"We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world."
-- The Buddha
Given the way the health sciences have been taught in nursing and medical schools, it is perfectly understandable for physicians, nurses, and mental health professionals trained more than 25 years ago to think the placebo effect -- which we discussed in the previous post - didn't make sense and was instead a mysterious yet convenient explanation for a sudden healing or "spontaneous remission."
It is a leap for many of us to accept that a person could think or believe something and that simple act of belief could heal them of their respective malady. Up until the last few decades research scientists did not have a grasp on how the brain, our thoughts, and feelings work to create the conditions, situations, and even people that we draw into our lives.
While the role of emotions, the mental pictures they conjure, and the effect they have on our wellbeing is still is very much "uncharted waters" in both neuroscience and psychology, many exciting discoveries have been made. Two of the foremost findings and research in the behavioral sciences is the work of a world renowned neuroscientist and researcher, Candace Pert, PhD, and a physician/surgeon, Maxwell Maltz, MD., who looked extensively at behavior and its relationship to emotions and self-esteem.
Dr. Pert provided the research that indeed proved "thoughts are things" - and they are called called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters dictate how feelings and thoughts in our unconscious mind are stimulated or triggered through stored memory from the brain's limbic system. Her ground breaking book Molecules of Emotions provides details of her research and the new science of brain chemistry.
Another foremost finding in behavioral science has been the part that our "self - image" plays in charting the course our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately our lives take. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a renowned plastic surgeon and author of the best-selling self - help classic" Psycho - Cybernetics", discovered in his practice that although his patients would receive literally a whole new face, via plastic surgery, they still reported experiencing the old feelings of inadequacy that plagued them pre - surgery.
Through his extensive, and evidence-based, research Maltz discovered what his patients -- in fact many people - needed was an "emotional face lift" to remove the psychological scars imprinted on the individual's self - image left by negative beliefs. While the physical aspect of a person's appear can be changed, he suggests that unless the emotional "surgery" is performed the individual will still have the same emotional experience. Is is this emotional experience that motivated them to have the surgery in the first place.
Dr. Maltz states: "This self-image is our own conception of the "sort of person I am." It has been built up from our own beliefs about ourselves. But most of these beliefs have unconsciously been formed from our past experiences, our successes and failures, our humiliations, our triumphs, and the way other people have reacted to us... From all of these we mentally construct a "self" (or a picture of self)."
As we read in the article detailing Dr. Ted Kaptchuk's placebo studies, a patient's belief or perception regarding their condition can go a long way in either lifting or sinking their health. The same holds true for all others areas of our lives. The research suggests that if we believe and expect good things to happen, good things inevitably follow; if we consistently entertain thoughts of impending bad news, bad things will occur. This is principle of correspondence is reflected in Newton's Third Law of Motion, which states that for "every action there is an equal and opposite reaction", as well as the Biblical idea of "As a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Galatians 6:7)
The fact of the matter is our minds are powerful creative mediums. The device you are reading this blog post on was a thought in someone's mind before it was rendered in tangible form. Thoughts truly are "things" - that is, thoughts in action are what manifest physical reality. For the participants in Dr. Kaptchuk's staged clinical trial, their minds manifested a different set of thoughts and expectations regarding the appearances of negative side effects mentioned by their physicians.
Their brain waves and proteins created a chemistry which communicated with their immune system through its cell membranes. The results -- they experienced the discomfort and pain that they believed they would, as told by their doctors. The idea of mind over matter is a powerful one. This science, and our understanding of its amazing chemistry, is still in its infancy stage and is the great new "frontier" in medicine and research.
In the future, we can take the possibility of healing ourselves with thought and imagery for granted just as we now do about people having an organ transplant - which was thought unheard of not that long ago. In the meantime, we can all improve our health, success and happiness by learning to improve our "mental diets" and reinforce our bodies and minds with positive words, thoughts and images. This is a hopeful and self-directed tool we can all use to create the life, the relationships and the purpose or legacy we all desire to have.