – don’t you get kind of hypnotized by the motion? That’s where the spiral came from – the pocket watch only if it’s gold or shiny, as why crystals are also used.

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3 Responses to “How did spirals get associated with hypnosis?”
  1. weebl says:

    Swinging pendulums and pocket watches were once used by hypnotists as devices to encourage eye-fixation. So were rotating spirals. Some gadget-makers even built small machines with a motor-driven disk displaying a spiral. The image of the hypnotist swinging a watch or spinning a spiral became a staple of Hollywood fright movies: after all, they were more interesting to look at than someone inducing trance through a talk procedure.

  2. Andrew Ryan says:

    I wouldn’t exactly say they go hand in hand. Most hypnotists I know don’t use pocket watches or spirals.
    This image was associated with hypnosis in movies because of their theatrical effect.
    However you can indeed you pendulums and spirals for eye fixations and inducing the alpha state.
    Hope my answer helped.

  3. Ian says:

    Hypnosis has been used for thousands of years as there is evidence that it was widely used in ancient Egypt. However, though its use continued in the western world throughout the middle ages and beyond it gradually lost favour with the emergence of empirical science and medicine. However its development continued at a pace in the east.

    It wasn’t until 18th century explorers encountered the use of hypnosis in the Middle East and the Orient that hypnotic technique became more widely re-established in the west. The controversial Austrian physician Dr Franz Anton Mesmer ( that’s where we get the word mesmerise from) combined the popular discovery of magnetism with his knowledge of altered consciousness to work with what he called the subjects “animal magnetism.”

    Whilst Mesmer was ridiculed by the scientific community his stage shows were famous throughout the western hemisphere. Mesmer used object to focus the subjects mind and induce trance like state of altered consciousness. Initially these were magnets on a chain but he continued to refine his technique and started to use objects from the audience as part of his demonstrations. The pocket watch was often used and the image stuck.

    However, whilst Mesmers work centred first upon the use of objects to draw the subjects focus it was one of his followers Armand de Puysegur that first realised that the spoken word could also be used to “mesmerise” the subject. de Puysegur reached his eventual conclusion by experimenting with different objects first. He is credited with being the first to use the hypnotic spiral in the west but it had almost certainly been in use in China for hundreds if not thousands of years.

    So successful was the conversational technique that de Puysegur refined he was able to use mesmerism as an anaesthetic. Indeed until Chloroform was chemically defined in 1834 mesmerism remained a widely used anaesthetic for everything from minor field operations to major surgery. This type of incredibly powerful hypnotic process, through the work of people like Milton Erickson, eventually became modern conversational hypnosis. However the image of the swinging watch or the hypnotic spiral has remained to this day.

    If you would like to know more then go to

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