What Exactly Is Hypnosis?
In the mid to late 1700's, a doctor named Franz Mesmer, amid a number of healing experiments, ended up performing holistic healing on his patients whereby he would waive his hands just above the body in an attempt to psychically realign invisible energies. Other doctors found no evidence in what he "did" as being effective but in what he "said" as being extremely effective.
The neighboring doctors concluded that what brought about a cure to many illnesses was their trust in the doctor and their belief that they would leave the doctor's office cured of their illnesses. This is the very foundation that psychiatry, psychology and hypnotherapy was built on.
During the process, he gave them suggestions, to FOCUS on one spot, their affected area, and to PICTURE it clearly in their mind of the affected area healing. Together, this brought about many cures.
By his patients focusing on one spot in their body, they became very relaxed, very sleepy. And this sent them into a very deep daydreaming state of mind. Doctor Mesmer's patients named this daydreaming state of mind as in being MESMERIZED, named after the good doctor.
Around 75 years later, in the mid 1800's, another doctor, James Braid, used Doctor Mesmer's "visualization" techniques on himself many times in order to heal himself of various illnesses.
He, too, noticed that as he focused on the area needing healing and nothing else that he would become very relaxed, very sleepy.
Having a knowledge of Greek, he renamed the word Mesmerized to Hypnotized because the word "ypnos" is the Greek word for sleep. And this is where all the problems began because he wasn't really asleep.
Once Doctor Braid realized this, he tried to change the word hypnotized back to mesmerized, but it was too late. The new word had become so familiar to everyone that he abandoned his efforts.
In the following days of superstition, gullibility and naivety, the movie industry created a movie showing a Svengali putting a woman to sleep and supposedly controlling her mind and calling it hypnotized. They connected a new popular word they couldn't properly interpret with a process that doesn't exist and the gullible public ran with it.
And that vision still exists today. Thanks to the movie industry and the thousands of movies that followed, there will always be people who feel the word hypnotism is mind control, against their religion and is used only on the weak minded. The exact opposite of what it really is.
So let's forget the word hypnotized and go back to the word mesmerized. Being mesmerized is being able to focus on one object or thought to the point where you can block out the surrounding things that could easily distract you. When you have done so, your body begins to relax and together, you have entered a focused, hypnotic or mesmerized state of mind. This is the moment when you become a clearer thinker, more creative and even open to new possibilities.
You were "mesmerized" by that person's beauty. He has a very "hypnotic" voice. The kids were so "focused" on the TV show that they didn't even hear me calling to them. Three words that all mean the same thing.
Yoga instructors get you into this state of mind by focusing only on your breathing and poses.
Meditators get into this state of mind by focusing only on one object in the room, on one sound or on one particular thought.
Professional sports players have this state of focus, but they call it being "in the zone." Their coach was the guide that got them to put themselves in that zone. He got them to focus on the job at hand, and most importantly, to not be distracted by the cheerleaders dancing and the crowd screaming and jumping up and down so that they can optimize their talents. Does that make the coach a svengali? Did he control their minds? Is his process against anyone's religion? Are his players weak minded?
And regardless of what the coach tells his players, it's ultimately up to each player to accept what the coach tells them or to ignore him and to also focus on the crowd. If the players accept what the coach is telling them, then they'll do better at the game.
A hypnotist, just like a psychiatrist and a psychologist, guides you into that zone, that state of focus, at which point he then gives you suggestions as to how you should act or feel, but just like the sports players, it is ultimately up to you if you really want to be better.