by Graywolf Swinney BASc., MA
The Science of Placebos
Quantum Mechanics: The dreams that stuff is made of . . .
The placebo effect is a consciousness event, and more specifically an event in which consciousness and matter interact to change or transform a disease structure into a healing process or flow. At the level of reality at which this event takes place, it is not even possible to say that it is an interaction. This is a level at which consciousness-matter, or as it is more popularly known, mind-body, are not different but are a 'stuff', for want of a better word, which is not committed to either condition, yet is both. It is, in other words, a level of quantum reality. (Quantum reality describes a reality in which something, for example light, can display properties of being both matter and pure energy as waveform.) The laws of quantum mechanics apply rather than the linear-cause effect laws of more conventional science, (including medical science). Sudden changes in state, or quantum shifts, occur instantaneously. It is a reality in which all is interconnected and uncertainty reigns. We are part of natural process, influencing it and being influenced by it at subtle levels where structure is only a passing creation of continuing evolution. True natural healing takes place at this quantum level where mind and body are the same, transformation is the essence of reality, and reality is created from infinite potential.
This level of reality exists on the edges of chaos or infinite complexity/possibility. From this vast potential of infinite possibilities reality is created. There are principles by which this creation emerges out of chaos, known as 'strange attractors'. Strange attractors, as defined in Chaos Theory, are essentially organizing principles that limit the patterns or structures that manifest from chaos and give them form. The CCNHP reveals even more fundamental principles (consciousness experiences encountered at the deepest levels of the journeys) identified as 'archetypal strange attractors'. Not archetypal in strictly the same sense as used by Jung; the term refers to principles so primordial that they underlie the fundamental shaping of all structures from the universe and its galaxies to the most fundamental of sub-atomic particles. These experiences are commonly encountered from person to person and underlie the individual's self structures.
The CCNHP model identifies this level of experience/reality as the 'edges of creation', and at this level self and every element of our being is created, including the structures that manifest as diseases in our physical and emotional being. This level is also the source of the unstructured or chaotic consciousness that passes through us and is shaped in its interactions with our organism and psyche to manifest as dreams. The implication is that our dreams are reflections or symbols of the structures that underlie our beingness and in particular our disease states.
In that the placebo effect is a consciousness event, to understand it also requires understanding the nature of consciousness and its dynamics. What people mean by consciousness is varied. Some mean no more than awake or aware (conscious), as opposed to asleep or unaware (unconscious). Some see it as the essence of self-awareness, (i.e. humans have consciousness, and animals don't). However, we have come to understand and define consciousness far more broadly along shamanic lines. It exists in all things and at all levels of being. There is nowhere or nothing in which consciousness is not involved.
To be true, this implies that consciousness is a field in the way that physics uses that term. Fields exist before energy, force or matter and are the source of these manifestations. Einstein's life-long quest to explore the nature of space-time and fields and his theories of relativity showed that space itself has structure and is permeated with fields. Electric, magnetic and gravitational fields have been identified, but our explorations into consciousness dynamics suggest that in addition to those, there are two others: time and consciousness fields. We suggest that the interaction of these fields in various combinations create the physical and energy structures of reality. Strange attractors influence these emerging structures of consciousness in its interactions with other fields to create the essence of self and reality.
The last element of science involves neuroscience or the study of the brain, how it works and, in particular, its role in disease and healing. The brain's extension throughout the body is the nervous system. It connects the brain with every part of the body and nerve impulses control and monitors the functioning of every organ and muscle in the body. Nerve impulses underlie all sensory input to provide the fundamental basis for our perceptions of self and reality. This is all controlled in and by the brain itself and more specifically by synaptic firing sequences or patterns. The pineal and pituitary organs or glands are of the brain and control moods and secrete the hormones that control how we function and our body chemistry. Increasingly the brain is known to operate in a holographic fashion, which means that change in any part of the brain affects the whole. In brief, the brain is the basis of the entire body's functioning and of all our perceptions of self and reality, and dysfunction in any part of it affects the entire brain and organism.
Work with the CCNHP has led to certain speculations about how consciousness interacts with the brain to influence its operations to in turn shape our personality and physicality. To illustrate this, consider the following case study:
Sonja is a health professional who suffers from relatively debilitating slow progressive multiple sclerosis. During the course of several dream-based journeys, we encountered severe states of restriction on a sensory level, experienced for example, as kinks and crushing pressures. Following one particularly intense journey, both her mother and son called later the same day to complain of feelings that Sonja had experienced in her journey. Their experiences had happened at the same time as Sonja's. Moreover, in chatting, uncharacteristically her mother offered unsolicited information about conditions surrounding Sonja's conception and birth, which confirmed our speculations during re-entry. Her mother had been feeling extremely restricted in her life and Sonja was conceived to provide meaning and purpose in this restriction. Another factor was that Sonja was ready to be delivered on Christmas Day, but because both the doctor and mother did not want to interfere with their familiesŪ Christmas celebrations, mother was instructed to žsit on a pillowÓ and hold Sonja back, which she did. Moreover, the onset of Sonja's disease followed a plea, or prayer she herself had expressed while trapped in an abusive, physically demanding and restrictive marriage. 'I pray for something to happen that will free me from this and all that he expects me to do,' she begged, and very soon thereafter was afflicted with her disease, which did.
This thread of restrictiveness that weaves throughout Sonja's life was present during her conception, birth, up bringing and further manifested in her first marriage and subsequent disease. Restrictiveness defined her world and imprinted in her consciousness and neural structures to shape her organization of self and world from her earliest beginnings. In essence it was a strange attractor. As a consciousness structure present in her parents at her conception it influenced the mix of genes coming from them. It influenced how the consciousness field interacted with the other fields to create the essence of her body and mind out of all the infinite possibilities. It imprinted itself in her neural structure both in the fetal stage and as a baby-child. It evolved into a specific "neural organ" or pattern of synaptic firings that defined a very deep primal sensory existential image of self.
Now stored in the brain it influenced how her nervous system functioned and how her personality developed. Sonja's mind and body in taking on this primal image and consciousness structure eventually manifested it as multiple sclerosis, which restricts and suppresses the flow of nervous energy throughout the body by affecting the sheath, which surrounds the spinal nerve bundles. In this way, her inner senses of self created the same in her outer world. (One model of brain function holds that for every movement we make, for example, moving our hand to scratch our nose, the brain creates an image and sequence of synaptic firings, and the hand conforms to this model. The outer reflects the inner.)
In quantum reality, the beginnings of the structures that form the universe appear as wavefronts arising out of infinite possibility to form electrons and other subatomic particles that interact to become the structure of matter. Neural firing patterns are hybrid chemo-electro phenomena that are in essence consciousness wave fronts arising out of infinite possibility. They are ordered in part, as implied in the preceding paragraph, by environmental consciousness structures and events acting as strange attractors to shape the neural firing sequences that define self-image and influence the functioning of the entire organism.
These patterns or sequences are stored in the brain experientially as fundamental primal sensory self-images defining the nature of self and reality. They shape our perceptions of self and world out of the raw flow of sensory input. It is why eight people will have eight different perceptions of the same event. The CCNHP suggests six zones and characteristics of consciousness dynamics that stem from these images and eventually manifest as physical and behavioral functioning as self. These are described in Chapter 12 of Clinical Chaos: A Therapist's Guide to Nonlinear Dynamics and Therapeutic Change ed. Chamberlain, Butz, Pub, Taylor and Francis.
Since healing's a matter of
mind over matter,
And matter's a matter of mind.
In matters that matter, when healing's what matters,
Chaotic's the transforming mind.
Healing is an ongoing process of ever evolving consciousness energy flow, as opposed to disease which is consciousness energy bound in unchanging and unadaptable structures. Fundamental healing involves reaching these levels of primal disease consciousness structure to release the bound energy. To do this we begin with a surface manifestation of the disease, usually a dream image although not necessarily limited to that. Dreams begin as chaotic consciousness energy. In its journey through our organism and psyche this consciousness energy is influenced to take on the shapes of deeper aspects of self. On the aware or dream level these shapes become the plot and symbols in our dreams but whatever else they are, built into them are the roots of our deeper self, including the roots of our disease states.
Using a Gestalt method and encouraging the imaginative process of the client, we invite them to imagine and yield ever deeper into these consciousness structures and dynamics. We encourage sensory rather than just visual or auditory imagery, and it is a process of 'becoming'. The discomfort is followed since this represents the dis-ease state, and in the journey the fears and pains encountered are embraced to fully identify with them. To help, the mentor enters a state of co-consciousness and shares the experience, in a sense modeling the way. It is in this becoming and identification that the fundamental image or neural firing pattern becomes activated. The client is fully identified with it and experiences it as self. This self-identification is important, as will be seen shortly.
The experience at this level is now even beyond the sensory. It is a reality filled with the elemental structures of the archetypal strange attractors, which shape our personal, and the general universe. It is the level of quantum reality in which distinction between matter and energy is not clear. It is a zone that on one side is experienced as the primordial patterns of sensory flow that define self, and on the other, pure complexity and chaos. . . undifferentiated or chaotic consciousness. . . infinite possibility. We invite the client, now fully identified with the disease structure, to let go into this infinite universal solvent, to yield to it and become it. The disease pattern dissolves and from the chaos a new self image emerges. On the neural level, the synaptic firing pattern that holds the disease structure loses coherency and randomizes, or becomes non-linear and complex. From this complexity emerges a new firing pattern that represents the healed sense of self.
This new self-image gradually affects the entire organism. The new synaptic firing pattern defines a more healed self and shapes the sensory inflow differently, influencing the whole brain to operate more appropriately. Sense of self and the world is more easeful. Hormonal secretions are changed and mood is improved. Through this, eventually the body and mind take on a new configuration.
For Sonja, her journeys have brought her to a more flowing and free sense of self. There is ease and peace in this new primal existential image. She is experiencing tingling and sensations in her legs, which for many years were numb. A bladder problem associated with her m.s. has gone into about 95% remission. She is walking more easily without her canes and seems to need them less often now. All this began happening after her first journey at which time she also stopped taking any medication for her condition.
Placebos do not work in the linear world of mechanistic science, and this is one reason medical science and psychology which are based in this model, have failed to understand or honor this powerful healing force. Placebos operate in the realms of consciousness dynamics, which are far more adequately described and modeled by quantum, relativity and chaos theories. Dreams, imagination and other creative consciousness processes provide doorways into these realms, and the primordial images and neural structures that define our sense of self, world, and dis-ease. At this deep level the transformations that reshape our entire organism occur. And the beauty of it is that it is the imaginative self that creates this miracle of healing. And it is from here that we begin to really live.
c.1997 ASKLEPIA PUBLICATIONS
[No portion of this article may be used or reproduced without the written consent of the author, except for brief quotes for critical reviews.] This article was published in Dream Network Journal Vol.16 No.4 (1998)
Go to Jung Circle Home Page