A Description of Hypno-ImageryŽ and an Overview of Mind-Body HealthJanolyn Moore, director Golden Energy, Inc.
. Welcome to the hypno-imagery site for health and wellness--and, congratulations on taking a positive step to improve the quality of your life. I designed hypno-imagery to incorporate powerful hypnotic inductions with rich visual images that stimulate mind-body health - and then weave them with the spiritual component needed for successful holistic healing.
This format is based on the theory that it takes 21 days to initiate change in the human psych and in the cellular memory banks of the body. If you want to change your lifestyle, or eliminate a bad habit, and you consistently behave, think, or react in a positive new way for a period of three weeks, you will be on your way to creating a new life-path of health and well-being.
I believe that having a clear understanding of the process you've chosen and knowing why it works, enhances its effects. So, in the next few minutes I'll give you a brief history of mind-body medicine, we'll look at the connection between physiology and psychology, and find out how the limbic system of the brain, and in particular, an organ called the amygdala influences our health and well-being. I'll give you an overview of the brain's role in sustaining a healthy immune response and we'll examine the importance of the placebo effect, or remembered wellness in maximizing the body's innate ability to heal itself.
Let's begin with our history lesson. Holistic healing, or considering the mind and body to be one unit is an idea that is centuries old. During the second century, Galen, a famous Greek physician, suggested that melancholy women were more prone to breast cancer than women who maintained a cheerful attitude. Over 500 years ago, Chinese physicians made note that physical illness often followed episodes of personal frustration. Egyptian physicians of the same period prescribed good cheer and optimistic attitudes as ways to avoid ill health. The great philosopher and scholar Hippocrates cautioned physicians that in curing a patient, they needed knowledge of the whole of things - of mind, as well as body. Paracelsus, who often shares the title of "father of medicine" with Hippocrates, referred to one's spirit as being the master, imagination as the healing tool, and the body, as the plastic, moldable material.
Until the time of the famous French philosopher Rene Descartes, in the latter 1600s, medicine was always practiced holistically - body, mind, emotion, and spirit were always considered as one. Rene Descartes was a troubled man who was pulled by both the strict teachings of the Catholic Church and burgeoning new ideas of science and philosophy. He posed the question, "What am I sure I know? " His answer was, "I think, therefore, I am. " Because of this answer, he linked mind to soul and determined that its study belonged to the church. Of the physical body and the rest of the material world, he said, "I extend, therefore, I am. " As a result of that answer, he gave the healing of the body to physicians and medicine. Descartes new theory literally described two separate substances in the world: matter, which behaved according to the physical laws, and spirit, which was dimensionless and immaterial. The idea of a fundamental, unbridgeable chasm between body and spirit - a Cartesian split, dominated medical and religious philosophy until the latter part of the 20th century.
The Cartesian split was the beginning of what we call reductionism. Reductionists objectively measure the physical being. And, their way of thinking produced many worthwhile and successful medical theories - germ theory, cell theory, atomic theory, and gene theory, to name only a few.
However, reductionism doesn't tell us the whole story. As an example, if we look at the simple wart, reductionism gives us a lot of useful information. It tells us that the wart is a virus; it tells us about its protein sheath. It tells us about the different varieties of warts and how they manifest on the skin. However--reductionism doesn't tell us why the wart becomes infected - or why one of the most successful ways of treating this condition is the mind/body technique of hypnosis.
Reductionism and the belief that pathogens and nothing else are the cause of disease remained the gold standard of medicine until the beginning of the 20th century. In the early 1900s, anatomists made their first discovery of rich networks of nerve fibers laced throughout the tissues of the immune system. In a variety of animal experiments, researchers found that by stimulating different parts of the brain, they could increase an animal's resistance to disease. Conversely, they found that in damaging or destroying a part of the animal's brain, they could compromise its immune system, thus making the animal more susceptible to infection and illness.
In this same time period, an American psychologist, Walter Cannon, conducted a series of experiments that provided physical proof that glands in the body respond to stress. His experiments demonstrated the relationship between the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal glands, and stress. And, a few decades later, Hans Selye, an Austrian physician, conducted sophisticated experiments that confirmed what we now know as the fight or flight response to stress.
These discoveries led researchers to begin an in-depth study of the human immune system. The human immune defense system proved to be so complex that they soon became overwhelmed with the prospective task of unraveling its many parts and functions. Because of this research, we now know that NO system in the human body, including the complex immune system, works independently of other body systems. All of the body's systems interact with one another and the brain is the mastermind that coordinates all of these many functions.
In the mid 1960's, Dr. Robert Ader, coined the word psychoneuroimmunology, or as it is commonly known, PNI. Basically, PNI examines how the mind affects health and healing and how our immune system is either enhanced or repressed by changes in our emotions, attitudes and beliefs.
In the 1980s, immunologists started looking at hard evidence of what seemed to be growing to overwhelming proportions, that there were anatomical links between the brain, the nervous system, and the immune system. They concluded that the brain literally "talks" to the cells of the body's immune system. In essence, it tells the immune system about the person's emotions. Current studies show that our emotions work to either enhance or cripple our immune defense response.
Now, let's explore the relationship between physiology and psychology. The brain masterminds nerve impulses that send information to various parts of the body. It controls voluntary processes such as direction, strength, and coordination of muscle movements. It also controls the processes involved with the five physical senses of taste, touch smell, sight, hearing, and other bodily processes over which we have conscious control. It also controls many automatic vital functions such as breathing, the rate of the heartbeat, digestion, bowels and bladder, blood pressure, and the release of hormones.
The brain is the cognitive center of the body. This is where ideas are generated, memory stored, and emotions are experienced. Emotions that affect the body originate in the brain and for that reason; the brain has a powerful influence over the body and serves as a link to the emotions and the immune system.
For years, scientists believed memories existed in the brain as fixed traces that were carefully filed and stored. Today, medical experts and researchers challenge that assumption.
New theories believe that whatever connections between the nerve cells we started with are continually being reshaped by our experiences and only the best connections, those that help us survive in our particular environment, are strengthened. Because experiences and their contents differ for each individual, so do the strengthened connections.
This philosophy is a radical departure from the past. Instead of having fixed memories, scientists now believe we invent what we remember - we recategorize what we learn, depending on the situation. We constantly reshape what enters our brain and we continually give it new meaning. Memory is truly inexact and fragmentary. This theory explains how the brain interacts so readily with the emotions it produces and how the effect of this interaction works on the body. Human intelligence does not just learn more - but it encompasses reworking, recategorizing, and generalizing that information in new and surprising ways.
The body manufactures natural morphine-like substances called endorphins. Endorphins work as natural pain-killers and sometimes their analgesic effects are more powerful than narcotic drugs themselves! Endorphins produce a sense of calm and well-being. A perfect example of endorphins in action is what is felt and described in a "runner's high". Endorphins play a role in crying, laughing, thrills from music the effects of acupuncture, placebos, stress, depression, chili peppers, compulsive gambling, aerobics, trauma, masochism, massage, labor and delivery, appetite, immunity, near-death experiences, and even playing with your pets. Almost all human activity involves the use of endorphins.
However, there is a down side to endorphin involvement. In moderate amounts, endorphins produce calm, kill pain, and give us the thrill of anticipation. But, when the brain releases too many endorphins, the effect can be devastating to the immune system.
Endorphins, released in response to pain or stress, bind themselves to the natural killer cells in the body. Natural killer cells are those that search out and destroy cells that produce tumors. When endorphins bind to these killer cells, they become less effective in their role as the surveillance system of the body. When daily and incidental stress is kept to a minimum, endorphins remain in their balanced state and continue to enhance rather than inhibit the body's immune response.
The discovery of endorphins opened the door to the discovery of neuropeptides. Neuropeptides are information molecules that enable the cells and structures in the body to communicate with and direct activity in other cells and structures throughout the body. Every emotional state, be it one of happiness, sadness, anger, exhilaration, frustration, or depression involves the release of a unique mixture of neuropeptides and other bio-chemicals.
As scientists uncovered more neuropeptides, they made a discovery about their universality. The same neuropeptides found in the brain are also found in the cells of the immune system and in nearly every cell of the body. It appears that the information source of mind is not just located in the brain, as it was previously thought - but rather; mind is located in the whole body.
Now, let's look at the limbic system of the brain and in particular, the amygdala, as this is the area we will be programming with hypno-imagery. Communicating with the amygdala is a potent way of speaking the language of mind-body communication, and for facilitating deep emotional healing and experiential change. The limbic system is located in the center of the brain. Emotions produced by the limbic system are a mixture of feelings and physical responses. Every time the brain manufactures an emotion in the limbic system, the physical body offers a response to accompany the emotion.
The limbic system is usually referred to as the emotional brain and much of what is said about it refers to the functioning of a tiny organ called the amygdala. The amygdala plays a central role in the experience of and in the production of emotional states. The amygdala is the heart and soul of the emotional network of the brain.
The limbic system is primitive. It cannot read or write, but it does provide us with the feeling of what is real, true, and important. The amygdala and the limbic system, connect our internal representations with our emotional and physiological responses.
The central goal of mind-body communication is the creation of experiences, which heal by eliciting new emotions, understandings, perspectives, and responses. To do this, we need to influence the emotional component of the brain.
The amygdala cannot tell whether it is receiving input from an outside or inside source - or a combination of both. This is why watching a movie, or thinking about a joyful or painful experience can elicit as strong an emotional reaction as experiencing the real thing. Emotion, physiology, and cognitive expression are influenced by imagined real events. We can change the communication from the amygdala and in doing so, we can positively impact our attitudes, interpretations, self-talk, and beliefs. By changing our representations, we can influence the emotional, physiological, and cognitive levels of experience.
When we use interventions that are sensory or perceptually based, such as hypno-imagery we speak directly to the amygdala, which then processes the intervention to create a positive emotional experience.
In addition, negative thoughts and emotions that flood the amygdala and limbic system can and do alter a healthy immune response. The good news is that we can rid ourselves of negativity and consciously enhance our immune response by creating positive thoughts and pictures that become our new beliefs. What we think and believe can be changed from negative to positive with mind-body programs such as hypno-imagery.
Now let's look at a simple version of how the brain affects the immune system. Current studies show that a real connection exists between the central nervous system and the immune system. This connection allows the mind to influence either susceptibility or resistance to disease. The thymus gland located in the chest, plays an essential role in the maturing of cells that formulate the immune system, and researchers have discovered extensive networks of vital nerve endings that are laced throughout this organ. Rich supplies of nerve endings also serve the spleen, the bone marrow, and the lymph nodes - giving further evidence of a link between the brain and all that comprises the immune system.
The cells of the immune system are called lymphocytes and they are equipped with receptors that respond to chemical signals from the central nervous system. Because of these receptors, both physical and psychological stress can alter or compromise the immune system. Stress causes the release of several powerful neurohormones from the brain, that bind themselves to the receptors found in the lymphocytes. This mutative effect on the lymphocytes affects the healthy immune function of the body. These neurohormones are released by the hypothalamus, a small section of the brain that is a virtual drug factory. Chemicals released by the hypothalamus are sometimes necessary and needed by our bodies; however, an overdose of these chemicals can produce profound negative effects on our immunity. By minimizing both real and imagined stress, these damaging chemicals stay in the hypothalamus and the body's immune response remains strong and healthy.
Here is a startling fact: 60-90% of all visits to physicians are prompted by conditions that are related to stress or other mind-body interactions. Another recent study found that over 70% of all physical symptoms reported were related to psychosocial factors. While these conditions and factors are poorly treated by drugs and surgery, they are very responsive to psychotherapeutic interventions and interventions that we call the placebo effect, or remembered wellness.
Throughout history, medicine relied on non-specific factors that evoked a placebo effect that in turn, activated the innate healing capability of the body. Since all treatments before 150 years ago are known to be without scientific validity, the history of medicine could itself be considered the history of the placebo effect. The placebo effect is one of the clearest examples of the PNI connection in action. Unfortunately, the placebo effect was previously seen as an annoying interference, which needed to be designed out of a clinical trial, rather than the powerful therapeutic ally it really is.
To offer a better, more positive description of this power, Dr. Herbert Benson reconceptualized the term placebo effect to one of remembered wellness. This term was chosen because the functioning of the placebo effect is dependent on certain nervous system events that result in a feeling of well-being. Remember, the limbic area of the brain, and in particular, the amygdala is activated by the feeling and emotion of an event, whether or not that event is real or imagined. If you are physically well when placed in a certain environment, then it is possible that by visualizing that particular environment, you can perpetuate the feeling of wellness in your body. Simply stated, the brain sends signals to the body that can re-create health and well-being.
Remembered wellness has always been a potent therapeutic asset. It has withstood the test of time and continues to be safe and inexpensive. It can easily be incorporated into standard psychological interventions and medical treatments to act synergistically with them.
When a person engages in a repetitive language such as that found in prayer, focused meditation, or a single word, sound, or phrase, and when intrusive thoughts are passively disregarded, a specific set of physiological changes ensue. The metabolism, heart rate, and rate of breathing begin to decrease - as well as a distinct slowing of the brain waves. These changes are the opposite of those induced by stress. These physiological changes are called the relaxation response. The relaxation response serves as effective therapy for a number of diseases including hypertension, cardiac rhythm irregularities, many forms or chronic pain, insomnia, infertility, the symptoms of cancer and AIDS, premenstrual syndrome, anxiety, and mild to moderate depression.
Hypno-imagery offers an easy way to evoke remembered wellness in the listener. First, it creates a relaxation response within the mind-body that begins to activate the body's own innate healing capability. Second, it activates and re-programs the amygdala and limbic area of the brain with a flood of positive feelings and emotions. These positive emotions are sent to the body, once again strengthening the immune response and initiating the subtle shift towards health and well-being. Third, the positive repetitive language goes deep within to change habits and beliefs in the cellular memory banks of the mind and the body. And, fourth hypno-imagery utilizes the energetic, universal spiritual power of potential that begins to reshape your personal energy field. As your behavior and beliefs shift or change, you actually begin to attract to you the positive experiences you feel and believe.