To MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANA, a sound mind in a sound body

by Antony J. Edwards

Naturopathy teaches us that the human body is capable of maintaining immunity from disease by the application of certain rules, namely, right diet, right exercise, and right mental attitude. Unfortunately, with the need to feed more people necessitating an increase in food production, our basic foods have become contaminated – hence the growing desire for so-called organic farming. Couple with this a change in lifestyle since World War II that has led to time being perceived as the most important commodity that we possess, and the result is a demand for instant food in the form of pre-prepared and pre-packaged meals and “fast food” takeaways.

I do not indict the industries involved in these preparations, they are responding to market demand, furthermore they take a responsible attitude their products notwithstanding the fact that chemicals are added in order to preserve shelf life, provide colour, or the products have added salt and sugar. None of these additives are illegal; all are approved by the government of the country that produces them.

The problem is that the nutritional value of these foods is significantly reduced and in many cases the food may be described as “dead” inasmuch as it lacks the vital quality that promotes correct nutrition and therefore health in the human body. The human body cannot be healthy without the correct balance of dietary ingredients. The result of a lifetime of ingesting what can only be described as contaminated food is that the human immune system is weakened.

Couple the consequential weakening of the immune system with the time-pressured stressful lives that people lead today it can be seen that a further weakening is taking place, probably accelerated by the initial weakening. The net result of this is a rapid growth of disease by external invasion and by internal imbalance.

The human immune system is a very complex system with a high degree of organisation. However, despite its complexity, the immune system has a very simple mission. It exists to seek out and destroy invading entities such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasitical bodies. A severely defective immune system will lead to death by infection from these organisms. In severe combined immunodeficiency, lack of an enzyme means that toxic wastes build up inside the body and damage the immune system further.

Generally speaking immune system disorders result from either an excessive immune response or an “autoimmune attack”. Diseases such as asthma, Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, colitis can result from the over-reaction of the immune system. These conditions are often viewed as stress responses or can be exacerbated by stress.
Some facets of diabetes mellitus are due to the immune system attacking ‘self’ cells and molecules. It is important to understand that a key role of the immune system is to differentiate between invaders and the body’s own cells. If the immune system fails to make this distinction then there will be a reaction against ‘self’ cells and molecules, the result of this can potentially cause the development of an autoimmune disease.

Significant support to the immune system can be given by correct diet, but, as we have said, there are difficulties in doing this in modern society. We must therefore ask the question “what else can we do to promote our health?” The answer to this question lies in the realm of mind.

A direct connection between mind and body can be readily demonstrated by any competent hypnotherapist on a daily basis. Furthermore the mind/body connection has been sufficiently documented in medical literature. The interaction of mind and body is not a new concept. In ancient Greece physicians recognised and explored the synergetic links between the two. Unfortunately this relationship became ignored to a great degree for most of the late 19th and 20th Century. This was mainly due to the advances made in allopathic medicine and the consequent, almost automatic, dispensing of man-made drugs by the majority of physicians. Medical research has produced many excellent drugs; it has also had its disasters. Overall the results have been beneficial in the process of countering disease. However, at the same time, because of their success, they have robbed the individual of the will and desire to take proper responsibility for their health. The general response of the public to illness is to go and see the doctor and expect to get some pills. They consider that their illness is the doctor’s problem – not theirs. This is not just a social problem, it is a financial problem, and in countries with a well-established health system the financial burden on the tax payer is becoming excessive. Clearly attention needs to be paid to the mind/body connection.

Now it is well known that hypnotherapy has a very great advantage, in fact it has a unique advantage, over all other mind/body techniques. This advantage goes well beyond the ability to elicit emotions and to make internal imagery more powerful during the hypnotic trance. The ability to elicit emotions and to make internal imagery more powerful can be done to a certain extent with other psychotherapeutic techniques. What hypnotherapy has is the ability to make direct suggestions that, because of the hypnotic trance state, are directed to the patient’s subconscious mind. Once a suggestion has been accepted by the subconscious then it must be acted upon.

If a hypnotherapist carefully designs properly worded suggestions to a patient’s subconscious mind, and because of the nature of the trance state, those suggestions are accepted, then it is actually possible to order the body’s immune system to fight and destroy antigens and to commence repairs to already damaged tissue, organs, bones, and nerves. It is this ability that makes hypnotherapy such a valuable naturopathic therapy.

As a point in fact, take the subject of warts. One might say that the removal of warts simply by ordering them to go away is a classic illustration of the power of the mind/body connection suitably harnessed by hypnotherapy. Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus and are a very real and observable phenomenon. By designing a direct suggestion program containing verbal suggestions to the effect that “you are starving the wart of blood”, and coupling this with visual imagery of “a running noose around the wart starving it of sustenance”, it is quite astonishing, even after many successful treatments, to see the wart wither and die and fall off the skin in quite short order.

Ancient medical practices are rich in the use of visual imagery during which the tribal shaman or medicine man helps the patient to psychologically manipulate the diseased organ during a deep trance state. In this case the patient visualizes the affected organ as working properly and efficiently and expelling that which is troubling it. Now it may be that the imagery is that of expelling an evil spirit, however, provided that the patient believes in evil spirits, then there is no reason at all why a cure cannot be affected. It is purely a matter of a congruent belief system.

The key to success is to obtain communication between the mind and the body. This can be done, with the subject in a hypnotic trance, by the use of internal imagery. With imagery we can elicit mental and emotional responses. These responses then generate chemical responses in the body’s limbic system. When this happens the pituitary is activated bringing about physical responses. As these responses are perceived within the body they promote a physiological response. Thus it can be seen that a governing mechanism, or feedback loop has been created. To effect change in the system all that is required is to intervene anywhere within this loop. For the hypnotherapist the easiest entry point is at the level of mental activity, that is to say at the level of perceptions, images, or emotions. The rationale for so doing is that whenever a change occurs in the conscious mind there is an immediate concomitant change at the unconscious level. The human mind, and its mental attitude, has a direct and powerful influence on our physical well-being. To a certain extent we are what we think.

Our attitudes and emotions can, however, go either way. In one direction they become a powerful defence mechanism to shield us against and to heal us from disease. In another direction they can render us untold harm if our attitudes and emotions are negative. Suggestions made to us directly or indirectly or even a suggestion misunderstood can have a serious deleterious effect upon our health.

Well-formed suggestions are beneficial; poorly formed suggestions can be ineffective and a waste of both the therapists and patients time. Operating theatre personnel are (usually) well aware of the effects of negative suggestion made while a patient is undergoing surgery under general anaesthetic. A surgeon making a remark such as “this is going to take a long while to heal” can effect the recuperation period.

The application of hypnotherapy as an aid to our immune system is very effective indeed. By direct suggestion we can influence the subject’s attitude to his or her health. We can, by using mental imagery, encourage the performance of the immune system – directing it to that part of the body needing help. To a certain extent we can, by understanding and using the mind/body connection, mitigate some of the damage done by poor diet. By ensuring a sound diet and also by using the mind/body connection we can all live healthy and fruitful lives.

Author’s details:
Tony Edwards is a Nationally Registered Hypnotherapist.. He holds the GHR’s Senior Qualification in Hypnotherapy Practice (SQHP).

Tony has earned qualifications in Hypnotherapy and in Hypnoanalysis. He has further advanced qualifications in Psychotherapy and Behaviour Modification, in Stress Management and Consultancy, in Transpersonal Psychotherapy and in therapies involving the meridians. He is also the author of internationally recognised training courses and also textbooks in these subjects.

He is a member of several professional bodies concerned with Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy. He keeps up to date with his reading on professional and technical matters as a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health, as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, and as a Fellow of the British Institute of Hypnotherapy. His major research interest is in the naturopathic area of treatments related to mind/body interaction.

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