By: David B. Cheek, MD
The views and opinions expressed in these articles and interviews are those of the individuals speaking, and do not necessarily represent those of Applied Metapsychology International.
This article and other similar articles can be found in Beyond Trauma: Conversations on Traumatic Incident Reduction, 2nd Edition available from the bookstore at www.TIRbook.com
Forward by Gerald French
Dr. Cheek, in the 1950’s, wrote the first academic paper ever to address the phenomenon of fetal perception in utero. In his talk, he describes some of his experiences as a therapist in using an ideomotor technique [see description in text] that often allows his patients to realize life-transforming insights.
Though the reader will probably notice major differences in technique between Dr. Cheek’s approach and Traumatic Incident Reduction, it is both fascinating and validative to see so many philosophical parallels between our two approaches to the common goal of human betterment.
I was thinking of an animal model for communication. I was in Honolulu some years ago with Leslie LeCron, giving a workshop for some doctors on the uses of hypnosis. We hadn’t had the group do enough practicing during the meeting, so we had them doing it right at the end. One of the doctors had a wife who was sort of floating free and had nothing to do while her husband was practicing, so I asked her to come up on the stage where we had a nice chair, and I asked her if there was anything that she would like to work on. She thought for a moment, and said, “We have two pedigreed show dogs at home, and they’ve been vomiting for six weeks. We’ve taken them to all the veterinarians on Oahu, and nobody has helped them.”
So I said, “Why don’t you ‘tune in’ to those dogs for a few minutes here.” And we set up signals with her – sort of like, “when we nod our head it’s a ‘yes’, and if we shake our head, it’s a ‘no'”, only I had her use her fingers. (The further away from the head you get, the more unconscious is the information that you can tap into.) So I asked her to let herself go into hypnosis for a few moments. I told her that when she knew what she could do with those dogs, her “yes” finger would lift, and when it lifted, I wanted to hear what she had to say. About thirty seconds later, she began to laugh uproariously.
I said, “What’s that?”
She said, “Well, I feel that I’m going to go home and tell them that they don’t need to be show dogs; that we love them.”
“Well,” I said, “that sounds fine.”
After the workshop, my wife and I went around to a couple of the other islands. When we got back, I called this woman’s husband. He was a man that I had wanted to talk with more about his experiences because he had been an adopted child who thought he hated his adoptive parents but actually hated the mother that didn’t want him. (This happens a lot.) So I called him. At some point in our talk, I said, “Your wife really had some interesting ideas, and I would like to know what happened when she got home.” He said, “She went right out to the backyard where the dogs were vomiting. She called them over, put her arms around them, looked into their eyes, and said, ‘Look, we love you. You don’t have to be show dogs.”’
“And,” he said, “they haven’t vomited since.”
I remember going up to the place in Mexico where those pyramids are – that wonderful city; I never can pronounce its name. We went out in taxicabs. When we got there and had walked around for a long time, we had lunch that was brought in boxes for us. When we opened those boxes, about thirty very hungry-looking dogs came around wagging their tails and begging for food. Well, the Mexican cab driver told them to leave in a very loud, emphatic, and authoritative voice. Which they did. Then he had to go to the bathroom and he left us, and the dogs all came back, wagging their tails and looking up at us. A woman who spoke Spanish very well repeated his words exactly, and the dogs just stayed there and wagged their tails and looked up at her. When the cab driver came back, she told him about this failure, and he said, “Well, when you do this you’ve got to mean what you say.” All she had said were the words. He said, “They look at your eyes; they look at your mouth…,” but I think there’s much more that dogs look for: they want to “join the club”.
Well, my subject is what goes on in the uterus, because most of what I’ve been learning that is really meaningful to me has come within the last five years when I began to push back the boundaries of my biases.
I used to think, as Freud did, that it was impossible for babies to know anything until they were either 3 or 4 years old. I had known about Otto Rank, who felt that babies knew a lot at birth. Rank found that psychotherapy was greatly shortened when he allowed his patients, in hypnosis, to talk about what they remembered at birth. He felt that birth was always traumatic. It isn’t. It can be very wonderful for some babies, but it is rough, and it’s rough enough on them, mainly because the mother puts out adrenal hormones – epinephrine – in labor. This seems to make memory permanent. The baby will pick up what is going on at that time, whether it’s good or bad, and will remember that. The impact of the adrenal hormone overrides nice, left-brain, left-hemisphere type of information, like, “I love you; you’re a wonderful kid,” if the baby has felt that mother was not awake in the delivery room and didn’t care enough to say “hello”. Because of what we obstetricians do to mothers and babies, her baby may never forgive her for having been “somewhere else” when she should have been right there, saying, “What a beautiful baby I’ve got!”
These are things I’ve been awakened to. I’ve found that it isn’t just what goes on in the delivery room that is important. It’s what’s gone on for the previous nine months, and maybe … even … longer! I woke up to the possibility, suggested to me by a psychic, that we do a lot of thinking before we arrive in a physical body. When we’re in a holding pattern out there, waiting to come on in for a landing, we do choose. We don’t always choose the right person, but we choose them in terms of what we have known about them before.
This was kind of wild for me. I don’t talk about this very often except in a nice group like this. I was telling Sarge [Dr. Gerbode] that this is the one group that I’ve met within the last year where I have felt as though everyone was open and receptive. Though they might not really totally believe, they were willing to listen and to think about what we talked about.
Anyhow, I was in Hamburg, Germany two years ago, and one of the psychologists in the group asked me to work with her as a demonstration. She said, “My mother and I have never gotten along, although I love her very much. She lives in Berlin. I try to avoid talking to her, but she calls me and we always get into arguments on the telephone. I’d like to know what can go on that might help in my relation to her, because she’s getting old; she needs me. I would like to be helpful, but I always find myself uncomfortable around her.” So I invited her to come up for a demonstration.
We set up ideomotor – thought/muscle movement – ways of signaling unconscious information, and I simply asked her to go back to when she was just emerging out into the world. (You don’t have to go through a long induction technique. That is so surprising for someone to try to conjure with: that they could remember their birth. It’s the confusion technique of inducing hypnosis.)
She didn’t have to be in a trance to begin with, but she went right in, to be there at the time of her birth. Her head turned to indicate the way her back was in relation to her mother. An arm came out when I asked, “Which arm is delivering first?” (This is a physiological memory that was imprinted by the adrenal hormones that were present, added to a lot because she was born in Berlin in 1943 when there were a lot of stimulating things happening – like bombs arriving.)
She said, “My mother is so happy she almost screams with pleasure to see this daughter of hers, this beautiful child.”
I said, “Well, that sounds pretty good. How does the child feel?”
She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Na-ah”, as though it were nothing.
To me, that meant there must have been something that had gone on earlier that had set the stage for her to reject her mother’s joyful acceptance of her. So I asked her to go back to the time when her mother learned she was pregnant. (I have found that this is an important moment: women are happy, or they’re scared, or they’re mad. This emotion seems to make the memory lasting.) She signaled that she’d done so.
I said, “How does your mother feel?”
She said, “Scared”, and then there was a pause. I was trying to think of what else to say, and in the pause, she said, “She doesn’t want me.” That was her interpretation of her mother’s being scared.
Being scared has to do with survival. This is a right hemisphere type of impression. It’s the psychic, spiritual side. It’s very important for animals to know where the danger is, and to remember how they got out of danger before. Tremendously important. So “scared” meant, “She doesn’t want me”.
Korzybski, the father of General Semantics, you know, said “The map is not the territory.” The way you understand the territory is very different. The map only gives you colors, and maybe some lines of topography. What we hear and what we pick up in other ways, we filter out in accordance with our background of knowledge. Asking about the background of knowledge of a little spirit that has selected a mother is very helpful…. I found out that she had selected her mother. I always ask about this. It helps so much psychiatrically if someone who hates his or her mother discovers that he chose her, or she chose her, in the first place. It lets them look at the possibility that there might be something else wrong, and they might be willing to reframe their impressions of their mother. So I asked about that.
“Is there another part of your mother that does want a little baby?”
I knew it would be “Yes”, because I’ve found, as a gynecologist/obstetrician who has been concerned with fertility for 45 years, that women do not get pregnant unless there’s a biological readiness for pregnancy. Now that’s at a physiological level, way down deep. At a higher level, one which has to do with the environment, they might not be ready for pregnancy. And for years, I’ve enthusiastically supported the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, because, all during pregnancy, the little baby inside is picking up the feelings of its mother as to whether she really is accepting of what she’s carrying, or rejecting it. It’s very hard – it’s almost impossible – to change a baby’s attitude towards women if it has felt unwanted all during pregnancy.
Sometimes I have wondered how many of my colleagues in obstetrics had mothers like this themselves. I talked with Frederick LeBoyer about this. I asked, “Do you get the impression in France that obstetricians do not like woman?” He said, “Oh, ho, mon Dieu! That was why I gave up obstetrics!”
And that same year, 1968, was when I gave up obstetrics. I just didn’t feel comfortable in an environment where nobody thought the way I did. In California, it’s legally dangerous to have feelings that are different from your colleagues’. I had thought I could work “from the inside”. But instead, I’ve been working from the outside, educating woman to stand up for their rights and their choice of having babies, and hoping that they’re going to educate their obstetricians. It’s a hard job, I warn you. Have you tried?
Anyhow, this woman discovered that the reason for her mother’s being scared was not that she didn’t want a baby.
I said, “Move forward to when your mother tells your dad that she’s pregnant.” Right away, she said, “He isn’t there,” in a flat tone of voice. She was seeing his absence as another abandonment.
“Well”, I said, “What’s going on that keeps him away?”
And then she used her later knowledge. People can do this. She was able to say, “He’s on the eastern front, fighting the Russians.”
I said, “Well, this is a rather bad time in the world in general, and certainly for your mother. How does she know that he’s ever coming back? Couldn’t it be that she’s afraid for the future? For what’s going to happen in Germany? Isn’t she possibly afraid that your father may not come back?” And she had to admit that all these things were true, and that helped her to reframe her attitude towards her mother.
Then I asked her to come forward to when her mother was going into labor. I wanted this to be a different thing. People can hallucinate – imagine – the right kind of labor and the right kind of delivery. They know all about that! That’s built-in genetic learning: babies ought to be delivered in about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Ugandan babies are, and so are the babies of all the women that I’ve trained who have practiced doing the thing with their power – of turning pain on and off – so that they can be relaxed and don’t have reflex tension of their muscles and their pelvis. They will have 2 1/2 to 3 hour labors, just the way the Creator intended it to be. So I asked her to “walk into cold water”.
In my session later this afternoon, I’ll have you practice with this, because it’s really important to know how simply, how easily, you can recall the familiar experience of standing in cold water until you get used to the coldness. That “used-to-the-coldness” is essentially a partial analgesia. That’s all you need. You can stub your toe or bark your shin in cold water and it doesn’t hurt until you get out and get warm. Everybody seems to know what this is like. So you have them “go in” [mentally] up to their knees and then when they signal that they’re numb, ask them to go in further, up to their waist. With women who are going to deliver, you have them “get in” up to the lower part of their breast, which is high enough over the top of the uterus to allow them to be able to turn on that numbness anytime they want to. You have to “program” them, and it’s very easy to do. We all have computers between our ears. You can ask them to squeeze their finger, or to pull an ear – or use any kind of “anchor of action,” as neuro-linguistic enthusiasts call it. It’s really the associative process. You have them squeeze the fingers together and have a finger lift to promise that forever after this, anytime they want to become instantly numb, all they have to do is to squeeze their fingers together. You don’t want to take 10 minutes to get numb when you’re having contractions every 5 minutes. It has to be an instant thing.
So she did this; she played with it. She was a little old for having babies herself, but I wanted her to see what her mother could have learned, and she was able to do this. I asked her to go through the delivery with her mother squatting on the floor, as woman have done for thousands of years, instead of being on a table with her legs up in the air in a most unphysiological position. And I said, “The sheets don’t have to be sterile because you’ve got all the immune capabilities that your mother has. Bugs don’t mean a thing to you. And instead of a doctor, let’s have a midwife, who’s thoughtful enough to catch you and put you on your mother’s abdomen, skin to skin, to feel the warmth of her body … and right to her breast.”
All mother mammals except humans nurse their young. They lick them and nurse them right away in the delivery room. She was able to imagine this, and I asked her to hear what her mother would have said. She didn’t have to use imagination. Her mother’s welcoming joy was already there. She heard it again, only this time there was adequate preparation in her mind. She could accept her mother’s acceptance of her. She went home that night, called her mother, had a wonderful conversation, and came back in the next day feeling really good about the change in the relationship. What she did impressed me so much with what seems to me to be a fact: we have to consider all the aspects of the beginning of a pregnancy, of the beginning of an embryo on through the rest of the pregnancy, and to help that little being get a really good, and open, and fair impression of itself and of the world around it.
Now it is possible to work with people who are very badly mangled by what’s happened in their lives. This is what you folks are doing all the time. You’re doing it in your way. I do it using communications that do the same thing. I don’t know enough about your ways of doing it, but you’re doing it.
I have a terrible curiosity: I like to know exactly – at least, what seems to be exactly – what allows people to bring about the changes in their lives. I think often, with any kind of therapy, they will have some sort of idea of it, But, you know, we’ve been struggling for over 150 years to use techniques to help patients find out what has caused their neurosis. Neurosis used to be thought of as only “in the mind”, but now neurosis also includes the body, and as Buddy Braun, a psychiatrist in Chicago, has said, the only way we were ever able to separate mind and body was with the guillotine during the French Revolution. Whatever happens with the mind can also happen with the body. There has to be a change from normal physiological and emotional development to something different. Curiously, the human mind is capable of knowing exactly when there’s a change. That knowledge seems to come from the reticular activating system – the “RAS”.
The RAS is a network of nerve fibers that seems to think for itself. Every axon, every cell that starts the axon off, seems to have some knowledge of what to do. It’s amazing. This is the sort of thing that Candace Pert and others have been working on for a long time: the messenger molecules and neuropeptides that go through the body turning keys and getting cells to do things. This reticular activating system surrounds the whole spinal cord all the way on up into the forebrain. Around the brain stem, the most primitive part of the brain, is where it is most highly developed. This is where all of the twelve cranial nerves come in. The impact of what they bring in is then decided upon by the reticular activating system. The front part of it – the upper part, the cephalic part – will decide “What do we send up higher? and What do we suppress?” It’s an amazing capability. It isn’t always correct. It doesn’t always do the right thing, but it tries.
In about 1956, there were three people who were working with cats to find out about their attention. (Two of them I knew previously – Raul Hernandez-Peon and Michel Jouvet, a neurophysiologist, a wonderful person from Leon, France.) They were particularly interested in hearing, and so they trefined [drilled a hole into the skull] over the same part of the brain of each of their cats – I think there were 27 of them – to have access to the cochlear nucleus, the first relay system of hearing. They put a little stainless steel filament into the cochlear nucleus – got it fixed in position with beeswax or whatever they were using at that time – and then they let the animals recover health, recover from the anesthetic. They wanted them as normal as cats can be with a piece of steel in their brain.
Then they brought them into a room, one at a time. They were pretty careful not to let the ones that they first experimented with get back and talk to the others; they separated them after the tests were done.
They had amplifiers in the room and they had a sound-producing machine that would make beeps. They attached the steel wire to an electroencephalogram and then they made a “beep” sound. The side of the cat’s brain that had the thread in the cochlear nucleus sent out an electrical potential that made the machine make a little blip, up and down, like an electrocardiogram. This had its full impact – reached its highest level – when the cats first heard the sound. But if they kept that sound going at the same interval, the cats began to lose interest in that sound. Physiologically, they toned down the response. It didn’t disappear, but it became very hard to see. On the other hand, if they made the intervals shorter or larger, the cat paid full attention again.
See: if you’re an animal, it’s really important that you respond with all of your energies and do whatever is needed if something new, like a lion, comes into your field. So they got the full arousal response each time they changed the interval of time. That was important. The cats were using what we have learned to use. For instance, we struggle with anxiety to drive a car correctly when we first begin. Then, after about a year of driving, we can talk to somebody rather intelligently while we do all the right things with the car. Most of our driving has become ideomotor, at a lower level of awareness than speech.
Now we can do that. We have learned to do that only because we’d go nuts if we had to pay conscious attention to everything we do. The cats had learned to do this. They had the full impact of the sound going, and then they brought in something that they thought would be would be really meaningful to a cat. They chose to use two white mice, sealed into a jar so that there would be no noticeable odor that would say “mouse” to a cat. It was just a single stimulus. Immediately, the cat suppressed totally the beep sound. They took the mice away and brought in something else meaningful: fish oil on a piece of cotton. They put it under the nose of each cat. Again, the cat immediately suppressed the impact of the sound.
That’s the reticular activating system and it is really an impressive thing. If you want to read a little bit about it, Harold Magoun wrote a book that’s old but very good. Magoun was really the one who controlled this experiment. He and Moruzzi were among the first to point out the importance of the reticular activating system in controlling not just reactions to the environment but also endocrines and everything else. It has much more control than the pituitary alone has. It tells the pituitary and the hypothalamus what to do. Magoun’s book is called, “The Waking Brain”, and it’s a neat little book. If you ever can get a hold of it, it’s a classic.
I was thinking about a lecture that William James gave in Scotland back in 1901. One of his lectures was on saintliness. Towards the end of the talk, he commented that, to be saintly, you really have to be among saints. He said that an actor has to have several things going for him: the audience has to be right, what he says has to be right, and so on. He said, “There’s no worse lie than the truth – misunderstood by those who hear it.” Everywhere else where I talk, I have to think about that, and it’s such a joy to be “among saints” here….
You can use thoughts and muscles to get at unconscious information. Police inspectors and FBI agents have known for a long time what to do if you want to get details about what really happened when the bank was robbed, or the person was a hit by a car in front of them, or somebody got shot. You ask the witness (a volunteer witness; you don’t do this with criminals because you can’t depend on what they say) to tell you what they did from the time they got up in the morning to when they went home or whatever it was they did afterwards. You do not interrupt them. I’ve been working with the FBI for about 15 years now, and I sit with Bob Goldman and watch the witnesses who are instructed to do this. They start off with bright-looking faces, and their voices inflect their words with quite a range of tone. As they go on talking, wondering what comes next, they begin to diminish the modulations of their voice. Their words become slower, their facial expression irons out. When they come to a blank place and they’re wondering, “What next?” they may look up about 20 degrees above the horizon, just like little kids when they’re telling you about a movie and they forget what came next. And they go into a beautiful trance state while they’re doing this “narrative”, as they call it. And then I come along and the inspector introduces me: “He’s going to hypnotize you and improve your memory” and the witnesses come right out of trance because now they’re challenged by somebody.
So I have to ask them to do the same sort of thing, but not try to remember a thing. I’ll say, “This index finger (I’ll identify the finger with them at first; later I ask them to choose) is going to lift when you’re getting up in the morning. This finger” – and I identify it, touch it for them so they hook it up in their brain – “will lift every time you come to something you feel might be helpful for us in this situation, and when you’re going home at the end of it, your thumb will lift.” (I usually use a thumb for that.) And they sit there and do the same thing. They go right back into the same trance, only usually a little deeper, and I ask them to “keep going over it, and when you get to the end and your thumb lifts, go back to the beginning and please keep on doing that until you feel that you have given us enough worthwhile details.”
This is basically what we do in psychotherapy, often without really realizing what we’re doing. We’re helping a person in a narrative to go into a trance while they’re telling us what they think we ought to know. And we should avoid asking questions during that time. We should really let them do it. It’s hard to do it when you’ve only got a certain length of time to see somebody. But if you are retired, as I have been, sort of, when you have a little more time to do it, it is very interesting to notice how easily people go in.
Milton Erickson was the first one, to my knowledge, to point out that whenever people recall sequences of action, they go into a hypnotic state to do it. You can also see this in the case of post-hypnotic suggestion. I have said to a person under hypnosis, “When I remove my glasses, I’d like to have you go over to the door there and open it up … and have menstrual cramps”, “and when you come back and sit in the chair, you’ll feel instantly comfortable. This doesn’t mean that doorknobs are going to induce cramps with you; it’s just that I’d like to have you know that there are all sorts of signals that we set up for ourselves to have trouble with.” I then continue, “When you know you can do that – and maybe not remember what I’ve been talking about – your ‘yes’ finger will lift.”
Then I’ll ask her to awaken, and before she’s had a chance to catch on to what I’ve just told her – I learned this also from Milton Erickson – I’ll pick up something like this water glass and say, “This is very interesting. I wonder if it’s cut glass, or just molded that way…”, to get her attention onto the glass. And while I’m talking with her about the water glass, I’ll notice that every once in a while she’s looking at that door, even though she has amnesia for the original stimulus of what’s going to do it and I haven’t removed my glasses yet. But when I do remove my glasses, it’s even harder for her to keep her attention on the water glass. She’s going to keep thinking about that door, but she can’t just get up and open a door when a doctor’s talking to her, so she has to rig up some way of getting there. And she’ll say, “It’s kind of hot in here. Would you mind if I open the door?” And I ask her to do that.
But she’s going to have a cramp! She knows that, physiologically. So she’ll get to the door and … maybe get to the aura of the doorknob, and I’ll say, “Please, put your hand on that door knob because I don’t want you to get hemorrhoids or something later on just because you haven’t followed through with what you think you ought to do.” So she does it, and then she looks off into space, wondering “What next?” … and then she looks a little uncomfortable. I’ll say, “Where do you feel them when you first get those cramps?”, and then she starts talking about it, reminds herself of it, and that’s enough. I ask her to come back and sit in the chair. She’s already accepted suggestion, and she’s comfortable. Actually, this is basically what happens with most illnesses, whether physical or emotional: something happens that sets a memory pattern, and there’s amnesia for it, and a compulsion to carry it out. Herb Spiegel wrote a paper about this many years ago.
I put down epinephrine and amnesia together on this blackboard because they seem to be vitally related to what we call imprinting, and for birds and mammals, imprinting is very important for the young ones that have to be cared for by their mother or their father. They have to pay attention, to know who their parents are, because – particularly with birds like the goslings that Conrad Lorenz was working with – if they go to the wrong mother, they’ll be drowned. So knowing who their mother is has survival value for them.
Now, how do you suppose they set up the communication system that tells them who their mother is? We used to think it was just the first thing that they see, or the first thing that happens to them. It isn’t. It’s gone on a long time before. Telepathic communication is the secret for survival among warm-blooded animals. The other ones just lay their eggs and go off and leave them, and the young have to depend on genetic learning to survive. But warm-blooded animals – birds and mammals – have to know who is in control, and who to go to when there’s danger. They can’t just learn this after they are hatched out or born. It’s got to be in place long before then.
So if you can open up your channels of understanding and acceptance enough to realize this, then you can see why a psychologist can go back and tell me how her mother feels at the time the doctor tells her she’s pregnant. This is telepathic communication – the hearing sense is not there yet. It takes four and a half to five months for the hearing mechanisms to develop in the nervous system of an embryo. I used to think that they couldn’t see, either, but yesterday a women told me what her father was wearing when he learned, happily, that her mother was pregnant. I asked her, “How big are you?”, and slowly she brought one hand up and she put her thumb and forefinger about that far [several centimeters] apart. There’s a proprioceptive [relating to sensory receptors in the muscles. Joints, inner ear, etc.] knowledge of size. Usually, in the early months of pregnancy, they double the space, but you would expect them to say, “How the hell do I know how big I am?” But it’s very definite. You argue with her and say, “I think you’re bigger than that. Don’t you think so?” and her “no” finger will lift. Try it; you’ll see.
These are communications, unconscious communications, not only telepathy, but clairvoyance as well. So think about that. Think hard, because if you’re dealing with somebody that you think is a kook and you’re going to do the best you can but you don’t really think much is going to happen, you’re very much like the owners of pedigree dogs that expect them to be show dogs but don’t know how to give love.
[Here, Dr. Cheek gave a demonstration of hypnotic induction and the ideomotor technique described above. Though for reasons of brevity, that activity has not been transcribed here, a number of parenthetical comments he made during the session have been. See paragraphs below, followed by ellipses. – Ed.]
Remember what I said: sequences are important. As an obstetrician, I found that most of the complications that can happen with surgery occur during the nights after surgery when there’s a “reviewing” of something that was possibly misunderstood or was heard as it really was said by a surgeon who didn’t know that people are listening. Most of the complications in obstetrics occur because of statements that her mother-in-law may have made to the mother … or words said by some friend who had a terrible time having a baby….
With the use of ideomotor response, you’re opening up channels of communication that, for me, have been the only way I’ve been able to get at the origins – the really traumatic experiences. It isn’t enough to get a later one; it isn’t enough to get a satellite trauma. All of the earlier hypnotists – Joseph Breuer, Freud, Jung, Ferenczi – were looking for a trauma. They thought that when they got it and somebody starting screaming, that was the whole thing. It wasn’t. People didn’t get better, and all of them gave up hypnosis – particularly Jung, because he found people inventing trauma that had never actually occurred. He wrote about it.
Then came all these other things – researching dreams. But dreams are worthless unless you can get what went just before the dream. Sometimes people can be asked to interpret their dreams over and over again, and can go into hypnosis deep enough to have the access to what went before. But it’s so much quicker to go right to the original thing by having them learn to go over their night of sleep and to pick up whatever seems to them in some way related to why you’re talking with them. It’s as simple as that….
Hypnosis is a state-dependent process. We go into hypnosis when we’re in danger; we go into it when we lose consciousness; we go into it when we’re lulled, when we’re mesmerized, as babies are mesmerized by nursing. And when you go into hypnosis – even just relaxing – you may suddenly find yourself flashing back to a tonsillectomy … or falling out of a tree … or just before the car hit yours, when you go into a different state.
In that state, your tolerance for pain goes way up. People who have been injured in accidents don’t feel any pain until they realize what’s wrong with them. It’s a curious thing: when you go into hypnosis, something else goes into action, too. It was discovered by James Esdaile, a Scottish surgeon who went to India in 1845 to work in a little prison hospital outside Calcutta. He was appalled at the mortality rate with surgeries – even superficial skin operations. People would go into shock, hemorrhage, or die of infection. There was a 50% mortality with any kind of surgery … and this was only slightly above the level everywhere else in the world where people were in better shape – in better physical condition and better nourished than these prisoners were. This was before anesthetics were available in India.
Esdaile read a newspaper article about mesmerism being used in France by several surgeons. Cloquet wrote about it. The article said that the “operator” sits in front of the person he’s working with, with his knees outside of the patient’s, and that he passes his hands down over the patient’s face and over his arms and shoulders and down to the hands. And these patients would go into a state that allowed surgery to be done painlessly.
Esdaile thought, “What a wonderful idea!” He was really tired of having attendants hold screaming patients down while he operated on them, so he worked with it. He didn’t dare do it with a surgical patient at first. He was a doctor. He got somebody that had an abscessed eye first and he began doing this. In his wonderful little book about mesmerism in India, he describes how he kept it up for 45 minutes and nothing happened. So he sat down. His back was bothering him and that it was very hot and humid. While he was sitting there, the patient said, in a low voice, “You are my mother, my father, my sisters and brothers.” The only way Esdaile could interpret that was as a compliment, and it gave him strength. So he got up again and started to mesmerize some more, and the man went into a deep state. Esdaile didn’t know what it was; it looked as though the man was in a coma.
Now the newspaper article didn’t say how you wake people up, and Esdaile didn’t know what to do next. So, like all doctors, he went and saw the patients he did know something about; he made rounds. When he came back, he noticed a very wonderful thing: the redness around that eye had gone away, and the swelling had diminished. That gave him enthusiasm to go on further and he recognized within a very short time that when you remove pain at an unconscious level, the other three cardinal signs of inflammation: redness, swelling, and heat, will disappear.
He didn’t really think in terms of “conscious”, or “unconscious”, but what he was really dealing with was the unconscious element of pain, which doesn’t appear in our dictionaries, even our medical ones. We think that pain is only what a person says “Ouch!” to. But subconscious pain is the important kind. It can smolder for years, unrecognized, and then light up later with a back problem or shoulder problem that may have started in the delivery room with the way the baby was born.
In 1947, Hench, of the Mayo Clinic, found that when you give cortisone to people who have rheumatoid arthritis, the swelling, redness, and heat will disappear and they will get more mobility in their joints. It was a wonderful discovery – except that a few of them began dying from military [contained in small capsules similar to the size of millet seeds] tuberculosis. They had had the tuberculosis “walled off”, and [after the cortisone] the tuberculosis spread, got into the blood stream, and they died. Cortisone had other side effects as well, like depression, and suicidal attitudes. Cortisone can remove inflammation, but it does not improve healing, and it can cause a lot of other troubles.
The key to hypnosis was well known to Mesmer but he didn’t describe it very fully. Esdaile discovered that hypnosis stops the redness, swelling, and local heat. When you remove the pain and there is no pain, the interference with the immune system that cortisone causes doesn’t occur. In fact, the system is enhanced, so he also found that his patients stopped dying of infection.
And all of his surgical patients were infected. Doctors washed their hands when they got through surgery. They never washed their instruments afterwards to get the blood off, so their hands and all their instruments were contaminated with bacteria that were greatly enhanced in their capability of causing disease, because they had passed through other patients who had died or been infected in the hospital. We know that if you pass a pathogenic organism through a person or an animal and then culture it and give it to somebody else, its potential for doing damage is increased. So all his patients were very much at risk, yet his mortality dropped from 50% to 5% in three thousand operations, some of them major ones, like leg amputations.
Nobody listened to this. The poor guy died depressed after he returned to England. He’d been promised that somebody would publish his papers, and nobody was interested. They all had chloroform, ether, and nitrous oxide to use, so why waste time doing this sort of thing in front of somebody? You see, the receptiveness of people has to be right. You have to have the right audience, and he didn’t have it.
Well, I wanted to touch on some of those things, not to convince you but to add, I hope, to your curiosity.
David B. Cheek, M.D., passed away in September 1996 at the age of 84. I had the honor of hearing Dr. Cheek at two past IRM conferences. With his warm heart, friendly demeanor, and total candor, he was an immediate hit with everyone. Though not an Applied Metapsychology practitioner by training, I feel that he embodied all of the best traits that a practitioner could have: an open mind and complete respect and empathy for his clients
Dr. Cheek’s legacy lives on through the work of his students. Rev. Gerry Bongard and his book “The Near Birth Experience” provides another intriguing look into life before birth.