Known and Unknowns
One of neuroscience’s known unknowns, the known state of mind we call unconsciousness, stays perpetually employed but submerged, affecting much of what we believe to be our conscious free-will in ways that often remain unknown to us. The unconscious directs our conscious behavior, as well as all aspects of our physiology – metabolic, regenerative and immune.The brain performs such physiological functions “autonomically,” unconsciously linking our unmeasurable thoughts to measurable physiological functions. So much so, that our mind/brain/body is termed a continuum.
Neuroscience and western medicine, unable to quantify such concepts as mind energies, chi, chakras, and unconscious drives have, until recently, balked at studying the mindful realm of medicine. Interdisciplinary lines of research now show that just as our mind/brain/body continuum expresses itself with unconscious plasticity that routinely encodes or deletes learning and memory during certain stages of sleep, our unconscious expectations continually express themselves through health and healing.
The instinctual drive to stay alive, survival, could be the most powerful unconscious expectation. In “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why,” Laurence Gonzales documents case after case in which those who survived maintained the expectation to live through deadly ordeals. Survivors of physically impossible situations reported that somehow they knew they would survive. “The sun beams are always there. The trick is in seeing them,” writes Gonzales.
In “Man’s Search For Meaning,” Victor Frankel relates his own survival experiences at Auschwitz Concentration Camp during World War II. Of those who were not exterminated, survivors were those few who managed to eek out ever-so-small portions of meaning and purpose. Without purpose and the expectation to live prisoners died quickly.
In a famous 1957 study, Mr. Wright, a patient with deadly lymphosarcoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) had many orange-size tumors and was treated with an experimental anti-cancer drug, Krebiozen. On the brink of death, Mr. Wright received his first injection. After three days he was up and about and his tumors had shrunk to half their previous size. Two months later, however, Mr. Wright suffered a serious relapse – after reading a newspaper report that questioned whether the drug had any effect at all.
Returned to the hospital, Mr. Wright was attended by some perceptive physicians who told him that this time they would be treating him with a new and doubly effective version of the same drug. They injected him with placebos – but no Krebiozen. Shortly after his second round of treatment (a placebo), Mr, Wright walked out of the hospital incredibly symptom-free. After two months of good health the patient read yet another newspaper report with evidence exposing Krebiozen as a hoax. Mr. Wright died only days later. Evidently, the belief in Krebiozen’s healing power, its “placebo effect,” had cured him twice. The belief in the newspaper story detailing the therapeutic worthlessness of the drug had acted as an equally powerful negative, or “nocebo effect,” and had killed him.
Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!