Wayne Adult Community Center

Feature article from the May, 2003 Newsletter

Increasing Evidence for Mind Over Illness

It has long been known that you can make yourself sick through worry, and even  hasten your own death through force of will.  It has long been suspected that the mind can also have powerful positive effects, even including healing.  Recent studies support that possibility.

In the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth is reported to have told a grateful recipient of his attention:  “Your faith has cured you”.  Sigmund Freud, late in the nineteenth century, became convinced that even severe physical symptoms are sometimes psychologically based.  Phenomena such as hypnotism , biofeedback, and demonstrated abilities of advanced yogis, have provided direct evidence of the mind’s power over seemingly autonomic bodily processes.

Recent studies reported in the newspaper The Record of Hackensack*, have added to the evidence.  The article “Mind, matter, and medicine”, discusses the roles of stress, depression and relaxation in the maintenance and amelioration of heart disease, asthma and other conditions.  It announces the creation of a new medical specialty, “Psychosomatic Medicine” and the potential benefits to patients. 

Evidence not mentioned in the article, includes the facts that:

  • People with terminal conditions often die shortly after a major family event such as a grandchild’s wedding or the patient’s own birthday, suggesting that they have been able to delay their death in anticipation of the event.
  • The proportion of men who contract fatal cancers within a year of the death of their wives,  far exceeds statistical chance.  This suggests, if nothing else, that the men’s immune systems are severely affected by their grief.

The same section of The Record contains a subsidiary article, “Five research studies that demonstrate the link” which struck your newsletter’s editor as even more interesting than the main article:  One of the most striking results recounted there is from a study of  335 patients at the University of California who were about to undergo surgery.  The patients were randomly assigned  one of four different audiotapes before and after surgery.  Those who listened to a tape with guided imagery, music, and specific suggestions of diminished blood loss and rapid healing, had 43 percent less blood loss, and could be released from the hospital a day earlier, than those who listened to other kinds of tapes.

The subsidiary article will be posted in the Archives section of the Wayne Adult Community Center’s Web site in June.

*  March 24, 2003, pp F4 - F5

W. A. Shapiro