In the January/February issue of SAN ANTONIO WOMAN, I wrote about the mind-body connection from an historical perspective. In this article, I am writing about experiences I have had in life that have moved me to the view that a better term for mind-body connection is, simply, the mind body. The hypothalamus is no larger than a pea and is located in the middle of the limbic lobe of the brain. Although it is very small, it performs crucial functions for the body. It controls the autonomic nervous system, which is made up of the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems. Think of the parasympathetic system as “rest and digest” and the sympathetic as “fight or flight.” In other words, the hypothalamus is the entity within the brain that links the functions of mind with the biology of the body.
An example of this is when someone goes into panic mode when he or she learns that a loved one has been injured or killed. The mind gets sensory input through the ears (someone tells the person) or eyes (s/he sees the accident), it is processed in the hypothalamus, the heart begins to beat rapidly, the mouth is dry, the palms may be sweaty, etc. Many years ago my husband tuned in to The Silence of the Lambs on TV. This is not my favorite genre; however, I stayed and watched “for a while” and got hooked by the story. Fortunately it was interrupted by commercials frequently. (Normally, I hate that. I find it very difficult to get “into” the story with all of those interruptions.) At one point, just after a particularly frightening scene, a commercial came on. I gratefully got up to go to the kitchen, and my knees gave way, my mouth was dry, my heart was racing, and my blood pressure was probably elevated. The body was reacting to the stimuli the mind was receiving. This time, I appreciated the commercial breaks. They gave my physical body time to recover in between viewings. In 1994, shortly after I completed my Ph.D. in psychology â€” within days, actually â€” I developed a condition that was later diagnosed as central vertigo. I was continuously lightheaded. Not dizzy in the sense that I would get dizzy from the MÃ©niere’s that I have had for years, just lightheaded. My balance was definitely compromised. I was taking up to 4 phenergan tablets a day to be able to function. Normally, even for a MÃ©niere’s attack, I take only a half of a phenergan because it makes me very drowsy.
I went to see the neurotologist who treated my MÃ©niere’s. After an MRI to rule out a tumor, he gave me the central vertigo diagnosis. He had no suggestions for treatment other than the continuation of the phenergan. I asked if it could be psychosomatic (even though I personally believe that most, if not ALL, illnesses have psychosomatic components.) He said yes. So I sought out a therapist who does Neurolinguistic Programming â€‚(NLP) Time Line Therapy (TLT). So what is NLP? ‘Neuro’ refers to our cognitive processes and how these processes organize our mental life. ‘Linguistic’ refers to language in the broadest sense, how we use it in our lives and the impact of that usage in affecting our relationships with ourselves and others. ‘Programming’ refers to the way the associations that govern our responses to stimuli are formed.
We can often use NLP techniques to break some of those associations that are having a negative impact on us. TLT is one of those techniques.
It had now been six months since the vertigo started. I went to Dr. Fred Brown for help. In using the TLT intervention, he brought about an age regression. I was 5 years old. I saw an image of a treasure chest like the ones the pirates used. It was gold, heavily embossed, and it had a humpback. A large padlock was on it. Fred said, “Take that crowbar and pry it off.” I did. There many were rags in the chestâ€”about 18 inches in length and 2 inches wide. They were very wrinkled, as though they had been washed and not ironed, and as soon as I saw them, the tears came. They were the rags my mother used to give me long curls, and my dad had dubbed me his little Shirley Temple. I certainly knew I wasn’t Shirley Temple, even at 5 (I had only four curls; she had 70 or more. The neighborhood kids called me “old four curl”). I figured I would have to do things the hard way. I couldn’t count on any Shirley Temple good looks.
Taking 13 years to get a Ph.D. is the hard way. My guess is after completing that, I needed something else to do the hard way. Hence the central vertigo. It made everything hard. After the TLT session, the vertigo was gone within two days. Mindbody, indeed. Finally, Olafur S. Palsson has developed a hypnosis treatment protocol for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS presents with symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, or both. The treatment protocol has been used for research projects, and Palsson reports, “It is one of the most successful treatment approaches for chronic IBS. The response rate to treatment is 80 percent and better in most published studies to date. So far, I have used it with three patients with success in all three instances.” Go to ibshypnosis.com for more on this topic. One more story. A patient came in for her regular session, and she had a stiff neck. She was complaining of this pain in the neck and then started talking about a task she had volunteered to do. She felt trapped and really didn’t want to do it. We worked on this issue, and she decided she would call and cancel. Almost instantly her pain in the neck went away.
It is true. The mind can cause problems with the body, and the body can cause “mind” or emotional problems. Conversely, by dealing with our emotional issues, we can alter many of our bodily responses.
Rosemary J. Stauber, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in San Antonio and founding director of the Bexar County Women’s Center.
Author: Rosemary J. Stauber