For those of you following along in this blog series, we’ve been exploring, one “CURED Tip” at a time, the interventions employed by people who experienced “spontaneous healing” as reported by Harvard doctor, researcher, and new Whole Health Medicine Institute faculty Jeffrey Rediger, MD, MDiv in his new book CURED: The Life-Changing Science of Spontaneous Healing. Just to review, CURED Tip #1 was about shutting off the physiological stress response and activating the self-healing relaxation response. CURED Tip #2 was about creating the hormonal soil of love through “positivity resonance” moments of connection, even with strangers. (Read more about CURED Tips #1 & 2 in my blog here.) CURED Tip #3 was about seeking out a master healer, while CURED Tip #4 focused on pilgrimages to sacred sites reputed to facilitate seemingly miraculous healings. (Read more about CURED Tips 3 & 4 in my blog here.) In today’s blog, we’ll be addressing CURED Tips #5 & 6 about healing trauma and the importance of grounded hope.
CURED Tip #5 Healing Trauma
In CURED Tip #2, we talked about how love heals, not just the heart, but at the cellular level. But of course, if you’ve been traumatized in ways that make you assess inappropriate threat in other people, it will be hard to cultivate such moments of love. Even loving-kindness meditation is unlikely to override a traumatic pattern that shouts to your nervous system, “People are dangerous! Resist love at all costs! Do anything you can to bypass intimacy so you can stay safe!” People with attachment wounding because of insecure attachment in early childhood can engage in all the healthy behaviors they want, but if they perceive other humans as a threat and sabotage intimacy, it’s hard for the body to heal.
It’s not just attachment disorders caused by childhood trauma that can predispose the body to illness and make it hard to reverse disease. Any kind of trauma at any point in your life can create the nervous system and cellular soil from which disease can sprout. Health outliers were often willing to lean in and get therapy to help them clear old traumas that caused their nervous systems to fire in stress responses in response to bids for connection or other situations that should not be triggering stress responses but do.
You might say, “Wait, but I wasn’t traumatized. I had a great childhood!” But remember, we all have trauma. You can’t be incarnate in a human body without it. Even if you lived a charmed life with no trauma, we all experience collective trauma from living in a dysfunctional society and generational traumas from the wounds our parents passed down to us. And if you believe in past lives, you still may carry past life trauma in your nervous system. While you may have an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score of zero (find out yours here), everyone has what Buddhist psychiatrist Mark Epstein calls “The Trauma of Everyday Life.” While loads of data link a high ACE score to both pediatric and adult-onset disease (you can watch the California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris, MD talk about it in her TEDx talk here), the impact of developmental traumas on health has been less rigorously studied.
Asha Clinton, PhD, my personal therapist and the founder of Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT), posits that developmental trauma can be even more traumatic and potentially disease-inducing than ACE’s. Because people with developmental trauma don’t necessarily have any obvious ACE’s—like childhood sexual abuse or growing up in a house with an addict—they may feel bewildered by how hard life can feel, not understanding that their traumas may be more insidious and possibly even more damaging than growing up in a war zone. We need to normalize trauma, rather than stigmatize it or deny it. If we want our health spans to equal our life spans—and we want those life spans to be as long as possible—it’s worth getting intensive psychotherapy with a cutting edge modality like Internal Family Systems (IFS) or Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT)—if you have the luxury (and yes, I get that it’s a luxury, and I hate that is how things are) of being able to access it. Read more about The Unmistakable Link Between Unhealed Trauma & Illness on my blog here. I’ll be exploring the link between trauma and disease—and how to treat it effectively—in much greater detail in the revised edition of Mind Over Medicine (June 2020, Hay House) and in my next book Sacred Medicine (Fall 2021, Sound’s True).
*I’m doing my best, along with others who share my social justice impulse, to bring these cutting edge trauma therapies to those who can’t afford it through my philanthropic work right now, so stay tuned.
CURED Tip #6 Positive Belief
Jeff’s chapter on the power of placebo unpacks the impact of belief on health through the lens of the science of placebo and nocebo phenomena. My book Mind Over Medicine examines the placebo and nocebo storytelling and data extensively and suggests that if we believe we are incurable, cure becomes less likely, and if we put at least a crack in that belief, we increase the possibility of cure. Cell biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD, author of The Biology Of Belief, breaks down the science on how our beliefs (consciousness) affect our physical bodies. In a private email exchange between Dr. Lipton, Dr. Rediger, and me, Bruce summarized his work like this. The Biology of Belief, by Bruce Lipton, PhD
In 1967, my research on cloned stem cells revealed, without any doubt, that gene activity was controlled by “signals” from the external environment. At that time, my research was dismissed by all my colleagues who were fully immersed in Crick’s central dogma, emphasizing DNA’s self-regulation in controlling life. The problem was, while I knew the environment was engaging gene activity, I had zero understanding of a mechanism to account for it.
Throughout my career I was a devout “non-spiritual” biologist. However on a special day in 1985, in the early hours of the morning, I was hit by “intellectual” lightening within a minute of a new insight on the mechanism by which environmental signals controlled life, an awareness of the mechanics of the cell’s membrane instantly transformed me into a full-out spiritualist. At that moment, my research, which preceded the field of signal transduction, revealed that the cell membrane was a liquid crystal semiconductor with receptors (gates) and channels. The membrane is a carbon-based homologue of a silicon computer chip. Essentially, the cell is a programmable “chip,” and the nucleus is a “read-write hard drive” with gene programs. These pioneering observations provided the molecular mechanism for what is today referred to as Epigenetics.
The spiritual part? Each human body has the equivalent of a “PIN” number to access the cellular “computer.” Biological identity is referenced in a set of membrane bound receptors, many of which are scientifically referred to as Self-Receptors used in matching pairs of organ donor-receiver through “tissue typing” assessments. Red blood cells, being an example of a bodily cell that do not have “self-receptors,” are easily transferred between people. While conventional biologists perceive that identity is referenced as membrane receptor proteins, they fail to emphasize that receptors respond to environmental signals. The point is that externalized self-receptors on the membrane surface are activated by signals in the outside environment. The cells may come and go, but the identifying environmental signals represent a unique energy field (a broadcast!) that is ever present.
The most important part of the story is the relevance to quantum physics, the most tested and validated of all sciences. A primary fact in quantum physics is that the Universe is all energy (matter being an illusion). Consciousness creates our life experience!
To translate for the non-scientists among you, he’s basically saying that our beliefs (which arise from our consciousness), influence our bodies by creating the cell medium (the environment) that influences how our genes express themselves. In other words, we are not our genes. Our beliefs actually create what we call “reality.”
Clearing Core Negative Beliefs/ Energy Psychology
Changing your beliefs is no small thing. Psychotherapists have been wrestling with the challenge of helping traumatized individuals who develop negative core beliefs about the world and their health change and clear core negative beliefs for decades. It seems there’s no magic bullet for curing negative beliefs. But cutting edge energy psychology trauma treatments like AIT and EFT are showing promise in clearing beliefs not just cognitively (like cognitive behavior therapy—CBT—which is limited in its efficacy), but energetically. Examining your beliefs about your health and what’s possible for you, not just in your body but in your life, can shift things in unexpected and surprising ways. Even reading one case of spontaneous healing in someone who has the same diagnosis as you might shatter your belief that your disease is “incurable,” which is why the case studies in Jeff’s book can be so illuminating. The truth is that every person who struggles with illness is, in statistician language, “an N of 1,” meaning that you’re the only YOU, and your healing journey—and prognosis—is unique.
While belief that healing is possible seems to impact healing, Jeff and I both bumped into cases that could not be explained away by positive belief alone, like the case of Stephen Dunphe, who left Jeff with a “This changes everything” moment. Stephen walked into Jeff’s hospital in 2011 with back pain, which turned out to be caused by a bone marrow tumor in his spine diagnosed as multiple myeloma, an incurable and usually fatal cancer of the white blood cells which usually leaves people dead within five years (with conventional treatment, that is). Doctors recommended surgery to relieve the tumor burden, not as a cure, but for symptom relief. But first, he needed an MRI pre-operatively.
What changed everything for Jeff is that while Stephen was inside the MRI machine, he experienced an altered state of consciousness and felt like the machine was filling with first a trickle then a flood of water. He didn’t panic. He figured the machine was broken, and they would rescue him soon, but they didn’t. Instead, he just remained calm and seemed to be okay fully immersed underwater. He was, after all, a scuba diver. Jeff interrupted him as he told the story. Nobody else in the room saw any water. “So, it sounds like you were hallucinating. Or in some kind of altered state,” Jeff said, seeking clarity. But Stephen waved him off with a dismissive hand. “Yeah, yeah, sure.” For Stephen, this experience was entirely real, and a benevolent presence accompanied him through the journey into the MRI machine.
The trippy part is that the MRI taken while Stephen had an experience of being underwater showed that the tumor had disappeared. It had only been a week since the previous scan revealed a life-threatening sized tumor. The surgery was canceled, and doctors, nurses, and students flooded Stephen’s room to peer at Stephen as if he was a zoo animal, a spectacle of spontaneous healing nobody could believe.
Join The Whole Health Medicine Institute Class of 2020
In the Whole Health Medicine Institute program that I founded, which is enrolling for the Class of 2020 now, we teach doctors and others who are interested in how to help patients optimize their likelihood of becoming “health outliers.” Health outliers are those who have better than expected outcomes from “incurable” or “terminal” illnesses, those who shock their doctors and defy the statistics by getting well when typical doctors think they shouldn’t, people with physical or mental illness who conventional medicine has given up on or deemed to be beyond help, people we treat with chronic medication, give up on because we don’t know how to help, or write off as “terminal.”
The problem is that most doctors—and therefore, most patients—are not doing everything within their power to optimize their chances of becoming one of those health outliers. Those at the Whole Health Medicine Institute, including Jeff Rediger, MD, who is new to our faculty this year, are trying to educate and help transform both health care providers and the patients who are ready to implement these transformational changes for themselves.
In the next blog reviewing CURED, we’ll be focusing on CURED Tips #7, 8, & 9 about how health outliers employed radical diet changes, took measures to reduce systemic and chronic inflammation, and healed their relationship to themselves by shifting their identity. If you’re just visiting the blog here, make sure you’re on my mailing list, so you don’t miss the next installation in this series about spontaneous healing. Sign up here.
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