Imagine if you had a reliable way to diagnose any statement as “true” or “false?” What if you could accurately test “It’s aligned for me to quit my job.” versus “It’s not aligned for me to quit my job?” and get the answer direct from God, your Inner Pilot Light, the Divine, the Universe, your wise body, your intuition, or whatever you want to call it? Consider all the decisions you face every day—which foods to eat, which medical treatment to choose, which way to swipe on Tinder, which vacation destination to select, which career opportunity to pursue, whether to say yes or no to a family gathering, or when it’s time to finally take that leap of faith that’s been nipping at your heels.
If such a test was possible, imagine how much ruminating, perseverating, worrying, confusion, and mental gymnastics with pros and cons you could skip!
Many of the hundreds of healers I’ve interviewed during seven years of researching my Sacred Medicine book claim it is possible, with just the right method of applying such a test, to be capable of receiving such answers from a higher Source than the limited human mind localized inside your cute skull. They claim that it’s possible to bypass your own brain and “ask up,” directing your question to some sort of Higher Mind, or non-local consciousness, or Divine Will, if you will.
When healers first insinuated such a thing, I summarily wrote it off as a wishful thinking fantasy, something too good to be true, completely unscientific, and full of the potential for abuse. I mean, really! Who has the direct line to God and can claim, “Yes, God is waving pom poms and wants you to do this” or “Heck no, God definitely does not want you to do this.” Doesn’t that sound like something any religion trying to control you or any energy healer trying to take advantage of you might use to manipulate you? (“Let’s muscle test you to see if God wants you to become my client. Oh my, look at that! God wants you to pay me $300/hour.)
They certainly didn’t teach us about muscle testing in medical school, and at first, I figured, “Certainly, if it was real, we’d use it to guide treatment decisions, right? So if doctors aren’t using it as a valid diagnostic test to guide medical treatment, then it couldn’t be accurate, right?” Then I realized how many other things I should have been taught in medical school but wasn’t. (I now teach many of these Medical School 2.0 things I should have learned but didn’t to female doctors in the Whole Health Medicine Institute, which will be accepting applications soon. Get on the waiting list here.) So instead of writing off such claims, I decided to keep an open, curious, but discerning mind. I realized it was time to do my homework.
What Is Muscle Testing?
This way to ask a higher Source whether a statement is true or false goes by many names—“muscle testing,” “energy testing” or “applied kinesiology.” The gist of muscle testing is that if something is true or aligned with the body/unconscious mind/Divine Will, and if it strengthens rather than weakens the subject, then the muscle will be strong. If it’s false, not aligned, or weakens the subject, the muscle will weaken.
The muscle test is seen by many healers as a bridge to the unconscious, kind of like bypassing the conscious mind and going direct to the wisdom or your Inner Pilot Light. The muscle test is also seen as a sort of lie detector test. So if someone muscle tests me when I say “My name is Lissa,” my arm muscle will be strong. But if I say “My name is Fred,” my arm will weaken because of the falsehood. Some healers use this as a way to demonstrate that what we think we want, we often unconsciously do not want. For example, I just taught a Mind Over Medicine workshop, where I told my students that as crazy as it sounds, some sick people who say they want to be cured do not really want to be cured. Part of them wants to be cured. Of course, the conscious mind wants to be cured, to be free from suffering and symptom free, to have their health span equal their life span. But something in the unconscious may want to stay sick as a way to try to protect them. For example, if someone thinks the only way they’ll get love and attention is to be sick, they will be unwilling to give up love and attention.
Healers may use the muscle test to validate this kind of unconscious block, asking someone to say, “I want to be cured” and testing whether the muscle is strong. If it is discovered that the patient unconsciously wants to be sick, then the work of the healer is to make the unconscious conscious and treat whatever block may be sabotaging the conscious desire to get well.
I’ve seen healers use muscle tests for a variety of reasons. Some alternative medicine practitioners use it to test whether a supplement is good for someone’s body. Some use it to prescribe dietary changes, testing which foods are good for the body and which are not. I’ve seen them test to see what traumas might be at the root cause of an illness. I’ve also seen some healers misuse the muscle test, exploiting it to try to prove how accurate their intuition is to patients as a way to show off or prove how psychic they are. I’ve even seen some unethically use muscle testing to try to control a patient or client into doing something the practitioner wants the patient to do. When used properly, however, and with impeccable ethics, I’ve witnessed this tool used in ways that seems very helpful to both the client and the practitioner.
Is Muscle Testing Valid?
As an admittedly skeptical, scientifically-minded conventionally trained medical doctor, I like to go direct to the research around controversial things in medicine and healing. People can make all kinds of claims, but can we prove them? Because muscle testing seemed like something easy to prove or disprove as a valid test, I studied the research and was disappointed by how inconclusive it seemed. Although some studies show that a muscle test is accurate to a statistically significant degree, statistical significance does not equal clinical significance. In other words, unless the test was reliable more than 95 percent of the time, its clinical relevance is insignificant. The problem is that, by the very nature of how the test works or doesn’t work, even the best scientists have been unable to use current science to prove or disprove its validity. However, this has not stopped scientists from dismissing the test as entirely useless. One double blind randomized trial published in Explore demonstrated that muscle testing could not reliably distinguish between a vial of salt water and a vial of poison. Researchers involved in the study concluded, “Applied Kinesiology has not demonstrated that it is a useful or reliable diagnostic tool upon which health decisions can be based.”
I even reached out to the Oxford PhD candidate Anne Jensen, who is writing her doctoral thesis on the science of muscle testing. (I’ll be publishing all the data and my conclusions about it in my Sacred Medicine book.) Suffice it to say that after years of study, research and practice, I now realize that most scientific studies on muscle testing are inconclusive because researchers do not control for all the variables that make a muscle test inaccurate. I don’t think they perform the muscle test inaccurately on purpose; I think very few people know all the factors that can influence a muscle test in a way that makes it inaccurate. As far as I know, there is no scientific way to even control for some of these variables, which makes it nearly impossible to test conclusively.
The healer/psychotherapist who has influenced me the most regarding muscle testing is Asha Clinton, PhD, the founder of Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT). After studying AIT and completing the introductory basic training course to learn how to practice AIT on my own clients, I learned all the factors that are necessary in order to perform a muscle test correctly, which helped me understand why so many people perform inaccurate and unreliable muscle tests. To explain the conundrum, let me explain all the influences that can confound a muscle test, based on what I learned from AIT. (If you’d like to learn how to perform a muscle test correctly—as well as other AIT foundational teachings—we still have a few spots open for the AIT Basics Training Asha Clinton and I are doing together in Mill Valley, CA in August. Register here.
What Can Make A Muscle Test Inaccurate?
1. The tester needs to put his or her ego to the side.
Bias or an agenda on the part of the tester can influence the muscle test and cause it to be inaccurate. This complicates the science of muscle testing, because how can you control for whether the tester has an agenda? In a perfect world, both the tester and testee would be able to put aside their biases, remain neutral, and detach from the outcome of the muscle test. However, with all the unconscious traumas and core beliefs that sit in the testee’s unconscious, if we had to wait for the testee to be completely neutral, we’d be waiting for a very long time. With that disclaimer, it helps if the tester and testee can approach the muscle test as just another piece of information that can be helpful when you’re making treatment decisions or other life decisions. If a skeptical researcher is driven by an egoic attachment to disproving muscle testing, the bias of the researcher can make the muscle test inaccurate. If an egoically driven dogmatic energy healer is trying to prove that muscle testing works or that their intuition is accurate, this agenda can also make the test inaccurate. If the testee is afraid of the answer, attached to an answer, or resistant to an answer, the muscle test may not be valid. The only way a muscle test will be accurate is if at least the tester can approach the statement from a neutral position. I know some people resist things like prayer, but for me, the muscle test is a kind of prayer, a direct request to whatever invisible force of love you believe in. It’s my way of saying “God/Goddess, I want to serve your will, not my small pea brain’s will. Please help me know what’s true.” Then I surrender, knowing that, even if I’m emotional about a statement, the only thing I really want is the truth.
2. The tester needs to be grounded, embodied, and present.
If you’re muscle testing someone while you’re thinking about your shopping list, out of touch with your body, and distracted, you may influence the muscle test. It’s always a good idea for the tester to take a moment before testing and just ground, breathe deeply, feel your body, and show up in the present moment, undistracted. Just as it’s hard to screen for whether the tester is ego-driven, scientifically controlling for whether the tester is grounded, embodied, and present may be impossible. This further contributes to why muscle testing is hard to verify scientifically.
3. Reversal of electrical polarity.
Electrical polarity is supposed to run in a consistent direction in the human energy field. If the polarity of the testee is reversed, the muscle test may be inaccurate. There’s a way to check whether the polarity is running in the right direction, and there’s a way to fix it if it’s off, which we teach in the AIT seminar.
4. Psychological Reversals.
If you are in some unconscious way resistant to knowing the answer to the muscle test, the test can be inaccurate. For example, if Asha is testing someone about a trauma and there is resistance to knowing the truth, there may interference that invalidates the muscle test. If psychological reversals are present, AIT teaches a way to treat this so you can get the right answer.
5. Accuracy requires the right statement.
If you’re trying to muscle test two things at once, for example, you may get an equivocal muscle test. You wouldn’t want to muscle test “It’s aligned for me to move to New York or LA.” You’d want to test “It’s aligned for me to move.” If the muscle test says yes, then you could separately test for “It’s aligned for me to move to New York” and “It’s aligned for me to move to LA.”
6. You can’t muscle test the future.
This is not a crystal ball! All you’re testing is what is true in this present moment. Because humans have free will and energy is changing all the time, the future is untestable. So don’t go trying to test “I’m going to marry Billy” or “I’ll have four children one day.” Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.
7. Injured muscles.
Obviously, if the muscles you’re going to test are injured in some way, the muscle test may not be valid. In the AIT Basics seminar, Asha and I teach lots of different muscles you can test, in case there’s an injury in one muscle group. We also teach how to muscle test yourself (though I always second guess myself and still prefer to have someone else test me!).
If either the testee or tester is dehydrated, it’s possible that it can alter the muscle test. There’s a way to test for dehydration and if the testee is dehydrated and both the tester and testee drink a glass of water, this can be easily corrected. Most practitioners who use muscle testing do not test for hydration, because they don’t think it’s necessary, so it may not be essential, but I still use it and it’s in the AIT muscle testing protocol, just in case.
Do I Believe In Muscle Testing?
In spite of the scientific method’s difficulty verifying muscle testing as an evidence-based test, I now use muscle testing all the time personally and professionally, and I teach it to doctors in the Whole Health Medicine Institute, as well as co-teaching with Asha in the AIT Basics seminar. Do I believe in it? Well, it’s not so much about belief. I just trust it and use it routinely now, as irrational as that sounds even to myself. Perhaps some things, such as the mechanism by which muscle testing works, simply prefer to remain a mystery.
If you’re interested in learning how to perform an accurate muscle test or how to practice AIT with patients or clients, you can learn more about the AIT seminar and register here. If you’ve never heard of AIT and are interested in learning this revolutionary healing modality, read the blogs I’ve written here:
I hope this has helped you find some long-awaited clarity! If you have any direct experience with muscle testing, I’d love to hear your stories or comments in the comments below.
With love and wishes for reliable answers,
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