Viruses and other germs are all around us. But why do some people catch a virus while others don’t? Why do patients respond differently to drugs, and some don’t even respond at all? What is exactly responsible for the difference? Is it the immune system, or conscious beliefs, or both?
Science tells us that skin cells can entirely regenerate themselves in two weeks, while the intestine cells need only five days. The plain truth is that whereas every single organ of our body can repair itself within a certain frame of time, we do not know enough of our mental and physical structure.
Our beliefs and emotions have links to poor health as the Quran says, “And Who, when I fall ill, heals me” (26:80). The Bible says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (17:22). In these messages, the physical symptoms are attributed to the human psyche holding human at fault for his sickness and impacting health. In fact, the mind can defeat mental disorders and physical illnesses caused by negative thinking.
To change patients’ attitudes, California Simonton Cancer Centre introduced guided imagery and visualisation exercises. Imagery is the ability of the mind to visualise images as reality and sense every single bit of it, leading to self-healing. To explain, a laryngeal cancer 60-year patient slowed down the progress of the malignant tumour and improved his health thanks to the imagery sessions where he visualised radiation as bullets targeting and chasing the cancerous cells out of the body through liver and kidneys.
The success was astonishing! The cancer was defeated. Doctors attributed it to the daily imagery and visualisation exercises. The perceived images can lead to changes in the body — unfortunately, the vast majority of patients associate recovery with clinical treatment. So medical professionals have prescribed placebo, an inert sugar drug, to stimulate the innate healing powers in the patient.
The state of mind can alter the course of illness while superstitions, fear, stress and anxiety weaken our immunity and digestive systems.
The drug proved effective but the effect was ascribed to two factors. First: the patient’s faith in the drug relieved his symptoms as if he was given a real medical treatment. Mind-body connection supersedes reality. Second: the behaviour of the doctor influences one’s psychology. It is established that the unshakeable beliefs of the patient cure or ruin him.
A case in point is an American businessman who was diagnosed with lymph node cancer in Simonton Cancer Centre. The tumour spread throughout his body. He, however, was so convinced a press-advertised anti-cancer drug called Krebiozen would cure him that he substituted it for radiation therapy. The tumours had shrunk due to the patient’s belief in the efficacy of the drug not to the efficacy per se. Having recovered, he was discharged to lead a normal life as he used to.
A while later, he suffered from severe depression after reading reports questioning the efficacy of Krebiozen. He was left totally devastated and died shortly after the cancer relapsed.
The state of mind can alter the course of illness while superstitions, fear, stress and anxiety weaken our immunity and digestive systems. According to Ed Diener , professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois, summarised in his studies, “feeling positive about your life, not stressed out, not depressed — contributes to both longevity and better health among healthy populations”.
The lesson we learn that helps us face the coronavirus pandemic is that our positive attitudes and belief in the healing power of the mind can defeat all pathogens as well as tumours.
— Dr Noura S. Al Mazrouei is a writer, academic and artist.