When I started practice years ago, referencing the body-mind-spirit connection was not a prominent part of popular medical conversation. Symptoms of illness were correlated to specific sources of pain and diagnosed accordingly. “Wellness” typically was defined as the absence of disease and left out recognition of the links between physical, mental, and social well-being.
Today, Wellness is part of the vernacular and the power of the body to heal itself is a recognized phenomenon validated by many studies.
Last month I wrote about the ability of placebos to heal illness based on the patient’s expectation that the pill will work. Conversely, if the patient does not expect the faux medication to work, or anticipates side effects, the placebo can produce negative outcomes, i.e., a nocebo.
In short, if you believe it to be possible, it is possible that the body’s own chemistry can cause effects similar to a prescribed medication.
I believe the mind’s belief system can heal emotional pain as well.
Brain mapping studies reveal that emotional pain is ‘neurochemically real’ as observed through activity in the prefrontal cortex. When interventions promising relief of the pain are introduced, the results show how the positive expectations influence systems in this midbrain area to generate neurochemical opioid or dopamine responses. Simply stated, suggestions that prompt belief that you will feel better will probably help you feel better!
It’s a process that takes place in my office. The subconscious mind regards the words and thoughts that get expressed as descriptions of real situations. Talk therapy, hypnotherapy, EMDR are all designed to isolate and examine these thoughts and their effect on the subconscious mind and the life of the client thinking them. The client can use the process to convert negative influences into positive energy. They literally can help themselves to feel better; moods can be elevated; wounded feelings made whole; confidence restored.
But here’s the rub: you must believe. It’s not as if I write the prescription on a pad. I can tell clients “you are not to blame for family dysfunction… you are a strong, powerful woman of talent and integrity… you do not deserve to be abused” but they are words echoing in the air. I can support the premise, provide love and caring, offer suggestions, but what I am saying must be experienced; absorbed into the belief system; the words must be believed and become real.
It’s a process that takes place in your bedroom, as well. Often, I give my clients affirmations to remind them of the positive qualities that describe them. Said with attention, intention and with feeling, the thoughts, phrases and words that are repeated sink into the subconscious mind and begin creating new situations and circumstances… manifesting the words and phrases into new behavior.
When you look into the mirror and offer up your affirmation it must be more than a morale building assertion, as in simply presenting evidence to validate your claim. It carries weight when it is a pronouncement of fact; a ‘no ifs, no buts’ declaration of “it is so!”
You must experience it to be true, believe it without reservation. It’s not the placebo/affirmation itself, it’s the meaning placed in the pill/declaration, and the context and information that surrounds it. Be it placebos or affirmations, the effect is more than positive thinking, it’s about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together.
My belief in the mind, body and soul connection is why, all those many years ago, I named my practice Wellness Source, a place where miraculous changes can take place. It is that place within you, where the true source of wellness waits to be tapped; where everything we need for joy and meaning is within our domain.
With Love and Light,
Arlene Englander, LCSW