Mind Over Sports

The psi Factor

Posted on: March 12, 2008

The following is a chapter from Marv’s new book, “The psi Factor.”

The idea for writing this chapter came to me a number of years after I had worked with cancer patients and sickle cell patients. At first I was hesitant to mention what I had learned from conducting workshops with them because I knew the medical profession balked at discussing the mind-body connection. Now, however, that attitude has changed considerably.

Even though I’ve conducted extensive study in this subject area, I am not a doctor nor do I profess to be an expert in psychology. I never watched rats run a maze, never talked to people lying on a couch. I do have experience in the dynamic real world, having conducted experiential self-esteem building workshops. Many of the findings I cite come from my interaction with participants in small support group environments.

Once I made a presentation to a group which included several doctors. A few became quite hostile and refused even to listen to what I said. They seemed unable to hear that I do not view my ideas as alternative medicine, but rather supplemental. I always encourage individuals attending my workshops to follow their doctors’ recommendations and prescribed treatment — and emphasize that my program is in addition to treatment they are receiving from their physicians.

I want to make it clear that I have only admiration for doctors. But I do believe many of them, unknowingly, harm some of their patients by creating the nocebo effect, a negative expectation regarding an illness. These physicians, of course, are not doing this intentionally. They feel they are being honest with their patients based on conventional medical wisdom and knowledge.

A chapter in the late Norman Cousin’s book Head First recounts how George Washington died, by being bled to death by his doctors. At that time, bleeding a patient was accepted treatment for an illness. Up to about 25 years ago many doctors belittled the idea of a relationship between diet and heart conditions and cancer. A few years into the future, I believe oncologists will stop recommending chemotherapy because of damage it does to the immune system.

Doctors today, as many will quickly tell you, do not have all the answers. In a New York Times article, the writer pointed out that “medical care today is often based on much less solid scientific evidence than is assumed . . . Dr. David Eddy of the Jackson Hole Group has estimated that no more than 15 percent of medical interventions are supported by reliable scientific evidence.”

This is especially true when treating psychosomatic illnesses. Physicians have the technology to fix something if it’s broken, but matters of the mind are something they really don’t learn much about in medical school — and many doctors have little interest in pursuing it.


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