Not so long ago, we were working with a cancer patient-- for this blog we'll call him "Jim". Jim came to us as a last resort-- chemotherapy wasn't working for him, and he liked our approach, which was a combination of natural therapies (Qigong, EFT, guided imagery, sauna) plus a nutritional protocol designed by a well known cancer expert. We had just recently come off helping a brain cancer patient (glioblastoma multiforme) achieve remission in only two months, and so were ready to work with Jim. The first couple of months went VERY well-- blood tests were exceptional, attitude was good, Jim seemed energetic. Then, something began to happen and his tumor suddenly began to grow. I suspected that he had gone off his diet and begun snacking on sugary foods. Cancer loves sugar, and the presence of dietary sugar could accelerate the growth of the tumor, big time. I checked with his wife, but Sara was adamant that he was NOT cheating on his diet as far as she was aware. There remained Jim's smoking as a suspect. I had used EFT with Jim to help him reduce his smoking, but there was a part of him that just did NOT want to quit smoking. "It's the only thing I have left that helps me to relax!" he complained.
Feeling saddened at his failure to thrive and frustrated that I did not seem to be clever enough to figure out the answer, I did what I frequently do-- I began to Google phrases which made sense to me at the time. Already trained in hypnotherapy, I decided to search on words such as "Failure to heal cancer" and "Resistance to healing cancer". Here's what I found, from the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, back in 1993. There was an article by psychologist Marc Schoen of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, entitled, Resistance to Health: When the Mind Interferes With the Desire to Become Well. In the article, he discusses the concept of "Secondary Gain"-- it's the idea that when a patient does not heal when ordinarily s/he would, there may be psychological reasons why the person is receiving some significant benefit from NOT HEALING. An obvious "excuse" for not healing might be that the patient is receiving additional ATTENTION from family or friends because of his health condition. Or, perhaps he is not healing in order to "penalize" a close relative such as a father or a spouse who he felt was mean to him. In reading the article, I was reminded of a patient with whom I'd worked about 10 years ago. We'll call him "Fred":
About 10 years ago, a client ("Fred") came in; he had a cancer issue (abdominal region, as I recall), and wanted my assistance for that condition. I had recently finished my hypnotherapy training, and as he was open to that modality, we did an induction which allowed me to have more insight into "what he really wanted" in the way of healing. I used a tool related to hypnotherapy called "parts therapy" (aka "ego state therapy"), and I found myself speaking with what came to be THREE different "parts" of his personality. In asking the points of view of each of these three....
The FIRST speaker wanted the patient definitely CURED of the cancer, no ifs, ands, or buts!
The SECOND speaker basically said, "Hey wait a minute! If Fred is cured of cancer, his doc will notify the Social Security people, Fred will be removed from his "SSI" pension and he'll lose that money. Beyond that, Fred is nearly 65, and where in the world is HE going to find a job at that age which will pay him as well as his SSI payment? I DON'T want Fred to be cured of cancer!"
The THIRD speaker said, "Maybe we can arrive at a compromise: Suppose we agree that Fred won't get any WORSE, so he won't have any more pain, but also that he won't get any better, so he can still collect his SSI payment?
The first two agreed with the third speaker, Fred went out the door with that understanding, and so far as I know, he's still living with the cancer-- no better, no worse!
Author Marc Schoen was saying essentially the same thing. There can be benefits from NOT getting well. Could it possibly be that "Jim", my current patient was experiencing benefits from NOT HEALING? Schoen mentioned that one of the indicators of such behavior might be that the patient was continuing unhealthy behaviors, such as drugs, alcohol or smoking. Jim was continuing to smoke and refused to quit. I resolved to check that out.
We did a hypnotic induction at the next therapy session, and when Jim was nicely relaxed into a deep state, I recalled for him our previous conversations about a patient's "Inner Physician"-- a source deep within the patient, which "speaks the truth" about his condition and his problems. Sometimes the I.P. will speak, sometimes s/he will respond even more easily with a movement of a finger or hand, (also known as an ideomotor movement). Over the next many minutes, I had conversation with Jim's Inner Physician, and asked him whether Jim was really ready to recover from the cancer. The clear answer was a "NO", and the I.P. went on to help me figure out just "why". In Jim's case it was that he was getting additional attention from his kinfolks which he had never experienced before, and he LIKED THE ATTENTION.
Now that we knew the "reason" (fallacious or not) for the failure to recover, we were able to treat that reason by helping Jim to understand how his family and friends would give him even MORE attention as he healed from the cancer and in the future. There were more benefits to be gained from health than from his sickness or demise.
Jim recovered very nicely, and from that point on I've made certain to check with the patient, using hypnosis, to be sure that BOTH OF US are on the same page as regards healing from the condition!
Moral of the story? If your loved one is diagnosed to have a serious condition, it might be a very good idea to check with an experienced hypnotherapist to see if s/he REALLY wants to recover. If not, then the therapy s/he needs may be very different from what their doc had in mind....
Until next time,
Charles Reinert ND, PhD