Before Morton's discovery of anesthesia in the mid-1800s, those who were unfortunate enough to require surgery were left to a bottle of whiskey and their own devices. Although many suffered horribly, the records indicate that there were others who did not.
Physicians of that era used the term "insensibility" to describe the internal process of those who went through the procedures and denied feeling pain. Baron Larrey, the principal surgeon to the French Imperial Guard under Napoleon, was present during the amputation of General Caffarelli's arm. He wrote in his journal that the general had "extreme courage" and didn't speak a single word, perhaps due to what he called, "much concentration." (1)
Whatever we call it, it's undeniable our consciousness and our bodies are transformed when we're in crisis.
What happens? What's the science of that healing state?
Throughout the book "The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing," Ernest Rossi states that what happens to us emotionally also happens to us chemically, and vice versa, especially when we're under stress. He says the changes in our physiology that are due to stress actually redirect our hormones and generate a cascade of chemicals that speak directly to the nuclei of cells throughout the body. This modulates the expression of genes. From those genes, our bodies are in turn directed to produce the molecules that manage metabolic activity, vitality, immunity and growth.(2)
How those physiological changes proceed from the stressor to the genetic regulatory system help determine our health on several levels. He states that many genes are in a continuous state of dynamic equilibrium with cellular metabolism. This process is modulated by neurotransmitters and hormones, which are ultimately messengers from the central nervous system.
He also states that psychosocial cues, such as stress, are deeply involved n the turning on or off of certain genes.(2) According to Rossi, there's no question of a mind-gene connection, and that ultimately the mind modulates the creation and expression of the molecules of life.
Research in epigenetics is confirming this view. According to Peter D. Kramer, MD, epigenetics is the study of "gene expression that derives from experience."(3) For example, he says one thing that makes us different from worms is that we have about 100 times more non-coding sequences than worms, which allows for a folding of DNA. This means some genes can be "expressed" while others are repressed or hidden in the folds.
Some cellular biologists and neurologists think our experiences, including our thoughts, make those genes express or stay folded. The things we say generate images, which in turn create feelings that inspire cascades of chemistry. These alter our current physiological states, our genetic expression and our children's genetic inheritance.
We learn who we are in the world via an organic form of biofeedback. Machines aren't necessary for us to know what our friends, family members or co-workers are feeling. Our intentions and emotions are manifested on a consistent basis. Everything about us communicates, and that communication is received by both mentally and physically.
We physiologically and genetically respond to words, ideas and beliefs every moment of our lives. In "The Biology of Belief," Bruce Lipton describes humans as a community of more than 50 trillion cells with individual intelligence and responsiveness that facilitates cooperation and uniform function. This requires constant communication along the membranes of the cells. Healthy blood cells have flexible membranes, while unhealthy blood cells are rigid and maladaptive, becoming "protective" and unyielding, he states.(4)
What accounts for the difference?
Lipton's early observations about cellular response to toxins point to the environment as the reason. And we're a part of that physical, mental and emotional environment. Epigeneticists are becoming increasingly concerned about the way we receive our experiences, the beliefs we hold about ourselves and the words we repeat in our minds, because they may determine whether a cell becomes closed or open.
This information is of vital importance for emergency medical personnel, because when a person is in crisis, they're more susceptible to suggestion (words and images) and their cellular chemistry is more responsive than usual. As the first contact, you are part of their environment. Your words, your presence and rapport, your compassion can make a vital difference in their healing process.
- Chaves JF & Dworkin SF. Hypnotic control of pain: Historical perspectives and future prospects. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 1997;45(4):356 376.
- Rossi EL. The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing: New Concepts of Therapeutic Hypnosis. W.W. Norton & Co., Inc. New York. 1993, pp. 190 195.
- Kramer PD. Scarred DNA and How It Might Heal. Psychology Today. May 12, 2008. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/200805/scarred-dna-and-how-it-might-heal
- Lipton BH. The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles. Mountain of Love. 2005.
JEMS Connect discussion:How do you think online chatting affects our learning and social skills? Do you think the current trend toward cyber-chatting (as opposed to face-to-face communication with organic feedback) will present issues with our emotional and physical health? Let us know athttp://connect.jems.com/forum/topics/cyberconnection-vs-organic.