A direct connection exists between a person’s mental attitude and their ability to heal. Some say that mental attitude affects a person’s ability to do almost anything.
My introduction to this kind of thought came as a girl in the 1960s when my father gave me a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. Dr. Maxwell Maltz maintained that with regular practice a person could improve self image in such a way that s/he would develop a more successful and fulfilling life. It all hinges, he said, on the creative imagination.
Use your imagination to create an image that represents your goal, he said. The more you focus on it, the more your mind will accept it, and the more your automatic systems will fall into place to support it. Since the subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined, the pictures we make in our minds create our future, he said. This made sense to me.
For instance, picture yourself in a successful job interview and imagine everything about it. Practice this for several days or more, and you will almost certainly feel an increase in confidence and positive expectation for the actual interview. This increases your chance of success. On the other hand, if you nurture your fears about the interview by imagining all the things that could go wrong, then things are more likely to go wrong.
The power of imagination in healing has been acknowledged for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Indian science of Ayurveda, and other traditional cultures. Not so in western medical science. But during the alternative years of the ’60s and ’70s it’s no surprise that some western doctors began using mind-body healing with their patients. They observed remarkable results.
Dr. Bernie Siegel is a pioneer of mind-body healing in the west. He believes that healing power originates in the human mind and will. He believes that love heals. He believes in miracles.
In 1978, Bernie (as he prefers to be known) originated a form of holistic support called Exceptional Cancer Patients (ECaP) in which patients worked with drawings, dreams, images and feelings as a part of their healing process. The mainstream medical community was more than skeptical. Yet his 1986 book Love, Medicine, and Miracles inspired an eager audience and continues to inspire new generations, as do his subsequent books.
Science Catches Up
Science has gone to work catching up. The new field of Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) has made healthy waves in mainstream medicine by putting mind-body healing to the test. In studying the interaction of mind and spirit with immune function, it has found that depressed or hopeless states of mind depress the immune system. Positive emotions and a sense of hope and encouragement activate the immune system. Science can now tell us that mind and body are not separate but are one system, linked and coordinated by actual molecules of emotion.
What To Do With It
There are many ways to work with this knowledge. Creative self-expression enlivens the spirit and creates positive feelings. Meditation and relaxation techniques are calming and feed the spirit. Examining emotions and coming to terms with difficult feelings releases tension and we feel happier. Following our passion creates positive emotions beyond measure. Mental imagery creates hope and faith in the healing ability of the body, and provides a healthy image for our cells.
In the end it seems that healing imagery is not so different from my early lessons of the 1960s; you just shift the angle of your mind from outside to inside results. At first this seemed like magic to me. Now, thanks to PNI, it’s mind-body magic with the support of western medicine.