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Essay/Term paper: The mind-body connection

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Psychology

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The mind has an incredible power. We see
it as we go through our everyday activities,
constantly displaying the wonders of logic,
thought, memory and creativity. Yet, can
the mind be more powerful than we know?
Is it possible to reduce or even eliminate
pain, illness and disease by using the
natural powers it possesses? Can the mind
heal?

Many of our finest researchers and
scientists have explored that question, and
while the exact answer still eludes us, the
facts seem to bear out that the mind does
have the power to assist in both healing,
and conversely, bringing on "disease" as
well. Two such examples of mind and body
healing are hypnotherapy and meditation.
There are others such as ionization, which
focuses on thinking positive instead of
negative. But first, I will describe the
reasoning behind the mind-body
connection.

Psychoneuroimmunology is the name for
the study of the min-body connection, or
PNI for short. PNI has been around for the
last 20 years or so and has revolutionized
the way we look at health and wellness.
There was a point in human existence when
the connection between the mind and the
body was taken for granted. A couple of
centuries ago, science had grown to
understand the "mechanical universe"
concept. The laws of Sir Newton and the
science of physics had begun to infiltrate the
science of medicine. If the universe
followed mechanical laws, so might the
body. To prove this theory, scientists
needed to open a body up to observe how it
worked. The Church was very adamant
about the body being the temple of the soul
and could never be desecrated. After much
haggling and several smoke-filled back
room discussions, an agreement was
reached. The Church would maintain it"s
jurisdiction over "the mind" for that is were
the personality and soul "truly" resides and
science could have the body, which is just a
"machine for the mind" and upon death,
would become simply an empty vessel.

Furthering the rift, more recent science has
discovered that specific diseases can be
"cured" through specific medicinal formulas
or drugs. This "magic bullet" mentality
spread throughout medicine and science.
Truly the body was a mechanical thing that
responded to specific stimulus and could be
counted on to respond the same way every
time. Wonderful news, the body did not
respond as intended. Science has tried to
brush aside or explain away this
phenomenon y saying, "Oh, it"s just the
placebo effect" or "It"s spontaneous
remission" as well as other innocuous terms
seemingly to lessen it"s importance. It is
human nature when something is not
understood to either dismiss it, diminish it
or ignore it all together. This search to seek
out answers to this reoccurring
phenomenon is the basis for PNI, the way
the mind-body connection is made and how
we can utilize it for greater health and
well-being.

Over the past decade, we have come a long
way in understanding the psycho-biology of
mind-body communication and the
mental/emotional processes involved. To
begin with, most of us have a basic
understanding of how psycho-biology
communication occurs through the nervous
system. Messages are transmitted through
electrical impulses along a system of nerves
that connect the brain to every system,
organ, gland, muscle, etc.. When we want
to lift our arm, the specific signals race
along the nerves to the required muscles,
ligaments, etc., in order to accomplish the
task. There is, also, the "autonomic"
nervous system that sends the electrical
impulses automatically, without conscious
thought, to such parts as the heart, lungs,
digestive tract, etc.. That way we don"t have
to worry about things like forgetting to have
our heart beat.

There is another facet to this seemingly
automatic activity. The "autonomic immune
system". The immune system cells, which
free-float throughout our bodies, act all on
their own, automatically. When you get an
infection, the immune system kicks in and
takes care of the problem. How do they
know when to go into action? New research
is pointing that there is another open line of
communication. A biochemical, molecular
code that is transmitted to each cell. This
code is in the form of hormones or
neuroceptides. Each cell of the body has
receptors for these neuroceptides. The code
contained in the peptide is then
communicated to the cell. The cell then acts
according to this communication, just like a
muscle acts according to the signals it
receives. The cell then sends biochemical
responses back into the system. This allows
for the two-way communication not only
between itself and the brain, but also
between itself and other cells. This shows
itself openly the well coordinated immune
cells attacking an invading bacteria.
Communication is paramount to a
successful immune system defense.

This biochemical connection must also have
a direct link to the mind. Researchers have
found that link. If you were to draw a line
through your head starting just behind your
ear going to just behind the other ear, at the
middle of that line you would find a
clumping of glands and blood vessels called
the Limbic-Hypothalamic System which
consists of the limbic system, hypothalamus
and the pituitary gland. The connection
works this way. A mental/emotional state
exits within the mind, the mind transmits
the image of that state through the nervous
system and to the Limbic-Hypothalamic
system. Every system, organ, gland, fiber
and cell of the body receives the message.
Then they each act according to the
message. To illustrate a point, a university
study was done on the immune system of
persons whose long-term partner had
recently died. Having factored out all other
affecting stimulus but grief, it was
discovered that the immune system in the
state of deep grief operated at 70% decrease
of activity. In other words, the immune
system was running at only 30%. That can
explain why the widowed spouse, who was
never sick in their life, would die of
pneumonia or such related disease, 6
months after their spouse"s death.

You know yourself, how emotions can
boost your energy level or drain it to almost
nothing. The images and experiences that
we fill our mind with, get communicated
and then translated physically. This is how
stress operates. The major stressors (like job
loss, death, divorce and etc.) while having a
significant effect, are not the major culprit of
stress related health problems. It seems that
the little stressors (like being late for work,
a car cutting you off on the expressway,
etc.) have more effect on us physically. The
theory is that the little stressors are judged
to be of little or no importance, so we tend
to ignore their effect. All those little
frustrations, unconsciously remain
frustrations even when they are forgotten
long ago to our conscious awareness. They
linger on and their effects never diminish.

All the images we carry with us are
communicated to all parts of our body all
the time. You tell yourself something often
enough, you will start believing it. The body
hears that you "don"t have a leg to stand
on", or you"re dying of cancer", or that
argument you had with your parents
twenty years ago is still eating away at you.
It will then respond to that communication.
If you have an internal image of " I only
seem to take time off when I"m sick", your
body will make you sick when you need
that time off. You can be sure your body
will give you what you expect. Think
negative and bad things can happen, think
positive and good things can happen. It"s all
within the mind and body connection.

Now we understand the communication
between the mind and body, let"s go back to
how the mind can assist the body in healing.
One method of accomplishing that is
through hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy is
the reconditioning of certain sensory
reactions to the stimuli of anxiety so that
physiological symptoms such as ulcers and
headaches will not be produced. Habitual
reactions of the patient are altered under
hypnosis. After the therapist has changed
the patient"s anxiety-producing sensation
system, the subject is trained in the use of
the new responses in life outside therapy.

The problems that hypnotherapy is best
placed to help with, fall into thoughts and
ideas, feelings and habits. People can suffer
from thoughts of low self-esteem, or
obsessive thoughts about someone or
something. They may not be able to get out
of their minds the idea that they are
suffering from an illness.

Hypnotherapy can help the person to
change such ideas. Sort of like altering the
mind. Other people can suffer from a wide
range of distressing feelings, such as panic
attacks, anxiety, jealousy, guilt, anger and
inadequacy. Whatever the problem feeling,
hypnotherapy can deal with it more
specifically than can a drug and without
side effects. On the other hand, people can
find themselves in the grip of many habits
that they seem unable to control, from
something like nail-biting or smoking to
more deep-seated compulsions.
Hypnotherapy, using hypnotic techniques,
can help to remove habits with precision
and a freedom from side effects. There is of
course, a considerable variation in the
difficulty of the various problems, and there
is no general rule which makes it possible to
say how much improvement can be
achieved and in how much time. The
simpler problems can at times be overcome
completely in one session; hypnosis can be
extremely effective. More deeply rooted
problems may take longer.

On the contrary, meditation is taking the
time to get in touch with our true nature. It
is a simple effort that becomes effortless as
we do it more and more. True effort comes
in simply taking the time out of our hectic
lives. The rest is easy. When we first begin
to meditate, our minds resist. We are used
to a constant chatter in our minds. Our
thoughts are often uncontrolled. We worry
about our jobs, finances, relationships, out
"to do" list, and the list goes on. All of this
belongs to the physical world. The practice
of meditation helps us temporarily let the
physical world go so we can begin to see
ourselves as we truly are – spiritual beings.
Meditation helps us in many ways. You will
begin to notice some benefits right away,
while others will occur gradually. Beyond
the purely physical benefits, which have
been scientifically proven, meditators
receive emotional and mental benefits as
well as spiritual enrichment. When we
meditate, we are focused only on the
experience of meditation. We are living "in
the moment." There is no room for our
worries or fears. The stresses and tensions
we have been carrying around are
suspended. We become relaxed and are
able to experience inner peace and joy.
Some of the results of meditation show we
gain: increased clarity of mind, improved
emotional well-being, increased happiness,
increased intelligence, increased creativity,
improved memory and improved
relationships. Meditation has been used
successfully in the treatment and prevention
of high blood pressure, heart disease,
migraine headaches, and autoimmune
diseases such as diabetes and arthritis. It
has proved helpful in reducing obsessive
thinking, anxiety, depression and hostility.

Learning to meditate takes only a few
minutes and your body will immediately
start to respond. However, regular
meditation is needed to gain the full
benefits of meditation. With practice your
level of relaxation will deepen. Your
attention span will increase. You"ll become
more skilled at living in the present
moment. Many of the mental and spiritual
aspects of meditating will become apparent
over time.

This ability to heal ourselves lies within
each of us. It is just a matter of learning to
tap to this incredible resource, to make the
mind-body connection, to reach within
ourselves and discover how much power
we have over our bodies and ourselves.
This is what will ultimately lead us all to a
higher quality of life, true health, and
wellness. I think the future of the
mind-body connection is gaining a lot more
respect than it used to. Conventional
physicians want to learn a great deal on this
phenomenon. Doctors and practitioners are
becoming aware that we, the patients, just
don"t want conventional medicine anymore.
We want to heal ourselves. To be able to
use our mind and body to prevent disease
and become a lot more aware of how our
bodies function. There is always something
that can be done to help us improve the
quality of our life. Maybe even make strides
toward ending the condition. By studying
the self-images, understanding the way we
think and feel about the world and how we
fit into it, we can adjust them and change
the outcomes, both mentally and physically.
By understanding the process, we can take
the necessary action to change what we
don"t want and create what we do want.



















Works Cited

Benson, Herbert. The Mind/Body Effect.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979.

Bosworth, Patricia. "Can the Mind really
heal the body?" Self Feb. 1996: 126-

129.

Kelly, Sean F., and Reid J. Kelly. Hypnosis:
Understanding How It Can Work for

You. Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1985.

Kwako, Jerome E. "Ask your body-mind for
healing." Northern Sun June 1997:

8.

LaPatra, Jack. Healing: The coming
revolution in holistic medicine. NewYork:

McGraw-Hill, 1978.

Mieszkowski, Martin. "The Healing Mind."
Wholestar Journal May 1996: 1-4.

Mandelbaum-Schmid, Judith. "Prophets and
Pioneers." Self Nov. 1996: 166-167.

Weil, Andrew. The Natural Mind. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1972.
 

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