Mind-Body Healing: A Doctor on Using the Mind to Heal
A landscaper about to retire was diagnosed with cancer. He came to Dr. Bernie Siegel for surgery, declaring “It is springtime. I gotta go home and make the world beautiful, so that when I die, I leave a beautiful world.”
He wasn’t trying not to die. Siegel operated but couldn’t remove the entire tumor and didn’t know what to tell the patient. The man again repeated, “You forgot something. It is springtime. I gotta go home and make the world beautiful, so that when I die, I leave a beautiful world.”
Six years later, the nurse handed Siegel a chart for the same man. Siegel figured there must be two people with the same name. But on opening the door, there sat the landscaper who had a hernia from lifting boulders at work. He lived to be 94.
Siegel believes there is a connection between the man’s attitude and his survival. In his book “Love, Medicine and Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing from a Surgeon's Experience with Exceptional Patients,” Siegel explains the power of the mind to heal and how love can be a path to healing. Through love and self-determination, we can beat the odds and think ourselves well. Surgery, chemo and radiation may help prolong life, but laughter and living life to the fullest can have fantastic results too. In story after story of cancer patients, Siegel chronicles the amazing results of the mind and body connection to bring about true healing and the miraculous things that occur when we live fully, loving ourselves.
“When you are living in love, living with humor, then your body is in a state of repairing and growing and it is because of the chemical response sent to every cell in your body. Enjoy your life, live in the moment, and your body will get a ‘live’ message,” Siegel explained.
Emotions impact the body’s chemistry. Studies have proven that loneliness can hurt the immune system and laughter leads to a longer life. Siegel knows that to be true: His patients have proven it.
He remembers a man close to dying who wanted to go to Colorado to end his life surrounded by the beautiful mountain scenery. Siegel asked the family to invite him to the funeral. A year later, an annoyed Siegel called the family to find out why he had not been invited. The man answered the phone himself and told the doctor, “It is so beautiful here, I forgot to die.”
“What you are feeling becomes the chemistry in your body,” Siegel explained.
A woman’s doctor told her she had two months to live. She went home, bought a dog, laughed more, and wound up not dying. She told Siegel, “Now I am so busy I am killing myself. Help! Where do I go from here?”
“When you choose life, you choose what is life enhancing,” Siegel said. “Everyone benefits. And that is when miraculous things happen. The mind becomes very powerful and programs your body. And your body expects what your mind is visualizing.”
A pancreatic cancer patient went home to die. Two months later, the tumor had disappeared. Her doctors asked her what happened. She responded, “I left my troubles to God.”
“So when people learn, oh, I have two months to live, I have cancer, and they go home and they start living that new authentic life and then their body gets the message and they don’t die when they are supposed to,” the doctor said. “Doesn’t mean everybody gets a cure, but you don’t die in two weeks or two months you are walking around five, 10 years later because of what has happened in your life and in your body.”
A man wanted to become a violinist. His parents said no, become a lawyer. The man did, but later developed cancer. Thinking he was going to die, he got a job playing violin for an orchestra. A few years later, he is still alive.
A young woman with breast cancer once told Siegel that while she feels better in the office with him, she needs to know how to live between office visits. This was the impetus behind the doctor’s decision to launch a patients therapy group.
At first, few wanted to come. Maybe it was the guilt and shame; maybe it was the prospect of answering questions and examining their experiences. But the dozen or so cancer patients who did show up taught Siegel about what he came to term “survival behavior.”
Survival behavior is the woman who sits there after a mastectomy and a divorce joking that she gave up a tit and an ass. Survival behavior is the woman dying of cancer who Siegel advises to choose the monthly payments in her divorce settlement so that she won’t die to screw her husband over. It is the mastectomy survivor who says “it felt good to get that off my chest” or “my career plans of being a waitress at Hooters have definitely been foiled.”
It is the cancer patient whose mother dressed her in dark colors for years so no one would notice her, calling her an embarrassment and failure. She reads Siegel’s book, buys some red high heels and a red dress and walks around alive today, full of life and humor in her outrageous outfits.
Survival behavior is turning the tragic into laughter and healing not just yourself, but those around you.
“I don’t interpret it as a miracle anymore because I have learned about human potential,” the doctor stated. “We are all capable of miracles. Like Einstein said, either everything’s a miracle or nothing is. And for me, life is miraculous. The potential is built into us.”
Medicine, says Siegel, needs to learn to treat patients, not just disease.
“What do most people hear? What day they are going to die. Not there is hope for you, we will find things to keep you going. It is you are going to be dead in two months or next Tuesday or whatever. It takes their hope away … I learned to open myself to the patients. Let them help me. Become a team with them. We restore and help each other.”
Love in combination with medicine can produce miracles.
Watch for Siegel’s next book, available in September, titled “The Art of Healing.”
What are your thoughts on mind-body healing? Drop a comment below, or tweet us at @LadyLUX for a bigger conversation.