Any surgical intervention, even a minor one, can be a trying life event. The very thought of going under the knife and surrendering control has the power to provoke a wide range of challenging mental and emotional responses.
While severity changes from one person to another, it is common for patients scheduled to undergo surgery to report elevated levels of stress, fear, anxiety and even depression. These are likely to increase when the surgery date is nearing or the procedure is considered to be major or lifesaving.
Your Mindset Matter
Unresolved mental patterns and emotions can produce a negative mind-set that may affect our quality of life and limits our experience. Essentially, a negative outlook and attitude can negatively impact treatment outcome and inhibit recovery. A more optimistic mind-set, as study suggests, means patients recover more rapidly and show an increased survival rate.
The study, which looked at 431 colon cancer surgery patients, found that the 13% of patients who had quality-of-life deficit and scored below 50 on a 100-point scale were almost 3 times as likely to have serious post-surgery complications to those who scored 50 points or above. In turn, those with complications were hospitalized an average of 3.5 days longer than the others.
Hypnotherapy for Surgery
Helping patients successfully attend to quality of life issues is critical for a favorable outcome. Having utilized many therapeutic tools over the years, I can say with confidence that hypnotherapy is the most suitable tool for the job. It is the tool of choice because it works in the realm of the subconscious Mind where the root cause of the beliefs and perceptions fueling a negative mind-set can be identified, addressed and resolved.
“Quality of life as measured in the study (mentioned above) is about more than happiness and how well people feel physically”, says Dr. Bingener or the Mayo Clinic. “It also includes the financial, spiritual, emotional, mental and social aspects of their lives and whether their needs are being met.”
Though hypnotherapy can help patients prepare for surgery in several ways, I wish to highlight the two most common challenges I see in my practice. These two challenges are fear/anxiety and grief. While each has its own set of characteristics, they are often weaved into a debilitating cycle that defines patient’s experience and outcome.
An example for such cycle is as follows: fear of being under anesthesia can lead to feelings of loss; loss of control. Loss of control bring about more fear, fear of waking up during surgery and feeling the pain or fear of not waking up from surgery at all… this in turn can bring about grief over loss of health, independence, identity which feed into fear of being a burden, disfigured etc…
The list, we keep going over and over in our mind, of things that can go wrong seems without end, but the reality is that with the advancement of technology and medicine surgery is for the most part a safe procedure.
Conscious VS Subconscious
If the above statement did not comfort you or lessened your fear you are in good company. The truth of the matter is that knowledge isn’t enough to put our minds at ease. Everything we know about hospitals, illness, surgery and recovery, for good and for bad was learned. A headline in the paper, conversation around the dinner table, a developing story watched on TV etc. and for all intended purposes it would not have been a good headline or topic of conversation if there was no real drama, a real punch of negativity and fear embedded in it.
If we harbor negative beliefs around surgery despite the fact we ourselves never had any bad experience to reference; it means we acquired these beliefs from someone or somewhere else. This is precisely why hypnotherapy is such a valuable ally in addressing, resolving, creating and maintaining the right attitude and mindset because it allow us to work in the realm of the subconscious mind where these erroneous beliefs and perceptions reside.
While conventional therapy (as in talk therapy) primarily engages the conscious mind, hypnotherapy primarily engages the subconscious mind. It therefore allows us to recall, review and override erroneous beliefs and perceptions, address the root cause of negativity and establish a mind-set conducive to recovery. Changing the cause from negative to positive means changing the effect and thus establishing a healthy mind-set vital to favorable outcome.
This short video addresses the problem with current cancer care as described in my book The New Cancer Paradigm. It utilizes Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy and laws of Dimensional Ontology (The Will To Meaning) to explain how the human spirit relates to human science, especially the fields of Psychology and Medicine.
After decades of research and despite almost inexhaustible resources, huge budgets and unlimited manpower, no medical researcher or doctor for that matter can definitively say what causes cancer with 100% scientific certainty. Sure, you may get an explanation, but it too will depend greatly upon whom you ask and their field of study. How can this be?
No disrespect intended in this statement, and I do mean that. In reality a great deal of progress was made over the years and is being made as I write these lines. The bottom line is that more people survive their cancer today than in any other time. Still, the search for the elusive “cure” continues to no avail.
Could it be that researchers failure to find the Cure is the result of missing or overlooking a vital piece of the puzzle? Well, according to Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and the founder of logotherapy, which is a form of existential analysis, the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy” the answer is a straight forward YES.
When it comes to understanding the human experience of illness, researchers only study illness from a one-dimensional perspective.
Medical researchers discuss internal and external contributors. They can point to genetic disposition and carcinogenic factors in our environment. All true! Psychologists can discuss the development of illness from a psychological perspective through the lens of Mental Science in the context of social influences, behavioral patterns and certain personality types. Still, all true! Yet, while each field provides necessary and important information about illness, they fail to see illness in its essence as a multi-dimensional event, and as a whole person event.
Viewing cancer treatment as a medical or biological event or only as a psychological event means robbing people of their true spiritual nature as Frankl’s model show us below. It limits their experience to one or two dimensions; we know that there are more dimensions.
This is illustrated in the image above, which shows a cylinder suspended in a three-dimensional space. In the words of Frankl: “Projected out of its three-dimensional space into the horizontal and vertical two-dimensional planes, it (the cylinder) yields in the first case a circle and in the second on a rectangle. These pictures contradict one another. What is more important, the cylinder is an open vessel (open from the top, hollow) in contrast to the circle and the rectangle that are closed figures.” (Will to Meaning)
In other words, the human experience has many dimensions: a physical dimension (rectangle), a psychological dimension (circle), and a spiritual dimension (the cylinder).
Each projection provides important information. The rectangle reveals its height and width; the circle reveals its circumference. However, neither one of these projections tells us that we are actually looking at a cylinder. We know it is a cylinder only because we can see the original object.
Neither projection informs us that the cylinder is, in fact, an open system, closed only at the bottom. Each projection provides limited information, and therefore we do not have a truly accurate or complete understanding of what the source object really is.
Essentially, in my humble opinion, this is the very obstacle standing in the way of a cure. While the job of the specialist is to focus on a narrow field of study, this inability to see the whole picture is at the core of this issue.
With many types of chemotherapy (chemo) drugs available these days, doctors can recommend one form over another based on their patients condition, tolerance and preferences. Chemo taken orally works just as well as other forms of chemotherapy and may be the right choice for patients experiencing adverse side effects to drugs administered via IV.
For those taking chemo orally there are plenty online resources such as the Dana Farber Cancer Institute page that provide tips and guidelines for a safe practice. Few resources however provide practical solutions to some of the challenges that arise from the need to swallow chemo pills.
For you and me the act of swallowing may be a simple one but over the years I have seen a good share of patients struggling, afraid of swallowing their pills. Some can easily swallow food but not pills; others will gag just thinking about how the pills taste or smell or even how it feels in their mouth. For these patients, hypnotherapy may offer the relief they seek, providing a practical and effective solution to overcoming this fear.
Hypnotherapy Help Cancer Patients Swallow Chemo Pills
The clinical term related specifically to the fear of swallowing is Phagophobia. It relates to swallowing complaints when no apparent physical limitation is observed. A more general term for difficulty with swallowing is Dysphagia which addresses wider range of causes including fear, pain, or some other cognitive, anatomical or physiological problem.
The advantage of hypnosis over other psychological interventions is our ability to engage the fear subconsciously. This allows us to avoid inflating the fear or causing further hardship. The point of hypnosis of course is not to “make” or force anyone to act against their will but to help them resolve and dissolve the very thought process that feed the fear. Addressing the cause will change its effect. If one’s fearful thought process, belief system or perception associated with swallowing has altered from difficult, painful or dangerous to comfortable, beneficial and safe his or her behavior will change accordingly.
If you struggle with swallowing your medication be sure to discuss the option of hypnosis with your medical team. Never alter the course of your treatment without talking to your doctor first. Hypnosis is a safe, effective and noninvasive intervention but it should be integrated into your medical care.
The Power of Imagery
Assuming there is no physiological basis for your difficulties swallowing and that you want to keep improving your skill of swallowing on your own here is a good place to start.
The power of the mind to influence the body is quite remarkable because Imagery is the most fundamental language we have. Our mind processes everything we do through images and we can harness this ability to promote desired outcomes such as an easier time swallowing.
Visualize success. In your mind’s eye see yourself calmly and easily swallowing the pill. Break the process into tiny bits of action and see yourself successful at each of them. Take it very slowly, and make sure you feel comfortable at any given moment. If tension arise for any reason go back and start from the beginning. Repeatedly visualizing success can have a very real beneficial impact.
According to a recent study, more and more cancer patients seek help, in the form of complementary alternative medicine outside of the hospital walls. Their reason quite simply is that ‘life’ goes on outside of the hospital; they feel more associated with health rather than illness.
This is in no way a form of silent criticism or a display of dissatisfaction with the medical establishment. The medical team is trained to treat the body and the disease, the actual cancer itself. While this is, of course, vital to patient’s recovery it does leave a huge gap when it comes to how they feel mentally and emotionally about illness.
Many people with cancer don’t want to feel that cancer defines them; that the cancer is all that they are. A person with cancer is still, first and foremost, a human being – a living, breathing person with thoughts, feelings and emotions, a person who has a life to live.
Time spent within the hospital walls, even when absolutely necessary may leave you feeling isolated and separated from reality. As we all know, ‘life’ continues to happen outside of the operation room and the chemo suite. Furthermore, there is so much more to cancer than what your doctor can see – cancer is much more than the tumor that your doctor can see, touch and remove.
A holistic approach to healing cancer means facilitating healing on a range of levels. It is given that we must treat the physical dimension of the illness but we must also treat the emotional and spiritual dimensions.
With this combined approach – i.e. using a powerful combination of traditional medicine and Mind-Body Medicine in the form of Immersive Healing – you give yourself the best possible chance to heal because you are engaging the illness from every angle.
Generally speaking, complementary alternative therapies can empower you and help you maintain a positive frame of mind before, during and after medical treatment. They can give you the strength, both emotionally and physically, to help you carry on with your everyday life feeling as well as is possible. They can also help a person make the shift from worry and fear into comfort and confidence. They help you avoid the mind trap of feeling like a victim, i.e. feeling helpless and hopeless and inspire you to take action and follow through on your medical regiment.
In short, when you spend a great deal of time within hospital walls your overall quality of life is affected. Seeking help outside the hospital environment help patient’s enhance their quality of life.
One of my clients asked me a question the other day, a question regarding emotions which intrigued me because I didn’t have the answer. He asked if I could name all of the negative emotions we as human’s experience, and the truth is that I couldn’t. As it turns out there are eleven negative emotions and they are hurt, sadness, shame, hopelessness, fear, anger, hate, jealousy, pride, greed, and guilt.
Identifying these emotions was a fascinating process for me because it is not often that I get to dissect language in this particular way. Furthermore, some of these words do overlap and it was interesting to assess their precise meaning and use.
You might recall my view on emotions from previous posts; that all of our emotions are natural, valuable, necessary and meaningful. I stated that emotions can heal us as much as hurt us, and I pressed that any emotion, be it positive or negative can become toxic and negatively impact our health if bottled inside and not allowed to be felt, expressed and exhausted.
The question in that respect is not so much what need be done, but how can it be done? How can we safely express, exhaust or even allow ourselves to feel emotions which for a good part of our lives we tried suppressing and avoiding?
When it comes down to it, we must take ownership of what we think about and allow in our minds. You may have heard the saying “The only way out is in”? If so you already know that for real healing to occur we must face that which is hurtful, painful, shameful etc. and bring it into the light of our consciousness.
The most effective way to relief and resolve toxic emotions (in my opinion) is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the balm you apply on the wound. You may find my definition of forgiveness different than yours, if so, remember that I only make suggestions here based on what works for me and for my clients. If your experience brought you to a different conclusion feel free to share it with me.
So what is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a choice, a decision, an action which you can take today toward happiness and health. Forgiveness is not forgetting, condoning or cutting someone some slack, it is not a form of silent acceptance of the inevitable or a way to please those around us. Forgiveness is a statement of self worth!
In forgiveness there is recognition of truth, and the truth is that no harm was ever done to us but that which we perceived as such.
There is more than one way to forgive someone and what works for one may not work for the other. Nevertheless, in my next post I will describe in great details how to practice forgiveness. It’s an exercise which anyone can benefit from and implement.
For the time being, let me whisper this to you: the ultimate forgiveness is forgiveness to ourselves, for perceiving, believing, behaving in a certain way and so on, this is the only kind of forgiveness that heals and lead to peace of mind.
If you share my view or oppose it, please share?
Cancer is often associated with toxic environments, exposure to the sun, habits such as smoking or poor diet and even our genes. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that certain life events may have caused or influenced the onset of the disease in the body. This is a central idea in my practice, one that may resonate with you as well.
Several studies conducted specifically with cancer patients found a strong correlation between the appearance of cancer and what the people participating in this study have experienced in years prior to their diagnosis. Mostly the study refers to sever experiences or life changing experiences such as loss of a loved one for example.
Women diagnosed with breast cancer, in one particular study, were found to have a significantly higher number of events related to loss prior to their cancer. And loss entails broken relationships or severe distress in relationships as well.
In some of these studies, researchers noted that the impact of one single major event is more damaging than an ongoing exposure to negative events. What this basically means is that those of us who are more equipped or able to manage life’s stressors might be less physically affected by them. This is good news because learning better coping skills is something we can all do.
The question many of my clients ask when we get to the topic of life events is How is it possible for things that happen outside of us to affect us inside? Affect our health and well being?
Without dwelling on the philosophical aspect of that question, let me just say this, it is not so much what is happening outside of us but rather how we react or respond to that event that count.
We process our moment to moment experience, interpret it and conclude its meaning using our already existing knowledge, what we already know about the world.
Throughout life we have accumulated ideas about who we are and how the world should be. When these ideas are reinforced over a long period of time they became our beliefs, and our beliefs shape our attitude and outlook on life.
If the type of beliefs we have is negative and self limiting it is likely that they will mature into a negative outlook on life and construct a negative attitude. This is important because our outlook and attitude are the lenses through which we perceive the world outside.
And when we talk about chronic illness and cancer, a negative outlook on life is likely to produce a negative prognosis in one’s mind. One may focus more on the negative aspect or facet of the illness and begin to identify himself of herself with illness rather than health. This brings us back to the study on how negative states of mind influence and suppress our immune system.
If you have seen my video on Immersive Healing, you already know how this methodology aim to identify, address and heal these life events which have impressed negatively on us. The goal is to resolve them and heal them so that the immune response can be revived. If you have not seen that video yet it’s available on various media outlets.
If you find a correlation between something that happened to you and your illness please share?
A growing body of evidence suggests that a strong support system and positive interactions with others is a key factor in recovery from illness.
An intriguing and important aspect of the healing process relates to our sense of connection to other people. This works on two levels, firstly the relationships we have with close friends and family and secondly the relationships we have with our wider communities.
At first glance it may seem somewhat trivial to suggest that there is any link between ill health and our friendships and relationships but this factor is actually emerging as an important indicator when it comes to who is more likely to heal and who isn’t.
There are many studies that have found that people who have more positive social connections tend to live for longer. People who are less sociable and especially those who are isolated have a higher mortality rate than normal from any kind of disease or illness including cancer.
It seems that it is the quality of your friendships and connections that is what’s important and not the actual number of friends and acquaintances. The amount of involvement a person has in social activities in the wider community also counts.
The Value of Social Interaction
So how may a good quality of social interaction and social support contribute to better health? The obvious answer is that being able to share your worries with a trusted friend provides some sort of emotional relief – feelings are not kept inside where they may go round and round endlessly in the mind. A good level of social support may help to lower your levels of distress and worry and thus help you to cope better with an illness.
Positive interactions within the wider community can help you feel your connectedness to the outside world in general. It can serve to remind you that we are all the same and that all kinds of people go through difficult life experiences.
On another level giving something back to the world in someway results in increased self-esteem. Whether you volunteer formally or just use your interactions outside your social circle to spread positivity or compassion, giving something back positively is a powerful way to maintain your mental health and possibly your physical health.
It’s important to remember that some people function very well and very happily without the need for lots of social interaction. Some individuals do not feel ‘lonely’ when they are alone. If this is the case and this is a long term pattern that has always worked for you then the chances are you may not be affected in the same way a person might do who is lonely in the true sense of the word.
However if you have a chronic illness, would like more positive social interaction and you feel well enough it may be worthwhile pushing yourself a little to see if increased contact with others makes you feel better in general. Developing social ties by volunteering, joining a club or spiritual group of any denomination that appeals to you could be beneficial.
If you are ill, pushing yourself in this way may feel like too much of an effort and that is understandable. Feel free to contact my office for any level of support you may need.
The bottom line is that positive interaction with others seems to be a factor in recovery and it may just help you to maintain good health and ultimately live for longer.
Is your support system the most important asset in your journey toward health?
Why some patients fully recover and others do not is a mystery that still cannot be fully explained.
The field of Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) explores the logical possibility that the mind and the body are interconnected and seeks evidence to show that the brain intervene and influence the immune system.
Several psychological responses or reactions have been noted in those who do heal from cancer or other chronic illnesses and what they have in common is that the person changes certain attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.
These powerful inner changes could be what tips the scale in favor of improved health.
Resolution occurs when a person consciously decides to change certain behaviors or makes up their mind to be a new kind of person – to be truer to himself or herself.
For some individuals facing chronic illness and their own mortality changes everything and all the usual rules can go out of the window. A person may feel that they now have options that they didn’t have previously – possibly because of commitments to others or to a certain way of life that was no longer truly working for them.
This feeling is very freeing and can give a person their sense of power back, particularly if they find that the world does not collapse around them when they don’t continue to do what they always did.
Depression or feelings of hopelessness may disappear once a person feels that they can break all the normal rules and that they have the power to choose for themselves.
The illness has given this person the permission to change, to change for their better.
A life-threatening condition will almost certainly make a person think differently one way or another. For some individuals a whole new perspective is formed.
Self imposed rules and out-dated beliefs may be shed as the person reevaluates their life. Things that once seemed important may now be viewed as insignificant or petty when an individual is forced to face their own mortality.
Again, as with resolution, the condition allows the person to say no, to express held in anger, to feel free to be whom they really want to be – the illness allows the person to become more assertive. They are no longer a passive victim.
The body follows the mind
When these new attitudes and belief sets are in place in the mind it may be that the body follows suit. A renewed sense of hope combined with the desire to live the life the person has always wanted to live may be one of the stepping-stones towards improved health.
Some individuals speak of a sense of relief that the illness gave them the permission to speak up, speak out and be more assertive. The word relief suggests that certain emotions and feelings had been held in for too long and had become toxic. Letting them go frees the soul/self from a heavy burden.
Since PNI suggests that mind, emotions and body act as an integrated system a change to the psychological state could very well result in a change to physical state.
If the above patterns resonate with you or you know of some I have left out, please let me know?
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About Avinoam Lerner
Avinoam Lerner is a clinical hypnotherapist specializing in Cancer, Trauma & PTSD. He is a TEDx Speaker, and the author of The New Cancer Paradigm.
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