Woman in hospital bed
Photo: Jochen Sands/Digital Vision/Thinkstock
In an earlier post, I raised the question of the mind healing the body. We know that this is possible because of the placebo effect, in which patients obtain relief even though the doctor has given them only a sugar pill, an injection of saline solution or some other innocuous substance. The placebo effect, contrary to widespread suspicion, is a "real" cure. Pain is diminished; symptoms are alleviated. But it depends upon deception. The doctor knows that he is giving a harmless substance; the patient doesn't.

So the issue comes down to triggering the mind-body connection without being deceived. Is there a way for each person to influence his body consciously? We do this all the time, of course. You can't lift a finger, throw a baseball or drive a car without translating a mental intention into a physical response. But when it comes to disease symptoms, the mind-body connection feels weak or nonexistent. Every sick person wants to get well. How can the mind help?

There are four conditions that would insure a stronger mind-body connection during illness, and all are inter-connected:
  • The mind contributes to getting well.
  • The mind doesn't contribute to getting sick.
  • The body is in constant communication with the mind.
  • This communication benefits both the physical and mental aspects of being well.
When the placebo effect works, it's clear all four aspects are involved. The patient's mind cooperates with the treatment and trusts it. The body is aware of this trust. There is open communication, and as a result, cells throughout the body participate in a healing response. The healing system as a whole is incredibly complex and all but impossible to explain as a whole. We only know parts of how it operates, such as our knowledge of antibodies and the immune response to infection.

How to use your mind to deal with illness


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