My book Mind Over Medicine is full of data scientifically proving that the mind can heal- or harm- the body. But data can be dry, and sometimes what resonates most deeply within our souls are stories. So sit back, grab a cup of tea, and let’s have story time. I’m going to tell you a few true stories that will demonstrate to you how powerfully the mind affects your physiology.
As reported by Bruno Klopfer in the Journal of Projective Techniques in 1957, Dr. West was treating Mr. Wright, who had an advanced cancer called lymphosarcoma. All treatments had failed, and time was running out. Mr. Wright’s neck, chest, abdomen, armpits, and groin were filled with tumors the size of oranges, his spleen and liver were enlarged, and his cancer was causing his chest to fill up with two quarts of milky fluid every day, which had to be drained in order for him to breathe. Dr. West didn’t expect him to last a week.
But Mr. Wright desperately wanted to live, and he hung his hope on a promising new drug called Krebiozen. He begged his doctor to treat him with the new drug, but the drug was only being offered in clinical trials to people who were believed to have at least three months left to live. Mr. Wright was too sick to qualify.
But Mr. Wright didn’t give up. Knowing the drug existed and believing the drug would be his miracle cure, he pestered his doc until Dr. West reluctantly gave in and injected him with Krebiozen on a Friday.
To his utter shock, the following Monday, Dr. West found his patient walking around out of bed. Mr. Wright’s “tumor masses had melted like snowballs on a hot stove” and were half their original size. Ten days after the first dose of Krebiozen, Mr. Wright left the hospital, apparently cancer free.
Mr. Wright was rockin’ and rollin,’ praising Krebiozen as a miracle drug for two months until the scientific literature began reporting that Krebiozen didn’t seem to be effective. Mr. Wright, who trusted what he read in the literature, fell into a deep depression, and his cancer came back.
This time, Dr. West, who genuinely wanted to help save his patient, decided to get sneaky. He told Mr. Wright—that some of the initial supplies of the drug had deteriorated during shipping, making them less effective, but that he scored a new batch of highly concentrated, ultra-pure Krebiozen, which he could give him. (Of course, this was a bold-faced lie.)
Dr. West then injected Mr. Wright with nothing but distilled water. And a seemingly miraculous thing happened—again. The tumors melted away, the fluid in his chest disappeared, and Mr. Wright was feeling great again for another two months.
Then the American Medical Association blew it by announcing that a nationwide study of Krebiozen proved that the drug was utterly worthless. This time, Mr. Wright lost all faith in his treatment. His cancer came right back, and he died two days later.
The Hexed Girls
As described by George Engel in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Baltimore Case Study Number 469861 was an African American woman born twenty-two years earlier on Friday the 13th in the Okefenokee Swamp near the Georgia-Florida border. She was the third of three girls delivered that day by a midwife who proclaimed that all three girls, born on such a fateful day, were hexed. The first, she announced, would die before her 16th birthday. The second would not survive her 21st. And the patient in question was told she would die before her 23rd birthday.
The first two girls died within one day of their 16th and 21st birthdays, respectively. The third woman, terrified that she would die on her 23rd birthday, showed up at the hospital the day before her birthday, hyperventilating. Soon afterwards, before she turned 23, she died, proving the midwife’s predictions correct.
I’m on a plane on my way to Pasadena to speak at the Hay House I Can Do It conference, where I’ll be surrounded by well-intentioned spiritual self-help authors who are committed to helping people live their best lives. At these events, which I’ve spoken at many times now, I’ll hear people come up to these celebrity Hay House authors and gush about how their lives were saved because of the books they wrote. I have no doubt these gushers genuinely mean it. It’s an honor to share the stage with these life saving pioneers.
But (I hate to put a “but” here because I’m so grateful to Hay House and so in awe of some of these wonderful authors) something about all this keeps troubling me.
What Motivates Visionaries?
When I got back from World Domination Summit this summer, I wrote this post about what motivates visionaries to try to change the world. The conference was full of well-intentioned do-gooders trying to make the world a better place. Amazing things were being birthed as a result of this impulse to do good. But I couldn’t help wondering whether this impulse to be of service came from a pure, noble intention or whether it came from some sort of underlying sense of unworthiness or ego-driven motivation. In other words, why do we do what we do?
In the comments on that post about World Domination Summit, a few people argued, “Who cares why? As long as the world is benefiting from these impulses, why question them?” Yet as one of those self-help author do-gooder types who is committed to getting my own ego out of the driver’s seat and letting the Divine take the wheel, it matters to me.
Is Your Self-Worth Tied To How Helpful You Are?
I have a theory about all of this. I think those of us who commit to acts of altruism on behalf of making the world a better place do so because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Something within us doesn’t feel good enough/ valuable enough/ worthy enough unless we’ re devoted to helping others. We don’t believe that we’re good and valuable and worthy not because of any external action but because we all have within us a spark of the Divine which makes us inherently worthy. So we go out and help people, and people tell us how we’ve saved their lives, and then we feel more worthy. We matter because we matter to someone else. Then our worried, scared, “never good enough” egos feel better.
You might think doctors enter the field of medicine in order to get rich, please their parents, or gain status, and sure, there are probably some money-driven doctors who were given only two choices of professions by their parents-medicine or the law. While I’m not saying those things aren’t motivators for some, I will claim that what drives doctors to endure the sacrifices of medical training goes far deeper.
On a teleclass I was leading with Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen for the doctors of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, Rachel asked us, “How old were you when you first realized that the life of another living being mattered?”
We were all less than ten. Rachel has been asking this question to thousands of doctors for decades, and the answers are consistent. We are the children who go out early on rainy days to rescue the worms from the mud puddles so the bullies don’t squash them. We are the girls who nurse the injured baby birds back to health. We are the boys who cry out when the other boys are pulling the tails off lizards.
I was the Squirrel Girl. As I explain in greater details in this blog post, I was the seven-year old who became the nurse to injured baby squirrels in my small Florida town. Between the ages of seven and twenty-two, I raised twenty-two baby squirrels who others brought to me when the squirrels got hurt.
Rachel told one touching story about a male doctor who remembers being only two when he cut his foot on the sharp drain of the bathtub, and his mother warned him not to step on the drain because it was sharp and could hurt him. So every night, as he got out of the bath, he dropped his washcloth over the drain, so the water wouldn’t get cut as it swirled down the drain.
The Lineage Of Medicine
As I wrote about in How To Heal Our Broken Health Care System, doctors are called to medicine the way some are called to the priesthood. Medicine is a spiritual practice. I think that’s why we call it a “medical practice.” It is something you practice, like you practice yoga or you practice meditation, like you’ll never get it fully right.
A friend and fellow Hay House author Christina Rasmussen reached out to me this weekend because her book Second Firsts: Live, Laugh & Love Again about finding joy after loss launches today. Christina was about to hop on a plane to travel to New York for her book launch when she reached out and asked me if I had any advice for her, and here’s what I wrote.
Good luck dear! Here's my advice. Please hear me on this.You have already arrived. You have nothing to prove.You are already enough. Your inherent value has nothing to do with the success of this book.If the book is destined to succeed, it will, in spite of you. If not, it won't, and it won't be your fault. Turn it all over to Divine Order and just trust the journey.You are already "there" because there is no "there" there. There is only here.
Christina wrote back, “I am crying my eyes out reading this. You just gave me the best gift anyone could give me. I am going to give it over to the Divine right now. I am here and there and everywhere I could be. THANK YOU LISSA. You just freed me.”
You’ve Already Arrived
I was just paying it forward. The night before Mind Over Medicine launched, my friend Kris Carr, who has written two New York Times bestselling books and who wrote the foreword to Mind Over Medicine, called me to say, “Darling, I’m calling to tell you you’ve already arrived.” I too burst into tears.
It’s remarkable how much pressure we burden ourselves with. When What’s Up Down There launched in 2010, I was a nervous wreck. I barely slept the week before my book launch, and I lost about ten pounds that month because I was too nauseous to eat. I felt so much pressure to achieve some poorly defined measure of success that I pushed too hard and had to learn the lesson my mentor Dr. Christiane Northrup taught me about being less sperm, more egg. I wound up several months later with what I described as PPD (Post Publishing Depression, the rare malady nobody warns authors about.)
You can’t change something by making it wrong. You can only effect change if you can wake up the sleeping people, and in order for them to hear you, you must have compassion for how they got where they are. Think of all the truly effective change agents. They didn't come out with hate, guns blaring and voices screaming. They came out with love and spoke to the hearts of those who knew there was another way.
That's my intention with medicine. Many people are angry at medicine because our system is so broken. I used to be too. But the establishment can't hear you if you're beating them up. They'll defend against you, even if you speak truth.
The only way to get them to hear you is to love the very people that are out of alignment with a universal truth. Then, feeling loved and safe, they have the opportunity to release their defenses and examine their own beliefs and actions and choose whether they'll come with you or dismiss what you're teaching.
If they don't choose to come with you, it doesn't mean they're wrong. We live in a very dualistic world, in which you’re either right or wrong, awake or asleep, north or south, our side or their side, and we place judgments on all those positions. But we need to release the judgments. We all have our own paths. If you’re trying to change people who aren’t ready to change, release them without anger. It just means their souls are not yet ready for what you are inviting them to do. No need to be angry. Bless them and carry on.
How To Let Go Of The Anger
If it feels impossible to stop being righteously angry at those you seek to change, this is my prayer for each of you: