by Tim Brunson, PhD
What are illness and disease? When a component is entraining to changes in one pattern, it becomes out of harmony with the components of the other patterns with which it normally interacts. A dis-ease is caused within these patterns. This is like the merchants not seeing their regular customer on a Saturday morning, or the office staff having to compensate for the absence of a valuable employee. If you think about it, this is what is happening in any situation in which a person has been diagnosed with an illness or disease. A component of a system has performed a reactive adaptation to one pattern with which it is integrated. Again, what you must understand is that every component plays a critical role in numerous patterns. Once it adapts to changes in one pattern, it will be disharmonious with its other patterns. This is the nature of any illness.
Let's think about this in terms of specific illnesses. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a reactive, adaptive response a joint's perception that the required gap is a threat. In this case, a mind/body reaction to a mis-perceived threat, which is within one dimensional pattern, is being reacted to improperly. Consider cancerous tumors, when the body inappropriately creates adaptive cellular growth in a way that threatens the physical health of other patterns. I could go on. (By the way, if you are an economist, you may see in this theory an analogy for the health of our financial and business systems.)
If illness and disease involve a logical adaptation to one pattern that in turn threatens others, then how is healing achieved? Obviously, our adaptive nature should eventually continue adjusting so that a higher-level – or more pervasive level – of harmony occurs. But, this does not always happen. The adaptive system either becomes overtaxed and never quite figures out the an appropriate solution, or the process is insufficient before the disharmony eventually causes an unacceptable level of failure. This is when treatment by oneself or a healer is required. This is often called an "intervention."
An intervention is an antithetical input that takes advantage of the natural tendency to adapt. Specifically, it shapes the direction of the adaptation toward a desired transformational change. (Or at least we hope that it does.) As interventions are monitored, the operator has the opportunity modify the interventions encoding according the pace and direction of the progress.
Interventions for somatic healing include surgery and other physical manipulations, pharmacology, and psychotherapy. Before any integrative health care practitioner has the opportunity to object to that statement, let me also assure you that I fully realize your roles and importance. So, let me rephrase this by saying that interventions are of three types. These are physical interventions, chemical interventions, and mental interventions. However, even that is an over-simplification. Nevertheless, I want to cease this exercise in taxonomy. I wish to promote the idea that mental interventions will indeed create physical changes. So, at this point I'm sure that you are curious just how this happens.
It is very well established that there are psychosomatic illnesses. The body does and will respond to our thought processes. Let me say this another way. Our physiological patterns will respond to our thoughts. When sufficiently potent – or, as I prefer to say, antithetical – suggestions and imagination will have dramatic effects on our bodies.
Medical authorities without question agree that there are certain illnesses that are directly caused by our thoughts. This includes stomach ulcers, skin disorders, and even fibromyalgia syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. A casual reading of the major medical journals will allow you to find numerous references to unexplained illnesses. Too often the best explanation of many erudite medical authorities who write in the most prestigious medical journals is that these can only be described as "all in their mind." When I read or hear this I chuckle. I have yet to find any medical authority who is able to show me any physiological phenomena that does not have a neurological correlate. As such, any healing intervention must take into consideration the role of the mind and neurology. Not to do so is a grave mistake. (By the way, that was not a pun.)
Human beings are blessed with an organ which is uniquely suited to self-healing. It is called the frontal lobes. This comprises of about 40% of the human brain. It is the last part of the brain to mature, doing so at about age 25. As a part of the neo-cortex it serves a very important role in the assignment of meaning. This means that it codifies (or encodes) all experiences and perceptions. These interpretations and other thoughts are then reacted to by the limbic system, which is the ancient and almost entirely reactive neurological structure that serves as the liaison between the brain and the body. However, there is a much more important function that that the frontal lobes play. This becomes obvious when one begins to understand the roles played by the area called the prefrontal cortex, and more specifically the right orbitofrontal cortex.
The left and right prefrontal cortices provide two very valuable services. The left maintains stability. It helps interpret experience and tends to promote resistance to inappropriate disruptions. Nevertheless, the side affect of this guardian of normalcy is that it leads us to resist change. This even includes resistance to changes or interventions that tend to be in our best interests.
The right prefrontal cortex, and specifically one of its components called the right orbitofrontal cortex, plays somewhat of a competitive role when contrasted to its neighbor on the left. This substrate performs a very important role in the assignment of meaning and inhibition. Indeed, the loss of restraint resulting from damage to this area may contribute to substance abuse, promiscuity, and other behavioral problems.
Along with these vital functions, the right orbitofrontal cortex does something else. It allows you to imagine. Yes, this part of the brain is the key to imagination and suggestion. When a person participates in these activities, the thalamus, which is the limbic structure that serves as the switchboard for our perceptions, reacts just the same as it does to physical perceptions. In turn, the thalamus communicates with other neocortical structures and its limbic neighbors. The former have a lot to do with our physiological organization and the latter with our physiological functioning.
Remember that I said that when components change they become a catalyst for entraining transformation throughout all associated patterns. This is especially true of the ability of suggestion and imagination to perform as an intervention. Any suggestion or thought, provided that it is sufficiently antithetical, will trigger an adaptation. Just like inappropriate surgery or medications, when recklessly used the results may be undesired. However, when skillfully applied they can be as powerful as any of the other typical interventions. Unfortunately, unlike other interventional methodologies, their use is much misunderstood by those how dare to use the titles health care professionals or healers.
For a person's neuro-physiological patterns to be effectively transformed in a way that healing can take place, the aggregate resistance represented by the left prefrontal cortex must be sufficiently bypassed so that antithetical suggestion and imagery will stimulate a desired transformative adaption. As mentioned in the Neurology of Suggestion course, this process of using increasingly efficient suggestion and imagery is called hypnosis.
This article focuses on the area of somatic transformation. This is the topic of one of the The International Hypnosis Research Institute's courses entitled Healing the Body. In the other courses, I discuss the intricacies of performance enhancement and healing the mind. All three of these courses are based upon the concepts discussed above and the solid Advanced Neuro-Noetic HypnosisTM principles first introduced in The Neurology of Suggestion.
The International Hypnosis Research Institute is a member supported project involving integrative health care specialists from around the world. We provide information and educational resources to clinicians. Dr. Brunson is the author of over 150 self-help and clinical CD's and MP3's.