I believe that medical education should train Doctors to recognise the power of our internal resources. Doctors should not dismiss the power of the mind as something inferior to the power of chemicals and the scalpel.’ – Bruce Lipton, MD
Each day, millions of people look for someone to help them change something that is no longer working for them. That status quo is no longer acceptable to them. It may be a job, a medical condition, a relationship – the ‘problem’ arises when the current state is making them feel so uncomfortable that they want to change it.
Human Beings are resilient creatures. And this resilience translates to the ability to remain uncomfortable for long periods of time. Adages like ‘This too shall pass’ are splashed across social media by people in pain. Unfortunately the statement presupposes that you have no control. You can do nothing about it and hence ‘grin and bear it.’ ‘ Don’t worry, things will get better,’ is another version of the same thing – no control.
The creators of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) after modelling the therapeutic strategies of Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir and Milton Erikson, found that any change created by these pioneers in their respective fields, were, if boiled down to the smallest chunk – were change in belief (through changing the perspective). And that could ONLY be done by the person concerned. Yes, it would be facilitated by the language used by Practitioner or Healer or Therapist – however, the switch had to be cognitively created by the person who wants to change.
We worked with an interesting client last week. Sneha (name changed) was a spiritual shopper – moving from course to seminar to workshop spending lakhs of rupees in order to find peace. Nothing seemed to work for her. Each day was more painful than the previous and when asked what needs to happen for her to be happy, she said, ‘Koyi faeda nahi’ (there is no hope). On analysis of the language she used during our interaction, we figured out that she believed that this lifetime was doomed and the only way that she would be happy was to be reborn. To ‘be reborn’ meant that she had to die first. So we created an intervention in which she was killed, reborn, went through a birthing process, a fun and loving childhood and grew up confident, happy and independent. Her belief that ‘there is no hope’ changed to ‘I can do what I want’ and her walk changed, her language changed and she is a completely different person – happy and content. Knowing that she can achieve whatever she wants to.
Each year, thousands of believers throng to Hyderabad on ‘Mrigasira Karthi Day’ – 24 hours during the onset of monsoons – to be administered ‘Bathini Fish Prasadam’, a free service to cure asthma in which a live fish is slipped into the throat of the patient. Millions have been ‘cured’ since this started in 1845. Most people who have experienced or seen it, swear by it. For all those reading this article who don’t believe me – Google it!
What is the most interesting aspect to this, is that the live fingerling goes down the oesophagus (the food pipe) miraculously curing the inflammation of the trachea (the wind pipe).
It works only on ‘belief.’ If you believe you will be cured, you will!
Feeding black grams to a cow on Friday will take away negative influences, wearing a pearl on our little finger will change our luck, adding a few ‘a’s and ‘r’s to our name will make us more successful. These things on their own are just rituals – the causality of action exists in our heads. Thats because we are always looking for a connection. India lost the T20 match because we watched the match in your house and not mine! Germany lost in the World Cup football match because you wore that T-shirt and not the jersey. You didn’t get the job because a black cat crossed your path. We don’t let friends get up to visit the loo during a cricket match lest Virat Kohli gets out! That’s the amount of ‘faith’ Incredible India lives with each day.
In the human body, growth/protection behaviours are controlled by the brain and the nervous system. The job entails monitoring of environmental signals, interpreting them, and organising appropriate behavioural responses. This interpretation is again dependent on previous experience/simulation.
The body is has two separate protection systems, each vital to the maintenance of life. The first is the system which mobilises against external threats and is called the HPA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) Axis. When there are no threats, the HPA Axis is inactive and growth flourishes. However, as soon as the hypothalamus receives an environmental threat (from any of the sensory data collecting organs), it engages the HPA Axis by sending a signal to the Pituitary which in turn jogs the adrenal gland, in order to coordinate the body’s ‘fight/flight’ response.
The second protection system is the immune system, which protects us from threats originating inside the boundaries of our skin. When the immune system is mobilised, it consumes a lot of the body’s energy supply. Remember how physically weak you become when you have a flu? When the HPA Axis mobilises the body for fight-flight response, the adrenal hormones directly repress the action of the immune system to conserve energy to be utilised in running/fighting. In fact, stress hormones are so effective at curtailing the immune system functions, Doctors provide them to recipients of organ transplants so that the immune system will not reject foreign tissue.
It is the immune system which fights and cleans up any internal problem – not medicine orally or intravenously injected. And the immune system is led by the brain. This is where the placebo and nocebo effects come in. The placebo effect works on the belief that ‘we will get better’ and this jogs the immune system into action to deal with the problem. The nocebo effect is when there are negative suggestions given by the mind.
The nocebo effect can be very powerful, a fact that you must keep in mind while stepping into a Doctor’s office. By their words and their demeanour, physicians can convey completely unwarranted hope-deflating messages to their patients. These messages in fact, cause a SEE (Significant Emotional Event). If you choose to believe that that you live in a dark world full of fear, your body’s health will be compromised as you physiologically close yourself down in a protection response.
How do beliefs get formed
The connected question that we need to answer is where does learning take place from? From parents and caregivers initially and then through our own experiences in life. As per Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (ELT), after a concrete experience, the learner goes through the milestones of Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualisation and Active Experimentation which again leads to a concrete experience and the cycle continues. Patterns are created cognitively, and run unconsciously. We are not even aware of what propels us to do what we do – what beliefs are running our behaviour.
‘You can do nothing right’ said many times becomes ‘I can do nothing right’ – and thereafter whatever he does, he just can’t get anything right.
‘You are my Raja Beta’ said many times becomes ‘I deserve the best treatment’ and anyone who does not take him to be superior evokes rage, anger, resentment.
Beliefs also stem from what is observed.
A mother eating after all other family members have eaten would lead to anger when (later in life) the wife wants to eat with the (now grown up) husband. The daughter would also take on the same patterns and beliefs of the mother and become subservient.
‘You should not tell lies’ followed by ‘Tell her I am not at home’ teaches something that you don’t intend to. Buying the son a more expensive mobile than the daughter does the same thing. Each day we create beliefs without intending to – and those beliefs are carried without knowledge of the burden.
So How do we change beliefs
Simply put – through language – both verbal and non verbal. Each person the three parts language (structure, syntax and semantics) in a particular manner – which is distinctive and unique. And patterns underlie the structure. Usually people get stuck in semantics disregarding the syntax and the most important part – the structure. A Magician would know how to decipher the structure and therefore the patterns which needs to be changed thereby changing the belief. The sequence of changing any belief is:-
Step 1. Ascertain the patterns.
Step 2. Bring the patterns to the awareness of the person.
Step 3. Break the pattern and have the person build a new belief.
How do we do that? Wait for the next article. Coming soon on you favourite social media site!
Are you with me so far?