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. They did, however, find that what he "said" to them during the process as being extremely effective.
During the process, he gave them suggestions; to IMAGINE their affected area healing, to PICTURE it clearly in their mind of the affected area healing.
His voice was very calm, very soothing, and his patients were "captivated" by his voice, so much so that nothing around them could have distracted them. They named this captivation as in being MESMERIZED by the sound of his voice, named after the good doctor.
Around 75 years later, around 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 wasn't captivated by the sound of his own voice which the villagers previously called mesmerized by one's voice. He was captivated, or let's call it "focused" on areas of his body healing.
He noticed that as he focused only on healing himself and nothing else that he would become very relaxed, very sleepy. Feeling relaxed and sleepy is a natural byproduct of narrowing your thoughts or vision to only one thought or object.
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 being captivated by the sound of someone's voice and putting all your concentration on an area of your body healing has absolutely nothing to do with sleep.
Once Doctor Braid realized this, he tried to change the word hypnotized back to mesmerized, but it was too late. The villagers connected the healing process with being asleep. They then believed the opposite must also be true, that one can do the opposite of healing when they're asleep.
In the following days of superstition, gullibility and naivety, the movie industry created movies showing a Svengali putting a woman to sleep and taking over 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, witchcraft, voodoo, 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 a book, a TV show or even the sound of someone's voice, to the point where you can block out the surrounding things that could easily distract you. When you have done so, your body relaxes and together, you have entered a "hypnotic state of mind."
You were "captivated" by that book or by the sound of someone's voice. You were "mesmerized" by that person's beauty. He has a very "hypnotic" voice. See? They all mean the same thing.
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 all pumped up and to focus on the job at hand, and most importantly, to not allow the problems at home to distract them in order for them to 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 guess what? Regardless of what the coach tells his players, it's ultimately up to each player to accept what the coach tells them and to run with it or to ignore him and to also focus on the problems at home. If the players accept what the coach is telling them, then they'll do better at the game.
A hypnotist 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 the client if he or she really wants to heal themself.