For the past 200 years, hypnosis has been studied by scientists from around the world. It is believed that hypnosis has been used in one form or another dating back to ancient Egyptian and Greek days, however, the majority of studies have been performed from 1950 to around 1980. Even with proof of benefits, hypnosis continues for some to be a controversial subject. Part of the problem is that for years, hypnosis was the butt of many jokes. For example, it was common to see "hypnotists" on stage, making people walk around clucking and flapping their arms like chickens. With this, hypnosis could not be taken too seriously.
Another aspect of hypnosis controversy is that most people are unaware of the long history and evolution of this technique. Although doctors had been using hypnosis well before the 19th century, it was during this time that a doctor by the name of James Braid developed a special technique. Baird had the ability of putting his patients into an altered state, performing surgery without any anesthesia, and leaving the patient feeling no pain. Over the years, people's views of hypnosis have softened but even today, we see some people thinking it is all a mind game.
One such publication came in 1996 by Auerbach when this statement was made "Although there has been extensive research done on hypnosis, a discrete hypnotic state has not been found to exist". What prompted this claim is that measuring and quantifying the hypnotic phenomena is subjective. Because different people respond differently to hypnotic suggestions, too often this lack of measurement determines in some minds that hypnosis is only imaginary or hopeful.
Another common problem in regards to hypnosis controversy is that people believe when you are hypnotized, you lose control of mind and body. Again, you think of the people being made to perform as chickens or Hollywood movies that show people doing things that they would normally never consider. What we can confirm is that being put into the state of mind of hypnosis in no way makes a person demonstrate anything that would violate his or her ethical, moral, or religious beliefs.
The truth in this case is that some people are more willing to believe and with this, they allow themselves to rest deeper in a hypnotic stage than people who do not believe at all. However, for people who are hypnotized, they are very much aware of their immediate surroundings, as well as past events. While some people still think of hypnosis as being a stage of healing sleep, some kind of magical force whereby miraculous things happen, there is nothing magical or supernatural about hypnosis.
Unfortunately, we have yet another group of people that believe hypnosis is demonic; an evil phenomenon, making them lose control while opening doors to evil spirits. The truth is that hypnosis is nothing more than a restful state of conscious awareness whereby certain behaviors of everyday life manifest in a direct manner. In other words, hypnosis is a state whereby a person reaches better conscious awareness, which then allows the mind to connect to the body better, often leading to the individual making better decisions and feeling better.
Finally, the last controversy associated with hypnosis is that only a certain type of person can be hypnotized. Again, some of this goes back to the person giving into hypnosis, reaching a different level of conscious. The truth is that most everyone can be hypnotized but not everyone will have the same experience. Some people will be in what they call waking hypnosis, which is when the analytical mind is bypassed while other people allow themselves to drift deeper into sleep. Therefore, it is true that some people are difficult to hypnotize but the belief that only a certain type of person can be hypnotized is simply not true.
In most cases, controversy surrounding hypnosis has a lot to do with history. Again, because hypnosis is so subjective, describing it in concrete terms is challenging. It is also important to understand that in the early years, doctors surmised that hypnosis was a cure but we know it not really a cure but more of a tool for reaching goals. Therefore, when used as a means for reaching the subconscious mind to help someone lose weight or stop smoking, hypnosis works.
Look at the air we breathe. We know it is there, yet we cannot see it or touch it. The same is true with gravity. We know it exists because of how it manifests yet no one is really, capable of describing what it is. Hypnosis is the same - we know it has many wonderful benefits but we also know that with its subjective nature, there will always be those that simply do not believe.