Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Healing From the Inside Out

In modern medicine we see illness as something that occurs to us from the outside in. Germs or bacteria infect us, an accident from outside of ourselves occurs and we're injured. Doctors admit that there may be internal tendencies due to "heredity" or "stress" that influence us but, again, notice the emphasis on it being separate from our own thoughts and habitual reactions. It is extremely rare for a western medical doctor to suggest that we might create the conditions in which we are much more likely to get sick or get hurt and even more rare for them to assume that we might have any ability to shift our mental state in such a way that healing might initiate spontaneously.

But this was not the case in earlier cultures. Hippocrates (ca. 460 BC – ca. 370 BC), often referred to as the father of Western medicine, believed that there were four typical psychological states that needed to be kept in balance for health and that it was an imbalance in those "humours" that led to disease. That approach to looking at health was later discarded by germ theory, etc. but it should be noted that eastern physicians held on to it and took it much much further.  In fact, Ayervedic (Indian) and Chinese medicine depend on an extremely well-mapped understanding of the mind/body/spirit interrelationship and the fields of homeopathy and flower essence therapy do as well.

In our work as spiritual counselors and alternative healers Paul and I frequently meet people who take great offense at the idea that everybody in every situation should be held responsible for their own physical condition. "You can't afford a single negative thought" is the irresponsible New Age siren call and we forgive people who mistake our belief in the ability to heal from the inside out as the same thing. We certainly do not believe that we or anyone else can heal themselves in all cases. In fact, we send people to their doctors for further tests and treatments all the time! Even, John of God, probably one of the most famous and celebrated healers in the world does the same. People die. People do get hurt through no fault of their own, children are born with birth defects. They even can be infected by a disease in the womb or through toxic physical conditions in their immediate environment.

But that said, we know we have healed ourselves and have participated in the healing of numerous other people simply through the technique of changing a single, persistent and firmly believed thought.

How can that be true? A lot of amazing information has been coming out of the field of psychoneuroimmunology, the science of how psychological states and the resulting brain chemistry affects the functioning of the immune system and, consequently, multiple other physiological functions. The very most simple way to explain this is that the brain produces a cascade of chemical interactions for every thought. Specific types of thoughts trigger emotional reactions and those emotional states trigger neurochemical reactions that affect every function of the human body. Over time, if the state is repeated often enough—and especially if it becomes somewhat chronic—genetic switches shift from "on" to "off", immune responses become heightened or dampened, and significant changes can occur in a person's physical functioning.

Dr. Edward Bach, the modern inventor of flower essence therapy, was first a highly respected immunologist. He was the first modern Western doctor to not only suspect that a person's emotional state had a significant impact on their ability to heal, he identified specific overgrowths of bacteria that seemed linked to specific emotional states. He first created vaccines for these bacteria and later, after switching to the field of homeopathy, created homeopathic remedies using the same research. The Bach flower remedies came later still when he left his highly successful medical practice to pursue his interest in creating safe herbal remedies to work specifically with mental and emotional states. He was so convinced by that point that emotional well-being was a significant factor in physical well-being that he devoted the rest of his life to that research. And, until he made the mistake of promoting his work as a safe home remedy with no physician-assistance needed, his discoveries were hailed by the conventional medical community of his time (the Great Depression) as a breakthrough and amazing achievement.

The key to success, however, with both spiritual healing and to using the Bach flower remedies effectively, is to correctly identify the underlying difficulty or set of difficulties. Sure, it's possible for a healer to wave their magic fingers and presto, chango, appear simply to take a person's pain away without the client having any conscious involvement at all. The placebo affect is AMAZING, especially in conjunction with a firm belief in God. John of God absolutely depends on this and is first to explain that faith is the key to his work. It is possible for a highly adept healer to override a client's lack of faith temporarily at least. But what happens when a client doesn't have the context for this level of faith? They struggle with it, they negate it, frequently they undo it. After all, we live in a very secular society, and the more educated a person is the less likely they are to believe in miracles. You can't mess with consensual reality very well—it doesn't "make sense!"

That's why I talk about psychoneuroimmunology. The science is the proof and that does make sense. Paul and I focus almost exclusively on helping people identify the underlying issues to their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being when healing does have to happen from the inside out. Even when outside-in measures are essential to the process (getting a new job, finding a great surgeon, etc.) a series of sessions with us (and sometimes only one) can help a person achieve a greater ability to complete that healing and take it forward.

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