Monday, December 08, 2008

Steve's story

In the September 2008 issue of The Journal of Hypnotism, there's a brilliant article by Stephen Greco in John Weir's column on "Enthusiastic Professionalism."

Steve was 22 years old when he awoke one morning with a tiny blind spot in his right eye that quickly grew until he was 80 percent blind in that eye. The doctors did tests, diagnosed probable multiple sclerosis, and asked if he had any tingling or numbness in his limbs. He became watchful for those symptoms, which soon manifested. Steve had been avoiding further tests, but when is arms became weak, he called the doctor.

"Both arms?" asked the doctor.

"Yes," said Steve.

"It's usually one arm at a time," said the doctor.

Immediately, Steve says, his life changed. He thought, "If he had told me that it was going to be one arm at a time, it would have been." The power of suggestion had done a number on him.

Steve began to systematically dismantle all the negative suggestions he'd been given (and had been giving himself!) and within two weeks, his eyesight returned to normal.

I tell this story to people to illustrate the power of expectation, suggestion, and belief. What we expect tends to be realized.

But often, people respond to this story with disbelief and analysis. "You mean it was all in his head?" As though it were imaginary blindness. As though somehow an illness created by the mind were less measurable by objective standards.

In 1982, in my home town of Monterey Park, California, a few people fell mildly ill at a high school football game and after being questioned by authorities, an announcement was made that no one should drink any soft drinks because of suspected contamination. Immediately, the stands were filled with fainting, retching people. One hundred and ninety-one persons were hospitalized.

There was nothing wrong with the soda. It was a case of "mass hysteria," which does not mean symptoms were imaginary. It means the symptoms were stimulated by mental processes instead of physical ones.

Many people think "in the mind" means "not real." Steve's story makes clear this isn't the case at all. Placebos operate on the same principle. Recovery after taking a placebo doesn't mean the illness was imagined or the recovery was imagined.

I once had a severely sprained ankle just days before I was supposed to drive to Seattle (with a standard transmission). I was desperate to go. I used a hypnotic process and the swelling and discoloration subsided enough that I could drive. (I once had a person look at me skeptically and say, "You'll forgive me if I don't believe you." Sure, dude. No problem. For me.)

Everything starts in the mind. Whatever you're sitting on -- started as an idea. The computer you're typing on. The TV programs you watch, the books you read, the people you interact with -- all a product of thought. Change your mind and change your life!

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