"Journey to the Healing Heart of Your Dreams"
HOW PLACEBOS HEAL
Dreams, the Placebo Effect, and Creative Consciousness
by Graywolf Swinney, M.A.
Asklepia Foundation, c1997
The placebo effect and spontaneous remission are two of the most powerful
yet discounted healing phenomena known to the healing arts and sciences.
Healing occurs with any or all illnesses, yet nothing, no treatment or
substances has been done or administered to the patient that can account
for it. In studies of a new treatment, it must always be compared
to the placebo and outperform it in order to be considered effective.
Even here the placebo effect is pushed into insignificance and discounted.
Consider the following: As a control in studies, the placebo consistently
brings about symptomatic remissions and healing for at least 30% of the
individuals taking them, often much more. If the test drug performs
in the 60% range (as many, if not most, do) and the 30% rate for placebos
was also at work with the test group, it accounts for at least half of
the effectiveness of the test treatment. The new drug is only working
at about the 30% level or no better than a placebo. In most cases,
the drug company or proponent of the treatment generally prefers to credit
the drug or treatment with all the healing and claim the new treatment
60% effective. The placebo effect operating in the test group is
ignored and illusion created about the drug's effectiveness.
The same observation also applies for any treatment: allopathic,
naturopathic, homeopathic, shamanic, or spiritually based. For any
healing modality, in at least 30% of those treated, the placebo effect
is most likely responsible for the healing. Seen from this perspective,
the placebo is indeed a powerful healing force, perhaps the broadest and
most powerful one known. In our rush as healers to claim credit for
healing and justify ourselves and our profession, it is convenient to take
this stance, claim the credit, and discount the placebo effect. To
do so, however, is to turn our backs on understanding the body's inherent
natural healing capacities and processes and the power of our consciousness
and spirit in that. It also, incidentally, disempowers our patients
and discounts their ability to self-heal by taking credit for what they
have somehow done themselves.
When I first entered the healing arts and sciences as a pragmatic engineer
and encountered this phenomenon and studied this data, it was my notion
that we could not really understand the true nature of healing without
understanding placebos. I was dumbfounded that no explanation of
how it worked existed then, and that began my now twenty-eight year search
for explanations of how the placebo works. The result is the Consciousness
Restructuring Process of natural healing (CRP). It has been described
in several articles, published in Dream Network Journal and elsewhere.
The Science of Placebos
Quantum Mechanics: the Dreams that Stuff is Made of...
The placebo effect is a conscious 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 this level of reality
events in 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
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 CRP reveals even
more fundamental principles (conscious 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 CRP 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 shamans' 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 exploration into consciousness dynamics suggest that in addition to
those, there are two others: time and consciousness fields. We suggest
that the interactions 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. A more detailed
presentation of this conjecture and its implications is beyond the scope
of this particular article and will be presented in a future article.
For now, consider it a working hypothesis.
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 monitor the functioning of every organ and muscle in the body.
Nerve impulses underlie all sensory inputs 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 manner, 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.
The Disease Model
Work with CRP 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
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 kinds of 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 families' Christmas
celebrations, mother was instructed to "sit on a pillow" 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
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 functions 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 wave fronts 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 CRP 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," edited by, Chamberlain and Butz, Taylor and
The Healing Model
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 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
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 MS 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.
Endings and Beginnings
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 healings. And it is from here that we begin to really
This article was first published in Dream Network Journal, Vol.
16; No. 4.
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