“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
― Richard Branson
The mind-body connection is often discussed with skepticism and scrutiny. People debate whether the body takes care of itself or whether by some intentional means the mind has control over it. To suggest that a connection does not exist, which might be to imply that one’s mind simply steers while one’s body manages all the chemistry, might really be what some people think.
It’s hard to know exactly what people think because they think so little, but it’s fair to suppose that many people, including many doctors, see the mind as having no further skills than the subjects we were taught in grade school. This is naive and, after a little questioning, most people would abandon this notion. But people rarely question what everyone assumes, so the idea persists.
The lack of a mind-body connection boils down to the belief that the operations of your mind are exclusively of high-order thinking and voluntary control. That is to say, all your mind does is reason, feel, think, and trigger intentional movements. Phrased this way, the separation between mind and body sounds almost reasonable. It’s because we’re crippled to only think reasonably that this naive idea persists.
If you strip away the blinders of naive realism, it is obvious that our minds are deeply connected with the functions of our body. Consider where your thoughts and intentions come from, where your “free will” comes from. If you don’t know the origin of your thoughts, then you’re not their source.
All your thoughts come from below your awareness, and there are only two things that exist below your awareness: your body and your soul, which we could also term your aetherial nothingness. If you exclude your soul as the origin of your free will and intentionality, then your body—that is all the things of which you are physically made—is the source of your thoughts.
There is no big mystery here. If our mind’s domain is limited to our self-awareness, then this self-awareness must be anchored in our bodies or else we would just float away. Maybe we do just float away in dreams and after death, but right now we’re alive and we’re not floating away.
There are simple and complex mind-body connections. Simple connections include coordination and eating. Your body is impacted by both. Eating covers everything you put into your body, and coordination covers everything you do with your body, with a few exceptions such as smoking and IV drug use.
It’s the complex connections that we’re really after. The naive mechanist only recognizes actions that can be mechanically connected to intention. This mechanist will accept that you can vary blood flow in tissues because you control the tension in your muscle.
But you can also control blood flow through tissues over which you have no conscious control, so as to stanch the bleeding in a wound or to starve infected tissues so that your warts fall off. The mechanist will deny this is possible, but it is. This is where you should depart from the mechanist camp if you’re still in it.
It gets more complex. It is established at a mechanical level that your intentions indirectly control your body’s chemistry. We know this at a gross level, such as stress, salivating, and sexuality, but it appears that all of your hormones are under some degree of indirect voluntary control. This means that you have indirect control over many autonomic functions, such as the digestion in your gut or the chemical reactions in your liver.
This really is not far fetched. If your mind resides in your brain and your hormones are produced by your brain, then it’s reasonable that your mind has some control over the production of hormones. Jerry Lettvin, a teacher of mine and an expert in neurophysiology, said hormones are chemicals that no one understands. If that’s the case, then we don’t know the limit of the mind’s control.
Quite a few hormones are produced outside our brain, and we have many nerves outside our brains. Our enteric nervous system resides in our gut and is 10% of the size of our brain. It’s not central in the sense that our brain is central, but it exercises control over half the cells of our body. They’re the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in our intestines. They’re not human in origin and there is nothing human about them, but they’re essential, and they are closely connected to our lymphatic system’s learning of how to recognize and fight infection.
Our lymphatic system is an uncharted frontier. They say that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean. It appears that we know more about the bottom of the ocean than we do about our lymphatic system. Yet in this system resides the seat of our immunity, deep connections with our central nervous system, and indirect connection with our intentions.
We know as much about hypnosis as we know about the surface of the moon, the bottom of the ocean, or our lymphatic system. We know little about the mind. As I said, we don’t know where our thoughts come from or how they’re formed, but we presume they’re rooted in our bodies.
There is a model of awareness called “The Hidden Observer.” It’s a model that’s firmly planted in history but barely recognized in modern medicine. The Hidden Observer is the awareness you have that isn’t conscious. You might ascribe to the Hidden Observer your subliminal awareness of things you react to but do not see, or things that pop into your mind that you didn’t put there.
Your Hidden Observer is more than that. It is also the agent that does things you don’t intend and are not intentionally capable of. It creates circumstances you would deny having any part in creating. Your Hidden Observer is pulling the strings in most of your family dynamics, such as those things you ascribe to the intentions of other people, which they would also deny.
These are sometimes referred to as alter personalities and they’re supposed to exist as abnormalities. They exist in everyone. They’re basically managing your personality like puppeteers controlling marionettes. They’re pretty easy to unveil using hypnosis. They’re right under the surface. They are your opinions and attitudes which you control but, by their incessant and pervasive nature, they control you.
We don’t know how deeply these Hidden Observers control us. We can call forth our more superficial Hidden Observers, the ones that behave as if they’re separate people, but there appear to be others that operate at deeper levels that don’t have voices or personalities.
Just as a person under general anesthesia can be aware of the details of their environment, some of the Hidden Observers of an unconscious person are listening, aware, and active. Because they exist somewhere outside your mind, it’s possible to reinforce ideas in them that will determine the thoughts you’ll have when you’re awake. It is this level of awareness, I presume, that controls the blood flow in a surgical incision, and has some role in accelerating healing.
These are not personalities, per se, but they respond to language and they can perceive our environment. I think of them as your spirit of balance and harmony, exercising control over selective domains.
These Hidden Observers are a link between the mind and the body. They’re not wholly of the mind nor are they mechanical systems of the body. At the highest levels they are your emotional voices and they are aware and sentient. At the lowest levels they have metabolic and cellular awareness, also aware of your intentions and responsive through chemical or emotional channels.
We’d like to know how to establish some communication between the highest and the lowest levels of our mind-body connection. The highest level controls what your mind decides to do, the lowest level controls your cells, membranes, and tissues.
We know some mechanical things about disease and infection. We’d like to communicate this knowledge to our Hidden Observers. We don’t know if we know all that much, or if what we know is useful to our cells, membranes, and tissues. They are subject to their own limitations and our high-level initiatives may be of no help, but we don’t know.
We’d like to better communicate and better understand. What we don’t want to do is act out of ignorance. That won’t help. Intentions that express fear, panic, prejudice, and negativity won’t convey power or wisdom.
COVID-19 isn’t a disease, it’s an infection. It can create as many symptoms as there are different kinds of cells it can infect, and it can infect any cell that carries ACE-2 receptors.
We would like to direct focus, attention, and balance to any infected area. Our intention is to enhance our ability to sense and respond to the needs of cells and tissues. If we can become more sensitive, then we should be able to play a useful role.
We can assume it’s possible to affect circulation to any tissue. Since lymphatic fluid is moved by muscle contraction, it is plausible that we can move lymphatic fluids through any tissues that are involved with muscles.
In spite of our not knowing what hormones do or how we control them, it’s possible that we can direct our hormones in ways that would benefit infected tissues. We would do this intuitively based on feelings and sensations.
And finally, it’s conceivable that our thoughts, emotions, and visualizations could have greater or lesser affect on chemicals released from our body that pass through our tissues and organs.
The audio file “Your Lymphatic System” creates a virtual guided tour through the structure of your lymphatic system. It is a first step in getting a greater awareness of otherwise ignored areas of your body. The idea is that by simply becoming aware of your lymphatic nodes and cycles you can develop a measure of control and direction, and that this will benefit your immunity.
Listen to this visualization when you can let yourself space out, either drift without focus or fall asleep. Listen once each day for a week and notice changes in your awareness of the regions of your body described in the visualization.
I’ve scheduled a ZOOM-based Meetup to explore these ideas on Wednesday, October 14th, at 7 PM (PDT).
I’ll review the theory, lead a guided visualization, and have people share their experiences. Meetup is free. I invite you to join us.
Medical Hypnosis for COVID-19, https://www.meetup.com/The-Minds-Role-in-Healing-and-Change/events/273756671/