Why the Mind-Body Connection Matters When Treating Pain
“The cure of the part should not be attempted without treatment of the whole. No attempt should be made to cure the body without the soul, and therefore, if the head and the body are to be healthy, you must begin by curing the mind. This is the first thing. Let no one persuade you to cure the head until he has first given you his soul to be cured. For this is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians first separate the soul from the body.”
Plato, in his book The Republic, written in 380 B.C.
Isn’t it interesting that up until the 17th Century, (when the Western world started to see the mind and body as two distinct entities), virtually every system of medicine throughout the world treated the mind and body as a whole? Admittedly, the viewpoint that the body was akin to a machine with replaceable, independent parts with no connection to the mind whatsoever is credited with allowing significant advancements in areas of medicine such as surgery, trauma care, pharmaceuticals and other areas of allopathic medicine. But by looking at ourselves as comprising of two distinct parts, the body and the mind, we largely downplayed or forgot for over 300 years that we possess an innate ability to heal ourselves.
You need only consider the placebo effect to see what an incredible effect the mind can have over the body. This was first observed by Doctor Henry Beecher during WWII after witnessing a soldier receive ‘fake morphine.’ Towards the end of the war, morphine was in short supply on the military fields. So when Beecher was about to perform surgery on a badly wounded soldier and realised he was out of morphine, he was afraid that his patient would go into fatal cardiovascular shock without a painkiller to dull his senses. What happened next amazed Beecher. The nurse attending to the patient with him filled a syringe with saline and injected the solution into the soldier just as if she had administered morphine. The soldier calmed down immediately, and the surgeon was able to perform his work, cutting into him and sewing him up – all without anesthesia. The patient did not experience pain and he didn’t go into cardiac shock either. Fascinating, right?
Fortunately, researchers are once again beginning to look at and study in great depth, the mind-body connection and scientifically demonstrate the complex links between the two. In her book ‘Proof That You Can Heal Your Mind,’ Dr. Lissa Rankin M.D. asserts that “There’s proof that you can radically alter your body’s physiology just by changing your mind. There’s also proof that you can make yourself sick when your mind thinks unhealthy thoughts. And it’s not just mental. It’s physiological.’
There are countless mind-blowing examples of how the placebo effect has been used to successfully treat pain. And we’re not just talking about popping a few pills either. There have been numerous well documented studies that show that placebo surgery has also been effective. It really is a fascinating subject with some very compelling evidence.
Whilst Western medicine has largely ignored this phenomenon, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been exploring the mind-body connection for over 3000 years. Over the coming weeks, we’ll begin to explore how you can harness holistic therapies to heal your body from physical pain and emotional suffering such as stress, anxiety and depression.
A healer does not give a patient anything he or she does not already have. A healer simply awakens a part of the patient that has been sleeping. The power to heal is yours already. You can use external sources as ‘permission slips,’ but they are simply characters in the movie for which you have written the script. Whatever outside sources do to you or for you, you do to or for yourself.
Alan Cohen from ‘Enough Already.’