An Exploration of the Meaning of Illness
by David Quigley
David Quigley is the creator of Alchemical Hypnotherapy, a popular form of therapy based upon empowering clients to access inner guides (archetypes) within the subconscious mind as the primary sources of healing. This technology, which incorporates elements of clinical hypnosis, NLP, Gestalt, Jungian, and Reichian therapies, and Psychosynthesis, has wide-ranging application in the areas of addiction treatment, abuse recovery, alternative medicine, and peak performance training. David Quigley is the director of the Alchemy Institute of Hpynosis in Santa Rosa, California.
A culture's approach to treating disease is based largely upon the belief system with which that culture regards the origins and meaning of illness. Whatever that belief system (or "paradigm") is, there are some diseases that respond extremely well to the treatments dictated by the existing paradigm, and others which appear to defy the existing treatments, and thus call upon that society to create a new definition of the origins and purpose of disease. For example, pre-civilized native cultures frequently regarded illnesses as the curses of dark spirits, or the result of breaking some social taboo. The treatments based upon this model, including exorcism rituals, direct communication with spirits, aggrieved ancestors, and the angry Gods, were often sufficient (perhaps in conjunction with healing herbs that are the foundation of most modern medicines) to heal the diseases and infections usually encountered by the tribe. This paradigm breaks down, however, in the face of the mass infectious diseases (i.e. smallpox) of western civilization.
Modern allopathic medicine has its own paradigm of disease, based largely upon the treatment of these same diseases. This paradigm suggests that disease is the result of the "invasion" of the body by viruses, bacteria, and other parasitic organisms. This paradigm allows for highly successful treatment of infectious diseases, but provides very little help for a new generation of disease processes (including most commonly, cancer, but also multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases) which do not fit into the common paradigm.
Oriental medicine, whose paradigm of disease is that the patient suffers from an imbalance of energies in the body, or a blockage of such energies within the etheric pathways called "meridians" shows a remarkable agility in treating those very diseases for which the modern allopathic physician can do so little.
Naturopathic medicine has its own paradigm of disease, in which disease processes are regarded as the result of toxins and stress accumulating in the body and causing a breakdown of the bodily systems. Naturally, fasting, nutritional supplementation, herbs, and lifestyle changes are the recommended treatments.
It is my belief that it is a mistake to assume that any one paradigm of illness is "correct" or "scientific" and others are "false" or "superstition". All of the systems of healing have proven their worth over years (sometimes centuries) of successful application, thus proving that each paradigm of healing holds some measure of the truth.
The question I'd like to address in this article is this: What is the hypnotherapists belief system about disease, and what techniques, based upon that belief system, can help hypnotherapists to activate the healing power of the subconscious mind, as an adjunct to medical treatment?
Hypnotists assume that the operations of every part of the body, including digestive processes, respiration, and the activities of the immune system are under the direct control of the subconscious mind. Thus, the subconscious mind not only influences the so-called "psychosomatic" illnesses, but all disease processes, including bacterial and viral conditions.
Illustrations of such a mind/body connection fill the literature. Changes in attitude and feeling have been reported by thousands of sufferers from AIDS, cancer, polio, etc. to have had profound effects on their physical condition. The fact is, scientific research accepts that at least 35 percent of patients experience a "placebo effect"...that is, a completely ineffectual substance, when presented as a healing medicine, stimulates the patient's subconscious mind to improve or eliminate the condition. Some research in fact indicates that this so-called "placebo effect" may affect up to 60 percent of research subjects...a success rate comparable to that of the most effective modern medicines. The "placebo effect" is nothing less than the power of post-hypnotic suggestion!
The Alchemical Hypnotherapist takes the "subconscious creation" paradigm of disease one step further: we suggest that the client's subconscious mind creates a particular disease process in order to serve a unique purpose for the client's internal world. Thus healing would consist of finding a new, healthier way of getting this purpose served or this need met. Once this goal is achieved, the immune system can be mobilized to eliminate the disease and restore the internal balance of the body. While this work is no substitute for appropriate medical treatment, we can vastly increase the immune system's ability to heal, by eliminating the subconscious processes of disease formation.
So how do we access these subconscious motivations for disease and eliminate them? First, we need to point out to all our clients that their conscious mind is not and has never been the source of disease. It is both bad psychology and bad medicine to say to an ill person: "I wonder how you created this disease?" The origins of the disease lie well beneath the patient's conscious intentions and control, and cannot be accessed by laying a guilt trip upon the already suffering patient.
Rather, what I say to them is this: "It's possible that subconscious patterns of feeling and belief may be contributing to the disease you are suffering. To the extent that I can help you discover and alter such patterns through hypnotherapy, I can help you to accelerate the healing process, in conjunction with appropriate medical treatment." Thus we lay the groundwork for healthy, guilt-free explorations. Step two, then, is to induce a hypnotic trance in order to access subconscious motivations.
The client's subconscious disease-maintaining patterns are not easy to access, because of deep pain and denial. Therefore, I recommend a gentle, long induction in which we speak very softly and gently to the client. It may take a number of weekly sessions to access the deepest, most frightening, and most important motivations.
One can utilize trance to enter the affected body part as if it were a room, then address the contents of the room as the symbolic content of the disease process. For example, a client enters a fibroid tumor in her uterus and discovers there a fetus whom she aborted years before. After she expresses her grief and remorse about the abortion to this child and receives the child's forgiveness, the tumor disappears. Another client discovers in his chronically swollen knee a memory of childhood abuse. He needs to rescue his inner child from that abuse, including expressing all of the feelings that remain unexpressed, and thus stored in his body, from the incident. This will help him release the trauma stored in the knee.
William Reich's research in the 1930's suggested that the unexpressed pain and trauma of our past is stored in the musculature and connective tissue of our bodies, creating tension, blocks in circulation and ultimately pain and disease. Such memories can be stored in my experience in internal organs as well. This process helps us to identify both the external persons who are connected to this stored pain and also the specific memories in which the pain originated. We can then utilize emotional release and child rescue processes to alter the memories stored in the body and thus release the pain and tension contained therein.
The memories unlocked through this process are likely to be very traumatic in the case of serious diseases. One should not attempt this kind of uncovering without a thorough background in regression therapy, emotional release, and inner child healing.
Another technique involves talking to the "disease entity" as if it were a person or an animal and finding out in what way it is serving the client. For example, the client's hypnotic search for the cancer entity turns up a green monster who says: "I'm here to make you leave this miserable marriage...one way or the other!" Now the choice is no longer perceived as surgery vs. radiation, but more importantly as divorce/marriage counseling vs. death. This technique allows us to directly access the purpose which the disease is serving at a subconscious level for the client.
A related technique involves asking the inner landscape of the client: "What part(s) of the client have hired this disease?" ("want this disease?") We may, for example, discover that the client's inner critic is punishing them for carnal "sin" with allergic reactions, or that an inner romantic has "hired" multiple sclerosis because it doesn't want to live a lonely, loveless life any longer. The hypnotherapist who has a background in sub-personality work (sometimes called "voice dialogue", "psychosynthesis", or "parts therapy") can help clients through this labyrinth of self-destructive behavior by helping these parts of the client to get their needs met in other ways. For example, the critic can perhaps be persuaded that the client can achieve more by atoning for his "sins" by loving others selflessly than he can by suffering allergies. Or the inner romantic can be persuaded to join other parts of the client in actively pursuing a lover rather than suffering a disease. While sub-personality work is sufficiently complex as to be beyond the range of this article, it remains a powerful and significant aspect of the healing process.
A number of regressive strategies may be used to address the emotional causes of illness. One of them is asking the client to go back to the time that the disease entity was first "hired" at the subconscious level. This allows us to explore whatever incident triggered the onset of the disease process. It is important not to confuse the the time the disease is hired with the onset of symptoms or the arrival at a diagnosis, as these things may occur a year or more after the disease process begins. The initial trigger event could be a major loss, a divorce, a period of unemployment, or any other major life change.
A different regressive strategy will take us deeper into this initial pain by asking when did these feelings first begin. This allows us to explore childhood and past life incidents which set the stage in the subconscious mind for the client's extreme reaction to this trigger event. For example: the client's loss of a beloved wife may subconsciously restimulate the loss of the mother's love in infancy and thus elicit a terminal illness as an experience of a reactivated death wish from childhood.
One of the most powerful strategies for the advanced client is the exploration of karmic deeds, crimes we have committed against others in the past which follow us to the present life seeking retribution. This karma may directly affect the client's present health challenge. The instructions I give to the client are these: "Let's go back to a time long ago when you created this pain and suffering for yourself..." This process not only allows us to identify the reason for this suffering at the spiritual level, but allows us to establish an atonement which eliminates the need for further karmic retribution in the form of an illness. This process is especially valuable for clients who have a spiritual orientation to their therapy.
Another of the Alchemical strategies is to assist clients in contacting an inner healer. This resource state within the inner world is available to the client twenty-four hours a day in addressing both the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual origins of the illness. The inner healer also provides daily meditations of healing which can be anchored directly through hypnotic suggestion to the pain and symptoms of the illness.
These are some of the many techniques used by the Alchemical Hypnotherapist to discover the underlying purpose of disease processes and help create alternative ways to meet that purpose. Thus we not only help restore the body's health, but help our clients to experience that profound empowerment that comes when one has discovered the meaning of an illness, learned its lesson for us, and consciously and lovingly released it.
It would be a mistake to assume that the hypnotherapy model of disease and treatment modalities outlined in this article represents the only legitimate paradigm of disease, or even necessarily the best. As health care professionals, hypnotherapists are both ethically and legally required to refer our clients to both mainstream physicians and other alternative practitioners so that the illness can be addressed from as many perspectives as possible. Nevertheless, as hypnotherapists we offer an invaluable perspective to all other health professions by addressing the clients' illness from the perspective of subconscious motivations...the perspective of the soul.
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Somatic Healing is a new dimension in hypnosis therapies for the treatment of injury, pain and disease. This program is taught in hypnosis centers throughout the USA. This article will describe each technique used in Somatic Healing, followed by real life examples of how these techniques produced miracles of healing, sometimes in a single session. Developed by David Quigley and Nick Ardagh, Somatic Healing is always used as an adjunct to, never a substitute for, proper medical treatment. Somatic Healing practitioners always work where possible under medical supervision. Somatic Healing consists of four powerful processes: The Golden Sun Process, Hypnotic Movement, Color Healing, and Psychic Surgery performed by the Inner Healer.
Golden Sun Process
The Golden Sun Process is an energy channeling technique which helps us concentrate and channel the energy of the universe into places of pain and illness in our own bodies, and those of our clients. This process can add new power to other proven techniques of laying on of hands healing, such as Reiki or Therapeutic Touch. The Golden Sun Process is not subtle. Both practitioners and clients who experience this work describe the energy being channeled as intensely hot, electrical, tingling. This process utilizes visualization of various colors and images through which the body becomes a transformer of Universal energy. Grounding cords are placed into the earth from the feet and the base of the spine which bring earth energy up into the body. The Golden Sun of the Higher Self brings golden energy down into the body. Both energies are merged in the heart, then channeled into the practitioner's hands. I have used this technique to eliminate headaches, the common cold, and other ailments. It requires, however, tremendous concentration and very open psychic channels in the practitioner in order to be effective alone. It works better as one component of the Somatic Healing process.
Hypnotic Movement is a technique in which the muscles of the body are instructed to move themselves without conscious direction or control in order to release old traumas, restore flexibility, eliminate pain, and promote healing. Once a client experiences these unique and powerful movement patterns in their body, they can learn to perform these simple exercises on their own in order to exponentially increase the healing power of these movements. Hypnotic movement techniques are based on the ancient principle that our bodies already know how to heal themselves. All we must do is persuade the conscious mind to step aside and let the body do it. That's why all these movements require a light hypnotic trance in order to by-pass normal conscious controls. These movements may involve some supportive touch. That is, the therapist may hold the client's body in a twisted position that the body has assumed on it's own, to help the client relax in that position. They may involve therapeutic touch, in which the therapist directly channels healing energy to the client's body. Although therapeutic touch and supportive touch are helpful to somatic healing, they are not usually essential to its success.
Healing Accident Injuries
The first type of hypnotic movement useful primarily for accident victims is running traumas in the body. This is essentially a kind of hypnotic regression in which the client returns to the scene of a violent accident, and the muscles and connective tissue & internal organs of the body re-live and move through the original trauma. But this time the client goes through the experience very slowly, and completely free of pain. Then, when the client's body reaches the moment of actual injury (referred to as Maximum Scrunch) the client is instructed to hold this position. As awkward-indeed impossibly uncomfortable-as the position may appear to an observer, the client in this position feels pain free. In fact, the client may feel incredibly relaxed and experience waves of blissful tingling or pulsing as the body accepts this position as safe and stress-free. At this point the therapist may wish to support the body so that the muscles can relax in this position. Afterwards the body may move to another position of "Maximum Scrunch" (i.e. point of injury) for a few more minutes. Slowly the body finishes "unwinding" its way through the entire accident, then relaxes into a prone position again. I ask the body to signal to the client when it's "done", and the client relays this signal to me by nodding their head. This process is frequently, but not always, accompanied by vivid recollection of the accident scene, emotional reactions such as groans or tears, or by intense sensations of tingling and warmth in the affected body parts. The one sensation rarely reported to me is pain.
Example: Wes Carpenter, a 52-year old businessman from Sacramento broke his leg at the knee joint during an airplane crash in 1983. Even after 3 reconstructive surgeries, he walked for 14 years with a noticeable limp. His right leg was permanently twisted outward, and he went to bed every night with pain in his hip and leg. He was also unable to bend his leg more than 45 degrees, and had difficulty standing up or sitting down as a result. During a somatic healing session, he re-lived very slowly in trance the entire accident. He was able to recall every detail of the accident for the first time. (Prior to the session, he suffered complete amnesia for the experience). His body contorted in absolutely bizarre ways, stopping at one point in a particularly contorted position with his right leg twisted behind his body, where I supported his leg in that position for about 2 minutes. When his body straightened back out his leg was, for the first time since the accident, completely straight, totally flexible and free of pain. He squatted for the first time in 14 years 5 minutes after the procedure. Four months later, he continues to walk normally and experiences total freedom from pain. He describes his experience as comparable to having a brand new leg. The entire procedure took 45 minutes.
Repetitive Strain Injuries and Joint Pain
Another type of hypnotic movement is useful for repetitive strain injuries, like the infamous carpal tunnel syndrome. Because these injuries are the result of holding or moving the body in awkward positions for years rather than the results of a single trauma, the movement involved in healing is different. A variation of this technique can also be applied to any kind of joint pain- arthritis, rheumatism, etc. I first suggest that the clients body move into the position in which it first became "frozen." For carpel tunnel, I may have the client's wrist poise over an imaginary computer keyboard in just the way the stress injury was created. Then I hold the wrist stable in that position with my hands so the wrist can simply relax into that position. Intense crying may begin as the job-related stress is released. (One client reported: "I suddenly felt supported for the first time in that horrible job!") Or the wrist may start pulsing, trembling, or turning very warm. All of these are positive signs that the somatic healing process is working. I'll continue to hold the wrist in this position until all symptoms have subsided. Then I instruct the client's wrist to stretch and twist out the pain in its own unique way. This circular stretching may involve muscles from the shoulder down to individual fingers. The therapist's instructions must be general enough to allow the client's body to move freely without limitations imposed by the therapist's or the client's preconceived notions of how it should look. Sometimes this vigorous stage of the stretch can include the expression of anger (often work-related) that is stored in the affected joint(s). Again, the body signals to the client when the process is complete.
Example: Jean Cantrell was forced to leave a stressful job after years of repetitive overuse of her neck combined with verbal abuse from a supervisor. Her neck became inflamed and stiff, with excruciating shooting pains down her arms. After two years of significant healing by other modalities, restricted movement, residual pain, and the disempowering emotional component of the injury were still present. I first asked her neck to assume the position it had held at work. As her head and neck assumed an awkward, rigid position. I then supported them. Tears flowed as her body, mind, and spirit experienced the 'support' so blatantly lacking in her former work environment. Then I instructed her neck to release the anger it held through movement. Her entire neck and head began butting against a pillow and she was able to painlessly experience and vocalize her justifiable rage.After this single session, Jean reported more freedom of movement and considerable pain reduction. Most important is the freedom she now experiences in being strong, firm, and appropriate with expressing her needs and unwillingness to stay in unhealthy environments or relationships.
For Immobilized Injuries
The third type of hypnotic movement is microscopic movement.. When muscles or joints are immobilized by severe pain or injury (including those in a cast) microscopic movement may be the best choice of movement therapies. While microscopic movement is invisible to the therapist, the client will (upon returning from trance) often report that they felt a warm, twitching, tingling sensation in the area, usually quite pleasant, which signals a return of healing circulation to the area. Example: Bob R. had been painfully crippled for 3 years with a degenerative spinal condition complicated by a herniated disc, with sciatic pain down both legs and numbness in his feet. In repeated suggestions for hypnotic movement, no movement was visible to me. But he reported pleasant and rejuvenating sensations of twitching movement at the base of his spine, which were very valuable and soon led to other reconstructive movements, including the "cat stretch" movement. His condition is now greatly improved after four months of regular therapy and (against all medical expectations) his posture and movement have been restored to nearly normal.
Color Healing is the next technique of Somatic Healing. I give the client instructions in trance that the area of pain, illness or swelling is filled with a unique color, the color of that illness or pain. Then I suggest that their body will identify an exit point through which the color will leave the body. This point may be adjacent to the illness or injury or may be a long way from the area of pain. Option: the therapist may wish to touch the exit point or instruct the client to do so. Then I have the client imagine this "sick" color draining out of the client's body through the exit point. For example, in draining the pain from rheumatism in my left shoulder in 1980, I found the exit point in the center of my left palm. I touched this point, doing hypnotic movement while the color drained out, to restore full flexibility and eliminate pain in about 15 minutes. It may take anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes to drain this color out of the client's body. The next step is to suggest that the body knows (note: not the client's knowledge) a healing color that is to be channeled into the injured or diseased area. I ask the client to imagine this color as a river of cleansing, building, and healing energy that washes away any remaining pain, debris, or toxins from the body. This river enters through an "entrance point" adjacent to the illness/injury and goes out through the same exit points as drained the sick color. Both of these color healing processes are often accompanied by hypnotic movement (i.e., "Now your body knows how to move to facilitate the draining of this dark color.") Example: Glenna Quigley (my wife) was suffering a severe allergic reaction to goldenrod in a meadow filled with these beautiful late summer flowers. I instructed her in trance to identify the "sick" color in her sinuses and instructed her body to open up exit points (two of them, were identified, one in each temple) and drain this color. It took about 15 minutes, but seemed much longer. In trance, time distortion is common. Afterwards, we filled the area with a healing color that protected her sinuses from the goldenrod. When her body indicated that this process was complete, I took her to the center of the goldenrod patch and placed a fresh-cut flower under her nose, instructing her to breathe deeply. No response. No allergic reaction. Permanent elimination of the allergy was achieved in less than 20 minutes.
Psychic Surgery from the Inner Healer
Psychic Surgery, performed by the inner healer, is the next stage of somatic healing. The phenomenal power of this psychic surgery is very difficult to describe, and impossible to explain in medical terms. Nevertheless, it works. I have seen the hands of the inner healer literally moving inside the body of the client. I have seen miracles that defy scientific explanation. The instructions are simple. We first enter an internal "temple of healing, " in which the client is instructed to discover (not create) the inner healer. We usually ask the client (as we do with other inner guide work) to describe the inner healer and learn the name of this guide. Clients who have difficulty visualizing can skip these steps, although to do so risks the client missing the capacity to contact this healer on their own. Once the inner healer is established, it is suggested that the inner healer will perform surgery by moving into the clients body with their hands at an "entrance point" near the area of pain or illness. The process is initiated and controlled entirely by the inner healer, with minimum, mostly invitational instructions from the therapist (ex. "perhaps now your inner healer is going to enter...") The therapist's role is largely that of keeping the momentum of the session going, soothing the client's experiences of fear, discomfort, or confusion, and encouraging the client to surrender to what is, by all accounts, a bizarre experience. The therapist frequently suggests that the experience is free of pain. If the use of surgical tools or other instruments is suggested by the therapist, it is done in a strictly invitational fashion--example: "perhaps your inner healer will use super glue to close and heal this herniation. Or perhaps a needle and thread. Or something else...your inner healer knows how to do this in their own way..." The processes of color healing and hypnotic movement are seamlessly interwoven by the therapist into the sychic surgery procedure. (Ex: "Now, as this dark color drains out, your inner healer's hands reach in to remove any obstacles to the draining of this energy...and now your body may wish to move, in its own way, to assist this process..etc"). The truth is that psychic surgery actually includes all of the elements of somatic healing in itself. In the same way that the human body is not simply a collection of organs, but a smoothly interacting system of organs working together, so somatic healing is the seamless unity of all its inclusive techniques into a single coherent process...an art form of subtle simplicity.
An example: Vicki Markin has suffered malignant and metastasized tumors in her intestines and abdominal cavity for years. In November of 1997 she experienced a "psychic surgery" from her inner healer. This particular surgery had a number of unique features. First, as the surgery progressed, she felt her inner healer's hands pulling loose and dissolving tumors, releasing their poisons into her intestines and blood stream. As she did this, numerous memories of childhood abuse and incest flashed before her, along with rapid pulses of the emotions associated with these memories. It was as if these memories were being released along with the physical toxins from these tumors. The inner healer also moved through her liver, spleen and kidneys, to remove the toxins associated with the chemotherapy and pain-killing drugs that Vicki had been using in the medical treatment of the condition. During the session we gave instructions for hypnotic movement. Her entire midriff and upper body went through intense stretches reminiscent of yoga postures (she has no conscious knowledge of yoga). Immediately after this surgery was completed, she ran for the bathroom, where an intense elimination process took much of her time that afternoon. Interestingly, right after her process she palpated her abdomen and noticed it had noticeably softened and relaxed. Old, hard lumps had disappeared.
Exploring the Meaning of the Illness
The final process in Somatic Healing involves exploring the meaning and purpose of the disease in the client's life. At the end of the Somatic Healing process, we ask the inner healer to provide the client with these three understandings:
1. A message about the purpose of this injury or illness.
2. A symbolic gift that can help the client address this underlying purpose through daily meditation.
3. Advice about how the client can address the challenge presented by the illness or injury for their lives.
What does it mean to, "explore the meaning" of an illness? This exploration in trance may involve almost any aspect of life: A dysfunctional marriage, the residues of an abusive childhood, even a call to a higher spiritual destiny. This exploration is explored more fully in the article entitled, "The Alchemy of Healing".
I'll give just one of hundreds of possible examples:
An example: Vita Lawson had been in pain for a year with a herniated disc, taking up to 5 heavy painkillers a day and unable to sit down without pain. She lay in class for 4 days...then during an in-class demonstration Vita entered the herniated disc to find out why it had entered her life. She returned to a past life as an Indian in which she was killed along with all of her tribe. She was killed with a blow on her back...right on the disc. At the instant of this recollection, her back literally jumped into the air while she screamed with agony. We rescued her past life personality from this trauma, after releasing intense grief and rage that had been trapped in her lower back. After one session her pain pill consumption dropped 90% and sitting and movement became much easier. She sat comfortably through the rest of the 12-day program.
A Word of Caution: In order to help clients fully explore the meaning of an illness or injury, a practitioner needs considerable familiarity with childhood regression, past life regression, emotional release, and subpersonality therapy, as all of these may be involved in a single illness or injury. For more information, please refer to my article The Alchemy of Healing, which outlines the multiple strategies that an Alchemist uses in addressing this most important question.