Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 34: Jul-Aug 1984

Issue Contents

Other pages











The mind's control of bodily processes

T.X. Barber has reviewed the role of the mind in the control of many physiological processes in a chapter appearing in a new book. The chapter is 58 pages long, with 176 references, making it a major contribution to the subject. To give the reader the flavor of this paper, two paragraphs are now reproduced:

"The data presented in this chapter should, once and for all, topple the dualistic dichotomy between mind and body which has strongly dominated Western thought since Descartes. The meanings or ideas imbedded in words which are spoken by one person and deeply accepted by another can be communicated to the cells of the body (and to chemicals within the cells); the cells then can change their activities in order to conform to the meanings or ideas which have been transmitted to them. The believed-in (suggested) idea of being stimulated by a poison ivy-type plant, transmitted to a person who is normally hypersensitive to this type of plant, can affect specific cells (probably in the immunological and vascular systems) so that they produce the same type of dermatitis which results when the person actually is stimulated by a poison ivy-type plant. Similarly, individuals who are viewed as allergic to pollen or house dust may not manifest the allergic reaction when they believe (falsely) that they have not been exposed to the allergic substance.

"Believed-in suggestions can affect specific parts of the body in very specific ways. Suggestions of being burned can give rise to a very specific irregular pattern of inflammation on the hand that closely follows the pattern of a previously experienced actual burn in the same place. Suggestions that a congenital skin disorder will ameliorate step by step first in one area of the body, then in another, can be actualized exactly as suggested. At least one set of investigators found that suggestions that specific warts will regress can be effective in removing just those warts and not others."

In addition to the subjects mentioned in the quotations, the following topics are explored: congenital skin diseases, blisters produced by suggestion, stigmata, mental inhibition of bleeding, fire-walking in safety, control of blood flow and skin temperature, and so on.

(Barber, Theodore X.; "Changing 'Unchangeable' Bodily Processes by (Hypnotic) Suggestions: A New Look at Hypnosis, Cognitions, Imagining, and the Mind-Body Problem," in A.A. Sheikh (ed.) Imagination and Healing, Baywood Publishing Co., Farmingdale, NY, 1984, pp. 69.)

From Science Frontiers #34, JUL-AUG 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss