A Natural-Born Victim Is Cured By Her Belief
She was 23; not just a sweet young thing, but also fashion-model type beautiful. When she came to see me the first time, she was so dizzy that she could not stand. I believed her to be toxic on medication, and called 911 to take her directly to an emergency room.
Curiously enough, they told her that she was indeed medication toxic, and cut back some of her medications. Despite my open begging, they never provided me with any copies of either the results of her blood tests or exactly what prescriptions she had been written.
When she finally came back to the office, it was not difficult to determine that she was one of those patients who was exquisitely sensitive to prescription pharmaceuticals. Sometimes it felt to me as the mainstream pharmaceutical companies and the mainstream psychiatric practitioners had somehow made a decision to believe that patients such as she simply did not exist, for they had nothing to offer. I have seen many patients who claimed that even a single dose of a prescription medication had changed their lives forever, and I always believed them. They had nothing to gain by lying to me. People who are "hysterical" often have some other agenda, something they are trying to prove. But she did not.
She met the classical, psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV -- the diagnostic bible of the mental health trade) criteria several times over.
The story she told me was one of extreme punishment and privation.
For no reason which we could possibly have established, a neighbor had kept her sometimes physically restrained and sometimes simply in great fear of how he would punish her as she left. He had subjugated her both physically and sexually. Perhaps at some moments she had felt something affectionate towards him, something like the classic "Stockholm" Syndrome, where a victim could become emotionally attached to a persecutor. But there was precious little of that as she told me her story of how this man had dominated her life for a few years. It dwarfed the descriptions of abuse by a stepfather and a schoolteacher.
This was one of those victims who seemed to keep being a victim, in multiple unrelated situations. She was one of those people whom predators could recognize as a likely person to permit themselves to be victimized. Tests on habitual predators have proven that they can spot likely victims even from still photos and video. There is just some kind of "vibe" that victims give off, to which predators are attuned.
She wanted to get off all prescription drugs. I knew that was something I could help her with over time, and we agreed on that.
I had to do something to make this session -- and her life -- better. So I asked her a question I often ask patients:
"What is the absolute best thing in your life?"
She told me immediately, without any hesitation. "Jesus Christ. He is my lord and savior."
I told her it was great, really wonderful, how much Jesus meant to her. I told her I had great respect for the teachings of Jesus, even though I was not a Christian myself. Then I asked her the one crucial question that I believe determines how much I can help a religious patient.
I told her I was perfectly willing to have Jesus work through me. The question I asked her was, "Do you believe that Jesus Christ could work through an older Jewish female psychiatrist, like me?" I reassured her again I wanted to do everything I knew how to do to help her heal.
She laughed and said "yes." She told me she had been through lots of other psychiatrists and they had never let her even mention "Jesus." Now here I was telling her that I was going to be His instrument for healing her, and she welcomed that so much she hugged me.
Setting up a schedule for her to taper off prescription drugs and proceed onto natural substances seemed a clear next step. But she had immediate anxieties because, amazingly enough, she still lived next door to the same neighbor. She got really anxious when she saw him, even though it had been a few years since she had seen him.
I asked if she could possibly forgive him. She said "yes," as she knew he had lived a miserable childhood and had lived through more than his share of punishment.
I had only one more question. I asked her, "Can you say, and really believe, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?'"
She said she could, without any doubt, as she ascribed her very survival of the torture we were discussing to Christ. Clinical improvement would be easy compared to what she had been through before.
We started tapping in what is known as the "basic recipe" of Emotional Freedom Technique, (EFT). We started repeating some negative words describing her experiences as we tapped various points on her face, upper body and hands.
We utilized what EFT practitioners call "Tearless Trauma Technique." This is a way to minimize -- or eliminate -- traumatic emotional pain, even when the issues are severe.
After following the routine of tapping the forehead, cheek, lip and chin points, we started a second round of tapping and moved into repeating positive affirmations. As I had prepared her, we repeated a single affirmation over and over: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
I have seen this work before, and I was gratified to see her anxiety symptoms quickly abated in the here and now. The first series of EFT brought a reduction of her symptoms, and we continued to work on the many and complex traumas individually for the remainder of her hour.
With the sheer magnitude of this person's suffering, it was not possible to make all her symptoms disappear at once. The wonderful thing about EFT is that the patient learns to do the technique and continues to do it on herself. I also encouraged her to continue working with the therapist who helped her congregation, something she had done in the past.
Within a few weekly visits, she got a lot better -- so much so as to look at resuming both school and work.
Psychiatrists tend to avoid religion, to put it mildly.
Certainly statistics have shown that those in my field are more likely to be Jewish than physicians in other specialties -- although I get the feeling most are more likely to be atheist or agnostic. These are medically- trained men, scientists and scholars, and tend toward the rational and skeptical.
Yet in the outside world, plenty of physicians have referral systems based on their faiths-and that of patients.
To me, it is evident that belief is the strongest power in the world; far stronger than the chemicals we try to give patients. Although the specific mechanisms do not seem to be known, let alone described, I am convinced that belief changes how human bodies use chemical substances.
In 1991, when I held a university teaching position and hung on every word published by the American Psychiatric Association, they said something about psychiatrists not trying to change people's belief systems. I thought then that was a very good idea. I did not think then, and do not think now, that I could do a very good job of changing anybody's belief system if I tried very hard.
I once worked in a job where I replaced a psychiatrist who seemed to have had some, shall we say, drug problems. Most of his patients were on drugs that I could not logically justify by any pharmacology I knew about. Still, many of them who had believed in the drugs they were on as well as the psychiatrist who had prescribed them did amazingly good jobs at getting and staying better.
During my psychiatric residency in the "Bible Belt" Midwest (I've actually done three residencies in different specialties), I had more than my share of patients who had decided that they were Christians and I could not cure them because I was not Christian. I had failed to convince them of the non-denominational nature of my prescription pad, telling them I would not be their therapist. I generally ended up dismissing them and wishing them well with some other psychiatrist or religious counselor.
Now, I think I can work with patients of any religion -- if they can accept me. I simply ask them point-blank if the Deity they believe in can work through me, telling them I will do whatever it takes to help that Deity work through me. I have worked with patients of both Christian and non-Christian religions, including Wicca and Goddess worship and Islam and something I have trouble describing, which may be Druidism, where spirits reside in trees. I even helped some young man who I can only describe as a spirit- worshiper who was finally convinced that the ghost of his grandfather had messed up his serotonin and I could fix it.
In every case, we have transported religious affirmations into some form of tapping on acupuncture meridians, some form of EFT- type technique.
I tell these patients as I am telling you, that when I do this kind of technique, I feel really passive. I imagine, as a Russian-Canadian psychic advised me many years ago, a funnel pouring universal force into me from above, and such force emanating through my brain, my eyes, mouth, and hands. Such visualization has served me well, and continues to do so.
We healers must be humble -- Physicians and academic knowledge have always been a far smaller part of healing than we have been willing to believe. Some of the truly great clinicians, like Sir William Osler, have openly admitted that a lot of healing is beyond the academic approach to medicine, and have embraced knowledge that works, understanding that it has paradigms unlike our classic medication prescriptions.
I must welcome everything I know that can help a patient, no matter what it is, for I cannot eliminate anything I know that can help a patient.
As I long as I venerate the patient, belief system and all, and seek healing openly, I cannot make errors.
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