New Age - Heal Thyself
by Anshuman Singh Guleria
Dr Elliott Dacher, a world-renowned pioneer in the field of psychoneuro-immunology (PNI), was recently in India on a lecture tour. His new approach to health and healing underscores the natural capacity for self-healing that is inherent in the human body.
Throwing light on PNI, Dr Dacher explains: "It is a field of scientific investigation that began in the 1950`s. It studies the interaction of the mind, brain and the immune system to find the physical molecular basis on which the mind affects the body hormones and proteins that transmit information to the brain." Dr Dacher continues: "There are chemicals known as neuro-peptides that seem to transform information throughout the body. These chemicals are affected by emotions like depression, anxiety and our mental attitudes. It is important to know how thoughts move and work with these feelings."
According to Dr Dacher, several researches have been carried out in the recent past to establish the effect emotions have on health. He referred to one such study on middle-level executives to determine how the stress of work affects their mind and body. Results showed that those who experienced high demand and low control or who experienced feeling of powerlessness while executing their job, suffered from acute heart disease, long-term high blood pressure and enlargement of the heart. Today, when we are seeking more from our lives than ever before, Dr Dacher feels the definition of health has undergone a sea change. Existing treatment systems, even the alternative therapies of ayurveda and acupuncture, do not cater to our present needs. "Contemporary medicine as practiced today, is confined to the physical level only," he says. "This is not enough. There is a dire need to develop an understanding of the mind and its capacity to improve health rather than just alleviating disease by physical means. Our inner capacities for health and healing are central to the healing process. In fact, the individual can himself transform into a source of healing."
At Reston in Virginia, USA, where Dr Dacher practises, he makes use of systems such as meditation, yoga, biofeedback, and counseling. He believes that the best way a therapist can help patients is by assisting them in activating their own inner healing capacities. But this depends on the temperament and interest of the individual. For instance, in case of heart disease, the first and the simplest way to tackle it is surgery. Next option would be through dietary control. The third option is trying to locate the source of stress or the cause of unhappiness and getting rid of it. Finally, one can even try making the patient understand the meaning of his/her life, which can lead to happiness and peace. In his book Whole Healing, Dr Dacher has proposed a model by the same name. The aim of this model is to help a person realize and exploit his four major healing capacities: homeostasis (our natural auto-regulating system), treatment (our capacity to use outer resources to fix and repair certain abnormalities), mind/body (a self-initiated capacity for self-regulation, self-exploration and change), and spiritual (the ability to discover meaning and purpose in our experiences, and the ability to feel at one with all life). The first system is inbuilt, the second culturally given, the third intentionally activated, and the fourth intuitively discovered.
As far as the prospect of doctors adopting these techniques is concerned, Dr Dacher believes that it ll still take a while before practitioners start incorporating this new vision of health. But it is just a matter of time before the world discovers the simple logic of psychoneuro-immunology.
An author of several books on his area of expertise, Dr Dacher is currently working on a book titled Uncommon Health. He is also increasingly being drawn to the Dalai Lama and his philosophy.
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