Can the mind heal the body?
[Special note: I wrote this article because one of my friends was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the worst types of cancer, with a very low survival rate. I wanted to provide some inspiration, to him, but maybe also to myself. I am sad to report that my friend did pass away later on, leaving behind his wife and two young children. Riad: you are greatly missed. ]
The power of the human mind is amazing. It is said that we only use 15% of our brains, and every once in a while we see evidence of what the human mind can do that is absolutely mystifying, such as to cause physical changes within the body. In this article I want to ask: Can the mind heal the body?
A good friend of mine, who I greatly respect, once told me of such an incident to which he was an eyewitness. My friend was an American fighter pilot during World War II. One night, shortly after that war, he and some friends went to watch a hypnotist perform at the local officers club. After the show, the group invited the man over to join them for some drinks and one of the GIs mentioned an article he had read about how hypnosis can manifest physical symptoms, such as heat blisters. The hypnotist wanted to try this, so he proceeded to hypnotize a member of the group. He took out a pencil with an eraser, told the man the rubber-tip was red-hot, and then ever so lightly touched the man’s forearm with the tip. To the amazement of everybody, a heat-blister began to form on the skin!
I find this absolutely astonishing. Sure, maybe the mind can be tricked to believe that something extraordinary hot touches the skin, but physical manifestation? Come on! Yet the blister did appear. It seems the mind believed the burning was real and somehow “willed” the blister to form.
If anybody but this gentleman had told me this, I would have had great doubts, maybe just like you are having now. But I knew him well and he was not the type to make up a story like this. Scientific studies also seem to confirm this phenomenon; here is an older scientific report from 1963
So if this is possible, what else is? Today, counselors use hypnosis to overcome mental blocks of a person. But this here goes far beyond healing mental processes. If the mind really can manifest a blister, then could it be possible for the (subconscious) mind to also heal the body? Maybe even cure diseases like cancer?
We all know how some mental processes can have negative effects on the body, such as how stress can lead to heart attacks. So why should it not be possible for the mind to induce positive change in the body as well? An example of this are reports (albeit controversial) of ill people who visit some revered religious place, like Lourdes in France, and come away healed.
It all seems rather mysterious, and I don’t propose to have the answers. Instead, I simply want to point out a similarity in all the cases described above, which I find insightful: May it be through hypnosis or great faith, all these people truly believed in what they experienced. Maybe that is one of the keys: To believe. To believe completely, without any doubt. And at that point, things may start to happen.
So the trick may be to believe completely. But how can we do this? Maybe we can learn something else from hypnosis. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness; in fact, the term “hypnosis” means literally “to induce sleep.” When you are sleeping, in your dreams, the fabric of reality is bendable; whatever seems so rigid and unbendable in your waking moments becomes fluent and malleable in your dreams and the impossible becomes possible. So when you are in this kind of hypnotic trance, your normal mental patterns become softened and you become open to suggestions, to the point where you start to believe completely.
You can do this yourselves by learning to calm the mind, for example using meditation techniques, and then concentrating on relevant positive affirmations. In fact, numerous scientific studies have shown great medical benefits of mediation in itself (lower blood pressure, less stress, etc.). So there already is a known link already between these altered states of conscious and positive health, and it will be interesting to see how far this can be taken.
So what do you think? Can the mind help heal the body?
Copyright © 2011 Hanns-Oskar Porr