Back to basics in Complementary Medicine.

In December of 2000, recommendations were made by The House of Lords Select Committee for Science and Technology, and in March 2001, Government responded in favor of these recommendations. The report outlined in essence that quality research & professional development was needed within all areas of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

I fully agree with the recommendations, though I find it difficult to understand how quality research and constant development can be achieved, not only through lack of funds and the lack of research training received by practitioners for each of these therapies, but in the fact that none of the practitioners or schools understand the roots of their therapies, (I do not doubt there effectiveness or wish to discredit any therapy), this can also be said for the Medical profession.

To explain my comments I have chosen ‘Hypnotherapy’ even though the very name, hypnotherapy is misleading to the public. I feel hypnotherapy is one of only a few that can be described as a “seed therapy,” or “true therapy.”? Forms of hypnotherapy date back thousands of years. The name hypnotherapy is relatively new in historical terms, This therapy uses only suggestion to induce a sleep like state and further suggestions to relieve or cure. Though this is a very basic understanding of hypnotherapy, it is the understanding of suggestion and its out dated theories that needs to be explained. Books and much research on the subject of suggestion have been written and carried out over many years; and as yet, one cannot find a full understanding of the theory of suggestion, with most theories simply stating that suggestion is an “idea” verbally conveyed from one person to another. None of the theories give a definition of what is meant by “idea.”

By looking at suggestion, it is clear from everyday living we are bombarded by suggestion (ideas) at home, hearing & seeing adverts on Radio, TV & in the mail, in the street, the sight of billboards, at a supermarket the smell of bakery products, the placement of products in a prominent place and seeing large advertising signs or food tasting, in a clothes shop touching soft garments as well as seeing the attractive colors, hearing the sound of an Ice Cream van ( a great suggestion for children) and many, many more examples will soon come to light after reading this article.

It can be seen by the bold & underlined words in the example, suggestion is not only given verbally but by any of the five senses. All five senses can also receive suggestion. Body language is also a regular tool of suggestion; frown at someone for a while they’ll soon ask you if they have upset you in some way or if there’s something wrong with their looks or clothes (more so with women), yawning, coughing in a cinema or during a play are further examples.

There are many suggestions given in conversation with a doctor or a nurse; a good example of this is when you have to have an injection, the nurse or doctor will tell you “this will sting” or “this will hurt,” going for an operation the surgeon/doctor will discuss the operation with you mentioning suggestive words like “pain,” “sick,” “nausea” and so on.

These forms of suggestion are well documented in the field of hypnotherapy and have been utilised for hundreds of years, known as “Waking Suggestion” or “Waking Hypnosis.”

What we need to understand is that we are all individuals, and thus all react to suggestion in different ways; not as the theories state “some people are more suggestible than others” it is just that we react differently and we all have to believe in the product or “idea.”

Another important point to make here is that the more stressed or anxious we are the easier we take suggestion.

To explain my comments with regard to complementary therapies; any therapy that involves any of the senses are “Suggestive therapies,” in other word their roots and any future development involve suggestion. Consider reflexology or reiki or any of the massage therapies (once again I have no wish to discredit any therapy, the aim is to enhance understanding)

Any student of anatomy will tell you there are no direct connections in the feet that would effect any of the organs of the body other than nerves which travel via the spinal cord to the brain, which then and only then can be directed to individual organs.

So how can reflexology be effective for so many people?

The answer is simple, the therapy works through suggestion via touch and belief (belief being self suggestion in it’s own right. If you believe that something will work there is a good chance it will) (Placebo). There are many other suggestions at work during a session of reflexology. We are conditioned from birth that if we recline or lay flat, the self suggestion of relaxation or sleep occurs, soft music is also suggestive. All of these suggestions compound the belief (the placebo) thus making the therapy better than the placebo effect, (a requirement needed for quality research & development)

This applies to all complementary therapies.

Another of the commonly used therapies, Aromatherapy, involves the use of different oils made from many different plants, each with it’s own distinctive texture and or fragrance. A client comes to a therapist, who takes a history of their particular problem. The therapist will then offer from a large choice of oils each with their own fragrance. The client is reclined or laid on a couch and the oil or mixture of several oils are gently rubbed on to the body (area dependent on problem).

(This is a simplified version of a session designed only to explain the suggestions involved.)

How do suggestions make an impact?

The client has perhaps picked up and read a leaflet, or has been told by a friend or family member, about the benefits of aromatherapy plus any publicity on the Radio or TV. Here are a number of initial suggestions that will create the belief (self suggestion or placebo) then the reclining or laying on the couch (in built suggestion to relax or sleep). We must consider any words the therapist may use that are calming or positive and any soft music being played each are suggestions. Then we have the smell of the chosen oil or oils (sniff some roses in your garden, notice the subtle relaxing effect, or go to the country, how many of you have said “smell that country air”?) The rubbing in of the oil, involves touch in the form of massage, another suggestion to relax plus the belief that massage on it’s own will suggest relaxation.

Now what you need to understand here is that when you give a suggestion, that first suggestion is weak, until you give a second suggestion, the second suggestion strengthens and compounds the first suggestion, then you give a third suggestion and that will strengthen and compound the first suggestion further, along with strengthening the second and so on each suggestion compounding and strengthening the preceding ones.

From the aromatherapy session example there are eight compounds of suggestion and that does not count the words used by the therapist instructing relaxation or calming effects, we can conclude from this that the suggestions given would be quite strong and would be very likely to afford great benefit and relief to a suggestive person and possibly a cure to a highly suggestible person.

Only a few weeks ago I attended a talk and demonstration of Spiritual Healing. The therapy involved a client sitting on a chair and being told to relax and close their eyes or gaze at a spot in front of them, while the practitioner moved his or her hands around the body (not touching) the client, at a distance of around six inches away, starting at the head and finally finishing off at the feet or legs in a sweeping movement.

For anyone who has read up on the history of hypnosis in particular Messmer and Animal magnetism, or mesmerism (the old name for hypnosis), they will see a striking resemblance to the routine carried out by Messmer who is said to have cured thousands of people during mid 1700’s by making sweeping movements over his subjects.

After the demonstration there was a discussion noting the resemblance I have just mentioned I asked how in light of The House of Lords recommendations they would go about proving that this form of therapy (of which I have no doubt works well for certain mild stress related illnesses) would be any better than the Placebo effect? (or belief effect). The reply was that they could not explain it, and had no interest in explaining how the therapy worked, stating that “people get well that's all that matters.” So how quality research or any further development could be carried out on this form of therapy, I simply do not understand, though I will offer an explanation of how it works.

The subject will have possibly heard from friends and family or has picked up a leaflet (reading is also another way of conveying suggestion) while attending the health show (1st suggestion & belief). Next the subject is told to sit down and relax (2nd suggestion compounding the 1st) and then to close their eyes (3rd suggestion, in built, to close the eyes is a suggestion to relax, or sleep, compounding the 2nd and 1st) the practitioner moves around or behind the subjects chair, even with your eyes closed you will hear the practitioner moving around you and also sense that they have moved (4th suggestion compounding the 3rd, 2nd and 1st).

It’s no wonder highly suggestible people get relief.

There is a common theme to all this. If the therapies themselves are not helping these people, then what is? The answer is simply relaxation. Relaxation is the key to all the benefits, the more suggestion, the deeper the relaxation, the deeper the relaxation, the better the relief.

Finally, the placebo effect is in itself a complementary therapy and is nothing more than a Hypnotic effect or a “Waking suggestion” in other words a suggestion given in the waking state. When a tablet of sugar or flour is given by a person who holds a dominant position such as a doctor or nurse and the patient is not told of its content, most people accept and believe without question, that what they have been given will help them (1st suggestion) they are also told to take the tablets so many times a day for a period of a week or so (2nd suggestion) most highly suggestible people will gain great benefits from this approach.

Consider this thought. Why did doctors always write prescriptions in Latin? The reason for this is quite clear, if the patient knew the full contents of what was in the medicine, the medicine in most cases simply would not work. In other words they would reject the suggestion.

Article written by Dr. Martyn P. Williams I.I.C.H., over 20 years full time therapeutical experience.
IBS registered therapist,
Founder of “The Serene Clinics UK,
Founder of “The Natural Childbirth Program,
Research Council for Complementary Medicine network member (RCCM)


Author: Dr. Martyn P. Williams
Copyright © 2023 Dr. Martyn P. Williams. All rights reserved

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