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A cancer surgeon who believes that love heals, that mental images can conquer malignant cells, who plays Willie Nelson in the operating room, hugs his patients and asks them to call him by his first name? Yes, and he teaches at Yale Medical School.

Bernard Siegel, MD has become widely known—respected in some circles, derided in others—for his conviction that patients, even those with so-called terminal cancer, can and sometimes do heal themselves.

How does he account for these recoveries? Are they miracles? "Yes," he says. "I see little miracles all the time. For instance, people who decide they’re not going to have side effects from chemotherapy, so they don’t. But, instead of ‘miracles,’ it would be more accurate to say ‘self-induced healing.’

"One woman had this enormous tumor on her pancreas, and she went home to die. But she came back to see me, and she was well. There was no evidence of any tumor. I asked her what happened, and she said, "I decided to live to be 100, and I left my troubles to God.’

"As this woman’s experience shows, worries are absolute nonsense. I say you can help heal yourself by changing your attitudes. If you have trouble with the God concept, call it peace of mind or whatever you want. Solzhenitsyn calls it ‘clear conscience.’"

To be well, Dr. Siegel says we must learn from even painful experiences. "Most of the people in the world are feeling poorly about their lives. We don’t know how to love or to share. We’re conditional lovers. We want something back, a thank-you.

"No one comes through life without his own pain, but we have to learn to deal with it in a positive way, grow from it. We have to learn to be able to say, ‘I have a problem, and I need help with it now.’

"If I could deliver one message to the world, it would be that quote from the French theologian Teilhard de Chardin—‘Someday after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of Love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire.’"

(From Emotional Health, by Myron Brenton and the Editors of Prevention Magazine, Pub.—Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1985, p 27)



In his book, The Mind Workout Book (Hamlyn Publishing Group, 1989), Dr. Vernon Coleman shares the true story of a friend named Tom who developed a persistent cough and shortness of breath. After a few weeks taking drugs prescribed by his doctor, he went to a specialist who recommended that he take a number of tests at the local hospital. After about a week a hospital spokesman called to tell Tom’s wife the results – the tests showed Tom had a fast-growing cancer and he wouldn’t be expected to live over 1-2 months! In two days after hearing the news, Tom’s health began to rapidly deteriorate. Before long he began losing weight and was too weak to get out of bed or even feed himself properly. Relatives from all over came to be with him during his last days. Then a second phone call came from the hospital … they had made a mistake – all Tom had was a chest infection that could easily be treated by a prescription. In 24 hours Tom was out of bed and back to work! "When Tom was told he was going to die, then he started to die. Obediently and politely his mind started to kill his body—fulfilling the prediction made by the doctors. He believed that the doctors knew best and his imagination did the rest. When he was told that there had been a mistake and that he was not going to die, he made an apparently miraculous recovery." Literally, what was "doing him in" were the thoughts in his own mind and the power they had over his body! This same power is used in Africa by witch doctors practicing voodoo.

By the same token, our thoughts can heal us. In his best-selling book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient (Bantam Doubleday Del, 1991), Dr. Norman Cousins describes how a positive attitude and laughter assist the body in overcoming disease. He became an adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and inspired research and hospital programs on psychosocial healing. Berk was one of the researchers inspired by Cousins. When he learned of Cousins’ findings, Berk had been studying why people who exercised felt so good. He later became the first investigator to make the connection between exercise and endorphins (the body’s own natural painkillers and "uppers"). Berk’s subsequent research has demonstrated how repetitive activities of a positive nature, such as listening to music or being exposed to humor, enhances the interactions between the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. Other researchers have shown how stress, grief, anger, depression and bereavement can adversely suppress the immune system. "We can now explain how you squirt out neurotransmitters into lymph nodes relative to whether you are stressed or happy," says Berk. "This has profound implications. Our immune cells are loaded with receptor sites for the countless hormones, neurotransmitters and neuropeptides that we make. We are starting to have a good handle on all this—the hard wiring and biochemical links between the brain and the immune system. We now have the technology to look at behaviors and see how they play out at the level of gene manipulation for substances secreted from the white blood cells."

Our thoughts truly impact not only our mental, but also physical and emotional well-being!

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