Demonic possession, mesmerism, and hysteria: A social psychological perspective on their historical interrelations

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Abstract

Provides a social psychological interpretation of the interrelations among demonic possession, mesmerism, and hysteria. It is argued that the reciprocal role relationship of mesmerist and magnetized S in the 18th and 19th centuries involved the secularization of the role relation that had existed between exorcist and demonically possessed. The commonalities between these 2 sets of social roles are delineated, some of the variables leading an individual to learn and enact the possessed role are outlined, and several lines of historical evidence pertaining to the influence of the exorcist-demoniac relationship on the mesmeric relationship are outlined. The influence of the possessed role in shaping the role of the hysterical patient is also discussed. The use of hysteria as a modern explanatory concept in histories of possession and mesmerism, however, is criticized. (198 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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