Hypnotism is widely known by stage performances in which people are coaxed into embarrassing situations. As it turns out, this type of show has little to do with the actual work of legitimate practitioners: Professional hypnotists have helped people stop smoking, lose weight, manage anxiety and deal with pain, among other accomplishments. First recognized in the late 1700s, hypnosis entails harnessing the power of the mind to impact one’s perception and behavior. 

It Has a Long History 

The word “mesmerize” comes from 18th-century German physician Franz Mesmer. He claimed that special magnetic fluid ran through the body, a concept he dubbed animal magnetism.

Mesmer theorized that a blockage or lack of adequate fluid causes a variety of conditions — and magnets can help by increasing this fluid. Interestingly, he may have had some success: Certain patients allegedly improved and felt better, despite previous diagnoses that indicated they’d be severely ill for the rest of their lives. 

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