Healing and the Mind: By Bill Moyers – The Mind-Body Connection (3 of 6)

In ‘Healing and the Mind’ Bill Moyers talks with physicians, scientists, therapists, and patients – people who are taking a new look at the meaning of sickness and health. In a series of fascinating and provocative interviews, he discusses their search for answers to perplexing questions: How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing?” In the third part of the series, Bill Moyers offers new insights into how the mind and body are intimately interconnected.

Is the brain, our hardware and the mind, our software?

Is this your brain? Or your mind?

What is the mind? Where is it located? Is it the same as the brain, or just its mental activity? Is the 3 pound gelatinous brain-mass capable of encompassing the large spectrum of feelings, ideas and thoughts we have?

Until recently, scientists had excluded ‘mind’ from the scientific equation simply because thoughts and emotions are intangible and subjective.

Only in the early 20th century did psychosomatic medicine (treatment of illnesses that have no physiological origin, or simply, the understanding and treatment of illness that begins in the mind) come into being with the works of pioneering psychologists like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and others.

Are the tangible and the intangible connected?

Today’s scientists and doctors are beginning explore, understand and test the ‘mind-body connection’by asking some fundamental questions.

“If we are all exposed to the same set of pathogens, why do only some of us get sick and not all of us?”

“Can our thoughts, emotions and personality affect our health?”            

Through the work of renowned experts like Dr. David Felten, Dr. Robert Ader and Dr. Candace Pert, science is beginning to incorporate the mind and emotions back into a fuller understanding of human physiology.

Dr. David Felten, Neuroscientist, University of Rochester

Until recently, the immune system, our first line of defence against disease, was thought to be autonomous ie, it operated without the influence of the mind.

David Felton discovered a network of nerve fibres in the immune system, providing the first indications of how neuro-immune interactions occur. This discovery then led to the next set of questions

  • Can the immune system be taught?
  • Can the brain regulate the immune system?

Robert Ader, Psychologist, University of Rochester

Robert Ader attempted to answer these questions through laboratory experiments (with rats) and showed that a signal from the nervous system can directly affecting immune function. He went on to conduct a similar experiment on an 11-year old girl with lupus (an auto immune disease). By systematically teaching the immune system to respond in a particular way, she now requires only a small dosage of the medication and has normal daily functioning.

Candice Pert, Neuropharmacologist

Candace Pert’s research proves that our cells ‘talk to one another’ and this communication is made possible by chemical messengers called ‘neuropeptides’ – a string of amino acids. These chemical messengers, which were once thought to be found in the brain alone, were later found to be present everywhere in the body, notably in the digestive system. Referred to as ‘molecules of emotion’ they are the bio-chemical link between the mind and the body.

Dr. Dean Ornish, Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

Dean Ornish has proved that heart disease can actually be reversed making significant lifestyle changes through interventions like low intensity exercise (yoga), low-fat vegetarian diet, visualizations/meditations and group therapy. He is a strong believer and advocate of a holistic approach and his program has had dramatic and long-lasting results.

Bio-feedback

Biofeedback is a way to quantify and measure the mind-body connect. The principle behind it is to enable an individual to alter their brain activity, blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature, galvanic skin response (GSR) by themselves.

Certain sensors –  electromyographic (EMG) and electrodermal (EDR) – provide visual and auditory information, which allows the patient to monitor his/her own heart rate, skin temperature, breathing patterns etc. The patient is then taught to use focused concentration to increase or decrease them as required.

Moyers witnesses a 10-year old girl (suffering from migraine) being able to reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches with the help of biofeedback machines.

With this and other ongoing research, Bill Moyers unveils the scientific foundations for a mind-body approach that weaves together eastern and western approaches to healing!

Reflection

  • Which ‘power of the mind’ techniques can you use to release your stressors and improve immunity?
  • What lifestyle changes can you make towards a healthier diet along with exercise, yoga or dance therapy?

Resources

Healing & The Mind‘ by Bill Moyers

Author

vidyaAfter obtaining a degree in Psychology, Vidya Ramaswamy felt her subject learning had been limited since it stopped with the study of the mind. Believing that humans are “whole” beings, she decided to pursue a discipline which appreciates the inter-connection between body-mind-spirit. She qualified herself as a Clinical Hypnotherapist from the California Hypnosis Institute of India (CHII). Vidya now works with cancer patients on a daily basis as a Treatment-Coordinator/ Therapist at the Ojus-Sampurnah Integrative Medicine Clinic in Bangalore and practices as an independent Hypnotherapist as well.

More from this series

Title About the article
1. Introduction to Healing & The Mind In this landmark series, Bill’s aim is to present his answers to the ever-perplexing questions : How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing?
2. The Mystery of Qi In this part of the series, Bill Moyers, with the help of his guide, David Eisenberg, (MD from Harvard Medical School), travels through Beijing and Shanghai, exploring Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and its approach to healing through ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chi’), the vital energy force.
3. The Mind-Body Connection How do emotions translate into chemicals in our bodies? How do thoughts and feelings influence health? How can we collaborate with our bodies to encourage healing?
4.Healing From Within In the third part of the series, Bill Moyers offers new insights into how the mind and body are intimately interconnected.
5.The Art of Healing In the fourth part of the series, Bill Moyers examines two therapies – Buddhist meditation and group psychotherapy – that involve neither drugs nor surgery
6.Wounded Healers In the final part of the series, Bill Moyers aptly completes the circle by focusing on real people and their real stories and emphasising the ‘human connection’ that is so crucial in the doctor-patient relationship.

 

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