How our mind “makes future happen”

Today I want to share with you wonderful ideas of Tomas Hanna on the role of mind and mental attitude in shaping our life and well-being.

In his recognition of vital importance of psychological and mental processes on health and well-being, Hanna follows in the footsteps of Hans Selye, an Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist who formulated the concepts of stress and researched its effect on human system. While Selye was focusing mostly on endocrine response to stress leaving aside neuromuscular aspects of organism’s stress adaptation, Selye’s outstanding contribution was, among others, in singling out two kinds of stress: the one that is potentially harmful for the body (distress) and its “healthy” counterpart, the one that causes about body’s adaptation and strengthening (eustress). It was Selye who first expressed this empowering insight into nature of stress: “Adopting the right attitude to stress can convert a negative stress into a positive one”.
The following excerpt from Thomas’ Hanna’s book further expands Selye’s concepts on importance of mental attitude in cultivating one’s health, well-being and shaping one’s life events.

Hanna’s research and reasoning is so complete and so in line with what I inherently believe about the power of mind to manifest material reality, that I will just paste pieces of text here without any interpretation or addition on my own. The text is taken from Chapter 12 of Somatics, titled “Expectation: the role of mental attitude”. To read this chapter and the rest of the book, go get the book on any of the ebook stores, it’s available for immediate download. You can also read parts of the book on Google Books

Expectation is not only a prediction of the future, it also directly contributes to making it happen.

This proactive role which expectation plays is crucial to our well-being. Consider the placebo effect. This curious word is Latin. It means “I shall please,” and it was taken from the liturgy of the Catholic Church, in which the priest said, “I shall please the lord . . . ” Later, it came to be applied more generally to any attempt to flatter or please another person. By the nineteenth century it was being used by physicians to refer to any ineffective substance given as “medicine,” not to cure, but merely to please, the patient. Soon, however, physicians began to notice an odd thing. These substances, which were not supposed to have any effect, actually succeeded if the physician cajoled the patient into believing it would. If the patient expected that the sugar pill would help, it did. This is the placebo effect.

F. J. Evans conducted a series of carefully controlled studies in pain reduction, which compared the effects of morphine to the effects of a “worthless” placebo pill. The findings were startling: The placebo was 56 percent as effective as a dose of morphine. l What could cause such a powerful analgesic effect? Only one thing: expectation.

Almost the same results were obtained in comparing placebo effects with those of aspirin (54 percent), codeine (56 percent), and Darvon (45 percent). It was extraordinary to learn that the placebo effect was constant. No matter what the analgesic drug, the effectiveness of the placebo was always proportional.
But, as the information poured in, physicians learned that the placebo effect was not at all limited to pain reduction; it was found in studies of adrenal gland secretion, angina, asthma, blood cell counts, blood pressure, cancer, the com- mon cold, the cough reflex, diabetes, emesis, fever, gastric secretion and motility, headache, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, oral contraceptives, parkinsonism, pupil dilation and constriction, respiration, rheumatoid arthritis, seasickness, ulcers, vaccines, vasomotor function, and warts. Such a list constitutes a massive confirmation of the somatic viewpoint-that human consciousness is an integral part of the human body’s self-regulation.

Because the placebo is so prevalent in clinical medicine, a science called psychoneuroimmunology has emerged. This promising research area presumes something that not too long ago was deemed impossible: that the immune system is not isolated in its functions, but has a working relation with the central nervous system. In addition, emotions, attitudes, and other conscious states trigger certain neurotransmittors which, in turn, affect the immune system- hence, the young science’s name, psychoneuroimmunology.

The working thesis of psychoneuroimmunology is that a state of consciousness, such as an expectation, can cause changes in both the central nervous system and the immune system.

This is essentially the somatic viewpoint: that the attitudes and beliefs we have about our bodies and our health vitally affect the ongoing state of our bodies and our health. If we expect our bodies to be resilient and healthy, then they will tend to remain so. On the other hand, ex- pectation may be predicated on the myth of aging; that is, a belief in inevitable structural breakdown and functional loss. In this case, breakdown and loss will eventually occur. The prophecy becomes self-fulfilling: What we expect to happen does happen.

If we are at a certain age and feel within our bodies certain discomforts, how we interpret them becomes crucial. If we take them as a sign of serious disease and breakdown expected at this age in life, then we are accepting and giving in to a presumed fatality. To anticipate pathology is, functionally, tantamount to intending it. This unleashes dangerous reactions in the brain and in the immune system, dangerous because apparently the mere feeling of “giving in” to an ailment immobilizes our self-healing capacities.

Professor Ian Wickramasekera is a medical research scientist. In his general analysis of the placebo as a conditioned response, he says the following about this aspect of negative expectation:

This analysis may be particularly relevant to chronic diseases and functional disorders such as low back pain, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, and cancer, in which the long-term and intermittent reinforcements of the unconditioned disease process, injury, or dysfunction increase the probability of negative conditioned effects that sustain the disorder. In such cases, the chronic intermittent activation of the disease mechanisms by unconditioned physiochemical causes may lead to increasingly strong aversive anticipatory responses that inhibit the motor system even when the unconditioned stimulus is inactive. It is a well-established fact that intermittent reinforcement by unconditioned stimuli will make a maladaptive response maximally resistant to improvement.

This statement makes it clear that the myth of aging is not merely a belief about the diseases of aging; it can also be an active cause of these diseases. Thus, by responding to bodily discomforts with intelligent awareness and positive countermeasures, we can directly prevent such a “disease process, injury, or dysfunction” from becoming a permanent condition

The word “age” means, quite simply, “a period of existence”.

Moreover, even though “age” means simply “a period of existence,” it refers more broadly to that which characterizes a period of existence. It is particularly interesting when it becomes a verb -to age – for then it means “to grow old.” What, we should ask, does it mean “to grow old”? “Old,” in its Latin root, alo, and in its ancient Germanic form, aft, means – quite surprisingly – “to nourish” and “to bring up.” More generally, alo means to strengthen, increase, and advance. It means to become taller and to become deeper. In its root meaning, then, “to age,” and to get older, means “to grow up.” In view of the etymology of “old,” it is fascinating to note that “growing old” has come to mean exactly the opposite of the original meaning of “old”: that is, “old” has come to mean worn out, deteriorated, decayed, dilapidated, and no longer useful.

Thus, in plumbing the meaning of the simple but curious word, “age,” we come upon a fundamental ambiguity: “To age” means either to grow, increase, and become both taller and deeper or to decrease, decay, wear out, and become decrepit and discarded.

It is most provocative that a word as basic to human life as “aging” can mean either of two opposite possibilities: growth or degeneration. It suggests that what is characteristic to the period of existence of a human’s lifetime is neither programmed nor predictable. It implies that the direction of human life is not fixed but open.

If we think of the coming years of our life as a continuing process of advancement and strengthening, it is more than likely we shall experience just that. And it is just as likely that a constant, daily expectation of wearing out and becoming decrepit will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We see in this situation an extraordinary truth about human life: Whether we will grow or degenerate during the course of our lives is a question not of known fact but of expected possibility. Time, as the currency of life, is always futurity; it is not yet spent. How we expect it to be spent predetermines the plan for its expenditure. Once we realize that the investment we make in our lives is the same as any other investment, we may adopt a very different attitude about what possibilities we expect for our future years.
I do not think it improper to say that what we invest in life determines how much we get out of it. It is a question of whether we think that our lives are at least as important an investment as, for example, real estate or stocks. It is my observation that many humans do not value their personal bodily future as highly as they value the future of their material possessions.

The human who knows that his or her being is growing is a human who usually has the strength and endurance to prevail over the defeats and stresses and traumas that occur in each and every life. Such a person knows that the inevitable pains and dysfunctions occurring in the body are not “inevitable signs of degeneration,” but typical adjustments that all bodies go through in regulating and readapting themselves for the future.

With such thoughts for the day, I wish you to spend it nicely!

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