A Message from Dr. Bernie Siegel
Bernie Siegel on Hypnosis
Notes from Love, Medicine & Miracles

Notes from Peace, Love & HealingA MESSAGE FROM DR. BERNIE SIEGEL 

The first message was an email to Anne Spencer, Ph.D. of The International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association in response to an article written by myself in “Subconscious Speaking”, the journal of the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association. Note: He did CC his email to me as well as send an email directly to me.Dear Anne,

I always enjoy your newsletter and am writing in response to Chaplain Durbin’s article (Refer to Pre-Post Surgery). A few added items that can be of help in the OR (operating room) or any treatment experience. One is to have the patient draw themselves in the OR. Look at the drawing with them and get them to see what needs to literally be changed and where there beliefs need to be altered through imagery and hypnosis. If you are allowed into the OR go with your client and help them through the induction and continue the monologue during surgery because people hear under anesthesia, asleep and in coma. They respond by controlling bleeding, correcting arrhythmias and more due to hypnotic suggestions. Doctors are not trained in communication so much of our language is hypnotically destructive. We assault, poison, insult, blast and kill to help patients. We need more Ericksonian training because our voice goes with the patient.

Just as Durbin mentions one third of children have anesthesia induced by the alcohol swab if you tell them it will numb their skin. If you say you will fall asleep in the OR children fall asleep as they enter the OR. Sometimes they have to be turned over to operate because they sleep on their stomachs. If you give post hypnotic suggestions like, “You will awaken comfortable, thirsty and hungry” patients come back complaining because they can’t stop eating and are gaining weight since surgery. I changed that to “You won’t finish everything on your plate.”

What is forgotten and not a part of surgical training is that surgery was done under hypnosis before the advent of anesthesia and major intra-abdominal surgery can be done under hypnosis alone. I have seen it.

So keep on with your work and know that no one is against success. Doctors and nurses are changed by their experience. I was called crazy for playing music and talking to anesthetized patients until the results were seen. then everyone mimics you and you are invited to present conferences. One thing I enjoyed was playing children’s music in the OR and watching everyone regress and become childlike and fun to work with.

Some day medical training will not just be medical information but will truly become medical education and we will all become one healing team. Peace, Bernie Siegel, MD

(To Chaplain Durbin)
Paul there are no limits to what can be accomplished. keep showing them and they will convert to believers. You might enjoy a book called Hands of Healing by Julie Motz. My books also contain many stories about communication under anesthesia and drawings and I recommend them to you as a resource also. Love, Medicine & Miracles and Peace, Love & Healing have the most information. Peace, Bernie for drawings Life Paints Its Own Span Susan Bach, Secret World of Drawings Gregg Furth.

(In response to my request to put his comments on my website Dr. Siegel responded,) ABSOLUTELY HONORED TO HELP AND SHARE INFORMATION. Peace, Bernie Siegel

I don’t want to bore you but believe me my craziness changed a lot of anesthesiologists. I would ask patients to have their pulse rate go to 86 and it would do that while they were anesthetized. keep on keeping on you might find it useful to have patients draw themselves in the OR pre-op and then use hypnosis to alter their image in a positive way where necessary. Bernie

Bernie Siegel on Hypnosis

Dear Paul,

Just a short note to tell you about my surgical experience with hypnosis. I have operated on patients under hypnosis and can verify its effectiveness. I also found, after a painful back injury, that I was in a trance state when I operated. I could stand for hours and operate with no pain but when the operation was over I had to lie down on the floor for comfort. Anything that makes you lose track of time puts you in a trance state.

How we communicate is the key. I recommend My Voice Will Go With You by Sidney Rosen, MD for all practitioners. It contains the teaching tales of Milton Erickson. I know from my OR experience that I can correct arrhythmia in anesthetized patients with instructions like, ‘You are on a swing up and back, steady rhythm’ and a normal sinus rhythm would return. We are all hypnotists but most of us are destructive in our trance inductions. We poison, blast, assault and insult the body. As I have learned words become wordswordswords. We can heal or kill with them. I do not mind ‘deceiving’ people into health. Statistics do not relate to individuals so I have no problem helping people to heal despite the odds.

We also have to remember that a meaningful voice carries more impact then a strange voice or audio tape. Children are particularly susceptible to therapeutic techniques. Give them vitamins from a bottle labeled ‘Hair Growing Pills’ and their hair doesn’t fall out during chemotherapy. Tell them to turn off the blood to the tumor or area of surgery and they lose less blood in the OR and affect their tumor’s growth rate. They can also send the treatment to the tumor by increasing the flow to it while guiding it away from areas like the scalp thus avoiding hair loss. If monks can sit on mountain tops wrapped in wet sheets and not freeze, because they shunt blood to internal organs, we can too. We are of the same species. Read ‘Beyond Biofeedback’ by Elmer and Alyce Greene and learn about autohypnosis techniques too.

The word I created was Body/Mind to help us realize Body and Mind are one and our thoughts, images, beliefs and visualizations can do amazing things. Two thirds of men had their hair fall out when they were told they were receiving chemotherapy but were given saline. Cancer goes away when a patient is told he is getting a new refined form of krebiozen and my post operative patients began to gain weight and were angry with me when they learned from my nurse that as surgery ended I gave them a post hypnotic suggestion, “You will awaken, comfortable, thirsty and hungry.” I had to change it to, “Hungry but you won’t finish what is on your plate.” I could go on with my experience but I will sum it up with a compliment I received from one of my anesthesiologist friends, “You are worth 10 cc’s of pentothal.” That really speaks well for the benefits of hypnosis. Remember we are all capable of using hypnosis for therapeutic reasons to become the person we want to be. Spend the day practicing and some day you may achieve your goal.

I can’t help but add some anecdotes to the power of hypnotic suggestion in awake, anesthetized, comatose and sleeping patients. Before doing a venipuncture in a child I would tell them the alcohol pad I used to prep the skin would also numb it. One third of the children had significant anesthesia and thanked me for using it. The ones with no effect said, “It didn’t work.” My saying, “You will go to sleep in the OR” led to several children falling asleep as they were wheeled in. Many were angry at me when I turned them over to get to their appendix complaining, “But I sleep on my stomach.” When I played children’s music in the OR the entire staff regressed and were pleasant to work with.

Hearing is one of the first senses to develop and last to go. Infants respond to the music and sounds heard while in utero. So let us hope medical education will awaken to the power of the spoken word and teach doctors how to communicate and become story tellers as well as how to operate and write prescriptions. I will conclude with the effect of the statement, “You will be going out in the OR.” Does that mean out of control and fear inducing to the patient? I learned from Erickson’s stories and would quickly add, “Yes, when was the last time you went out on a fun date?” The patient’s expression would change as pleasant memories came flooding back. Peace, Bernie Siegel, MD

Notes from Love, Medicine & Miracles

Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. Harper & Row. New York. 1986: (Presented with permission of Dr. Bernie Siegel.)

Sir William Osler, the brilliant Canadian physician and medical historian, said that the outcome of tuberculosis had more to do with what went on in the patient’s mind than what went on in his lungs. He was echoing Hippocrates, who said he would rather know what sort of person has a disease than what sort of disease a person has. Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard, two of the giants of nineteenth-century biology, argued all their lives whether the most important factor in disease was the “soil”–the human body–or the germ. On his deathbed, Pasteur admitted that Bernard had been right, declaring, “It is the soil.” (p 2) Then and there we adopted as our motto a sentence from the Simontons’ book (Getting Well Again: “In the face of uncertainty, there is nothing wrong with hope.” Some doctors have advised patients to stay away from me, so as not to build up “false hope.” I say that in dealing with illness there is no such thing in a patient’s mind. Hope is not statistical. It is physiological! The concepts of false hope and detached concern need to be discarded from the medical vocabulary. They are destructive for doctor and patient. (p 28) Whenever I work with medical students or other physicians, I ask them for a definition of false hope. They always hem and haw, and fail to come up with one. I make it clear to them that for most physicians “giving false hope” simply means telling a patient that he or she doesn’t have to behave like a statistic. If nine out of ten people with a certain disease are expected to die of it, supposedly you’re spreading “false hope” unless you tell all ten they’ll probably die. Instead, I say each person could be the one who survives, because all hope is real in a patient’s mind. (p 29)

We don’t yet understand all the ways in which brain chemicals are related to emotions and thoughts, but the salient point is that our state of mind has an immediate and direct effect on our state of body.

We can change the body by dealing with how we feel. If we ignore our despair, the body receives a “die” message. If we deal with our pain and seek help, then the message is “Living is difficult but desirable,” and the immune system works to keep us alive. I therefore use two major tools to change the body–emotions and imagery. These are the two ways we can get our minds and bodies to communicate with each other. Our emotions and words let the body know what we expect of it, and by visualizing certain changes we can help the body bring them about. (p 69)

It’s often said that stress is one of the most destructive elements in people’s daily lives, but that’s only a half truth. The way we react to stress appears to be more important than the stress itself. This was borne out in the experience of Hans Selye, the scientist who developed the entire concept of stress and its effects on the body. (p 70)

In the second century A.D., Galen noted that melancholy people were more likely to get cancer than those with more sanguine dispositions. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many physicians realized that cancer tends to follow tragedy or crisis in a person’s life, especially in those whom today we term depressed. Before the advent of modern psychology, however, there was little they could do to help their depressed patients change their outlook. (92) According to some scientific studies, laughter also increases the production of a class of brain chemicals called catecholamines. These include the compounds that, in some circumstances, stimulate the fight-or-flight response, which may inhibit healing. However, increased amounts of some of these compounds in the blood can also reduce inflammation by activating a different part of the immune system In addition, they increase the production of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates It appears that these are two of the things that happen during laughter Thus humor may relieve pain directly, by physiological means, as well as by diverting our attention and helping us relax. (p 144) Norman Cousins, when watching Candid Camera and Marx brothers tapes while fighting ankylosing spondylitis, found that ten minutes of hearty laughter gave him two hours of pain-free sleep. Since nearly every hospital room has a TV set, I hope someday we have a “healing channel” that includes plenty of comedy, as well as music, meditation, and healing imagery. (p 145)

Among many psychological techniques applied to physical illness, the most widely used and successful has been the one called imaging or visualization. I will explain how it works and then present some examples, concentrating on health problems, that require nothing more than a quiet room and a friend or tape recorder. I will discuss relaxation, hypnosis, meditation, and visualization separately, but they are really all part of one process, as you’ll understand when practicing them. (p 146)

Visualization takes advantage of what might almost be called a “weakness” of the body: it cannot distinguish between a vivid mental experience and an actual physical experience. (p 153) Spirituality means the ability to find peace and happiness in an imperfect world, and to feel that one’s own personality is imperfect but acceptable. From this peaceful state of mind come both creativity and the ability to love unselfishly, which go hand in hand. Acceptance, faith, forgiveness, peace, and love are the traits that define spirituality for me. These characteristics always appear in those who achieve unexpected healing of serious illness. (p 178)

Notes from Peace, Love & Healing

Bernie S. Siegel, M.D. Harper & Row. New York. 1989: (Presented with permission of Dr. Bernie Siegel.)

What the placebo suggest to us is that we may be able to change what takes place in our bodies by changing our sate of mind. Therefore, when we experience mind-altering processes – for example; meditation, hypnosis, visualization, psychotherapy, love and peace of mind – we open ourselves t the possibility of change and healing. (p 21)

Bernie refers to a study which appeared in The Lancet of which he writes: This study of fifty-seven women diagnosed with early breast cancer ten years before revealed that after the fist five years, “recurrence-free” survival was significantly commoner among patients who reacted to cancer by denial or “fighting spirit” than among patients who responded with stoic acceptance or feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.

After ten years, their survival statistics showed that 70 percent of the “fighting spirit” patients were still alive (with or with metastasizes) versus 50 percent of the deniers, 25 percent of the stoic acceptors and 20 percent of the hopeless/helpless group. (p 27)

Many techniques for achieving peace of mind are available. These include hypnotic suggestion, biofeedback, relaxation training, visualization, yoga and other consciousness-altering techniques. (Sandra Levy would remind us of joy, David McClelland of love and egolessness too.) (p 33) The effectiveness of these techniques can be measured experientially-people feel better if they use them. With the sophisticated new tools of molecular biology, some of the effects can now be measured at the cellular level as well. (p 34)

After my patients are relaxed, I instruct them to divert the blood away from the operative site so that they won’t bleed; I tell them that when they awaken they will feel comfortable, thirsty and hungry and will have no difficulty voiding; and I give them whatever other messages might be appropriate to their particular situation. When the anesthesiologist says, “You’ll be going out,” I may talk about going out on a date, so that the image becomes something positive. I stand by, holding my patients’ hands and gently guiding them into the anesthesia with soothing words and healing music. Afterward, some of my patients have even asked if I operated with one hand, because they had the impression I continued to hold their hands after they fell asleep. (p 95)

Often when a patient’s pulse rate is too high during an operation I’ll simply say, “We’d like your pulse to be 86.” I always pick a specific number because I want everyone to see the pulse go down to that exact number. How does it do that? Again, we don’t yet understand how the body converts healing suggestions to reality. But something in the body hears these messages and knows how to respond to them–if only we will give them to our patients (and ourselves). (p 95)

Joan Borysenko’s Body/Mind groups have shown that many diabetics are able to use relaxation to reduce their need for insulin. Relaxation training has also helped asthma sufferers, according to Dr. George Fuller-von Bozzay of the Bio-feedback Institute of San Francisco and Dr. Paul Lehrer of Rutgers Medical School, and people with chronic as well as acute pain, according to more people than I can list here. You probably already know about successes oncologist Carl Simonton and psychologist Stephenie Matthews-Simonton have had with cancer patients who used visualization to enhance immune function. This very brief listing doesn’t begin to exhaust the possible medical benefits of relaxation and visualization techniques, but it does give an idea of their range. (p 105 For those nurses and doctors who are working in the hospital, I suggest going down to the chapel and sitting there quietly, several times during the day. This accomplishes many things. Among others, it changes the way you relate to the people you meet there as you deal with them later on: If you meditate or pray together with an x-ray technician, it is highly unlikely that you will berate that technician when you work together. So you change and relationships change. (p 107)

Visualizations are particular kinds of meditations, which make use of imagery. You put your imagination to work to create images of what you are trying to achieve. These visualizations have been effective preparations for goals ranging from improved sports performance to natural childbirth, but (p 109) readers off his book will probably be more interested in their application to health care, most specifically their potential for improving immune system function. Although relaxation alone has been shown to be effective in enhancing the body’s defenses, Harvard psychologist Mary Jasnoski has done research demonstrating that when students trained in muscle relaxation were also given instruction in guided imagery, their defenses were even stronger. (p 110) Visualization can be hypnotically induced, under the guidance of a doctor, psychotherapist or hypnotherapist, or it can be self-inducted. People with vivid imaginations who are familiar with meditative techniques will find that visualization comes very naturally to them. They may wish to purchase a (p 111) tape with a guided imagery exercise suited to their needs, or to prepare such a tape themselves, perhaps using the sample visualization scripts provided in the back of this book. Information about where to order prerecorded tapes is also provided. If self-hypnosis seems daunting to you, even with the help of a prerecorded tape. (p112)

Perhaps more powerful than any visualization or other specific technique you can use to alter the inner environment of your body are feelings of hope and love. I consider it my job as a doctor to give my patients both, because that’s what they need to be able to live. Since I don’t know what the outcome will be for any individual, no matter what the pathology report Says, I can in all honesty give everyone hope. (p 115)