If there’s one thing hypnotherapy has taught me over many years of study and daily practice, it’s that we humans are open to suggestion to a very large degree. To some this may seem like a trivial observation, even a cliché. To me it’s an absolute truth, one that I’ve proved to my own satisfaction hundreds of times.
It’s the basis of faith healing on the lighter side of the spectrum, and on the darker side, voodoo or so-called ‘black magic’, where the subject is literally persuaded that he or she is going to die, and very often goes on to do just that, sometimes frighteningly quickly. It’s powerful, universal and quite extraordinary.
But it’s not magic.
At least not in the sense of a mysterious, external force acting on the person, for good or evil. What’s really going on is happening 100% in the mind, the result of the individual’s susceptibility to a thought that’s been firmly planted, then nurtured, usually by someone that they trust, (or in some cases fear. It’s sad to think that we humans are generally better at convincing ourselves we are ill than we are at knowing ourselves to be fit and well).
If you accept, as I do, that the mind and body are deeply interconnected, so much so that there’s really nothing to divide them, then it’s easy to see how the mechanism works. Take my own practice of NLP. We use various techniques to help a client’s mind and body to connect. If, as a result, they start to feel a little better, the body sends a signal back to the mind, ‘it’s working’, which then reinforces the original thought, setting in motion a positive feedback loop. I have seen people making the most extraordinary recoveries from all kinds of medical and physical problems in this way.
At the time of writing, a well-known politician has been quoted in the press as saying that due to an old spinal injury he will most likely live with back pain for the rest of his life. A doctor told him so. Given the relatively high status of the patient it would have been a senior doctor who gave this diagnosis, no doubt an expert in his field, with letters after his name and framed qualifications on the wall of his surgery. In other words it would be someone to whom the politician was very willing to surrender his trust.
Here’s my question: Is the doctor’s confident (but negative) prediction more, or less, likely to help the politician’s recovery, put his mind at rest, or lessen his pain in any way?
If it was my back, and if I was to have total faith in such a diagnosis, it could amount to a life sentence, for no other reason than the strength of my own belief.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for those people who dedicate their lives to the study of medicine and the workings of the human body. I would never wish to cast doubt on their hard-won knowledge or indeed their sincerity. But knowing from personal experience how easy it is to bring about a fundamental change in a person simply by using the power of suggestion, bypassing their logical brain to access their body’s unconscious desire to be well, I can’t help feeling that kind of glib diagnosis is irresponsible at best, at worst criminal.
What is the ‘cure’ for back pain? Is there one? I can’t say for sure but in my experience a large component of all physical pain is psychological. If I’m able to help someone using hypnotherapy as a way of realigning their mind and body, easing their pain by altering their mindset, does it mean that they will never suffer pain again, in their back or elsewhere?
Sadly no. We’re living beings and we all suffer aches and pains from time to time. But if our powerful minds are able to condemn us to a life of pain, simply by holding on to a thought that has been implanted, then surely planting the opposite thought can have an equally powerful effect. So I ask you …
Must we live with pain?