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The Story Behind The Word “Mesmerize”

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“In the late 18th century, a doctor showed up in Paris practicing some very peculiar medicine. He would escort patients into dimly lit rooms, wave his arms over their bodies, and touch them with a magnetic wand. Patients would react to these treatments violently: crying, sweating, convulsing or shrieking. But then they would emerge healed. According to the doctor anyway.

“Many believed he was a fraud, but despite his dubious methods, this doctor inadvertently gave us a new approach to healingβ€”and a new word: mesmerize. Because the doctor’s name was Franz Anton Mesmer.”

Mesmer mezmerizes in late 1700s Paris
Learn about the power of suggestion, the placebo effect, the precursor to modern hypnotism and talk therapy, and the illusory fad that captivated the Parisian well-to-do in the midst of the French Enlightenment: Mesmerism.

From Science Friday’s Science Diction series, this is The Story Behind The Word “Mesmerize.”

Mesmerized crowds
Following Mesmer’s imagination-fueled influence, hypnotism emerged in France, marked by a shift from claiming magnetic powers to emphasizing the inherent power of the patient’s mind. Sigmund Freud also transformed Mesmer’s methods into talk therapy, now widely recognized for its benefits.

talk therapy
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