Many cultures claim to be responsible for the creation of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, so its exact origins are unclear. However, many attribute it to Franz Mesmer who is often credited with the technique of originally putting people into a trance – mesmerising them. The term mesmerise and hypnotise are often used interchangeably which is how Frank Mesmer’s name is so strongly associated with the origins of hypnotherapy.
Frederick (Franz) Mesmer was born in 1734 in Germany and later moved to Austria to work as a physician. He believed the stars and planets had an invisible magnetic energy that affected not just the water on the earth’s seas but also the liquid within humans and animals. He started by placing magnets onto clients and stroking their body to transfer his "animal magnetism" from his body to theirs, channelling the energy by using a wand. He later thought that it was his own ability to transfer his magnetism that cured his clients.
He had many medical successes that he credited to his own hypnotising ability. What many people later believed is that, during the hypnosis, he was giving direct suggestions to the client so they would heal themselves. Mesmer’s healing successes and flamboyant act was popular with his fans, but his strange tactics were naturally unpopular with the scientific professions. In 1778 he was struck off the medical register and left Vienna. He moved to Paris and continued, building a greater following, including Marie Antoinette. King Louis XVI in 1784 ordered an investigation into whether Mesmer had discovered a new bodily fluid and, when this could not be proven, Mesmer was driven out of Paris. He went back to Vienna and lived out his days relatively inconspicuously. He died in 1815 aged 81.
So there you have it. This is how hypnosis, although known by a different name and in a different guise, was possibly discovered.