The purpose of this blog is purely educational. It does not advise any reader to forgo medical treatment for any condition. It describes methods that have not yet been proven effective through widespread scientific testing. Readers who are concerned about their health are advised to contact their physician.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The mind is a powerful thing

I had a discussion with a patient today that helped me crystalize some of my ideas about the contribution of patients to the success of their treatment. As we were speaking it suddenly came to me that no form of treatment, allopathic or alternative, actually heals anyone. What all forms of treatment do is help create conditions favourable to healing. The final step -- the actual healing -- comes from the patient himself.

We have all heard stories where healing occurred against impossible odds -- and also stories where people who should not have died did. At one end is the almost unbelievable Krebiozen story, described in Michael Talbot's Holographic Universe, in which a man riddled with tumours and expected to die was given an experimental drug called Krebiozen by his physician (see embedded video below). The tumours practically melted away and the man was discharged from the hospital to resume his normal life. Then he read in the paper that Krebiozen was shown to be less effective than expected -- and his tumours returned with a vengeance. The second time his curious physician gave him nothing more than a saline injection, and told him that it was a new, improved form of Krebiozen. Again the tumours melted "like snowballs on a hot stove", but the patient died after reading in the paper that Krebiozen had been definitively discredited.

At the other end of the spectrum are the victims of voodoo curses who die because they believe they have been mortally hexed, or patients whose lives are shortened by negative prognoses. Larry Dossey wrote an entire book on this subject entitled Be Careful What You Pray For: You Just Might Get It. He calls it the "nocebo" effect, which is the opposite of the placebo effect. The doctor, who is seen as a powerful and knowledgeable authority figure, pronounces that the patient has 3 months to live. The patient believes this, and obediently dies in the allotted time. Dossey cites a case where the patient had in fact been misdiagnosed and did not have the condition that was supposed to kill him. He died anyway because his doctor told him he would. The mind is an incredibly powerful thing, far more powerful than we give it credit for, for better or for worse.

The question then is, how can the mind's power for healing be engaged? The general pattern for cancer patients -- in fact, patients in general -- is to go to a practitioner (doctor, naturopath, chiropractor, homeopath, energy healer) and ask to be healed of an ailment. The patient expects that the practitioner will use some outside agency (chemotherapy, radiation, chelation, intravenous vitamin-C, cleansing agent, bioenergy) to cure him. In this scenario the patient is a passive recipient of the treatment, much like one goes to the dentist and opens one's mouth, and then quietly submits to whatever happens next.

What happens next outside the dentist's office, at least in the case of cancer patients who seek alternative therapies, is often nothing much, because most treatments don't have immediate effect. Most alternative treatments work through creating a positive healing environment for the body by removing stressors or harmful agents and/or by building up the immune system. This takes time. In the meantime the patient goes on to the next practitioner, and the next, and the next, in each case expecting something immediate and miraculous to happen, ultimately ending up disappointed, unless somewhere along the way he also manages to engage the incredible ability of his own body/mind to heal himself.

It seems to me that the next step in healing is to help the patient do just that. I will be returning to this topic in further posts as I work out the ideas around it -- stay tuned as this is definitely a work in progress and I am quite aware that I only raised the question and have not yet answered it. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Now available for your perusal: The mind is a powerful thing - Part 2

Postscript: Here is Michael Talbot on Youtube, speaking about the holographic brain model. The discussion on the Krebiozen story comes shortly after the 20-minute mark:


Upswing said...

I certainly don't have the answer, but I have one thought that might be of use to you. After 25 years of doing psychotherapy, it remains a mystery to me why people suddenly start to get better when they do, and why they don't get better for loooooong spells. One thing that I think is central, though, is the analysis of resistance. I try to help my clients understand why they might not want to feel better -- their self-punitiveness, their loyalty to important others, their fear of their True Selves. Also, it's not about excising the resistance. It's about empathizing with it and embracing it.

So, the analogy for you in your energy healing work might be to always include some intention to help your clients embrace, understand, value, honor, and otherwise make friends with why they DON'T want to heal.

On the other hand, as I said to you before, the other possible reason I haven't healed sooner is that there is a cosmic intelligence behind my illness. So, in addition to keeping on looking at my unconscious part in remaining ill, and my clients' unconscious needs to be unwell, I also consider the possibility that the illness is "meant to be." I know you have already thought about this. Have you considered "asking" the Universe first before you start healing -- am I supposed to help this person heal at this time?

Judith said...

There is a lot of wisdom in what you say, Upswing. I haven't been asking the Universe whether I am meant to help a person heal, but perhaps I should! I have been assuming that if someone comes my way I am supposed to help them -- but it turns out that the way that help comes is not always what I expect. Including an intention to help clients embrace, understand, value, and honour why they might not want to heal would be a valuable addition to what I do. Thank you for the suggestion!