[The following section is from Principles & Techniques of Nerve Regeneration by David McMillin. It describes the role of suggestion in Edgar Cayce's "formula for rebuilding the brain" in illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia.]
The fourth component of Cayce's regenerative formula is "suggestion." Suggestion, in this context, refers to definite hypnotic techniques that were in use during Edgar Cayce's lifetime. To appreciate Cayce's perspective it will be necessary to understand the distinction between formal hypnosis and naturalistic hypnosis.
Hypnosis can be defined as "an induced sleep-like condition in which an individual is extremely responsive to suggestions made by the hypnotist." (American Heritage Dictionary, 1984) The word hypnosis is usually associated with "formal" hypnotic techniques such as stage hypnosis. In formal hypnosis, roles are clearly defined in that there is a hypnotist who seemingly overpowers the mind of a subject. Usually, the hypnotic trance is induced in a formal way. For example, the classic image of a hypnotist swinging a pocket watch in front of a subject and suggesting that "your eyelids are getting heavy" is a formal hypnotic technique. In speaking of formal hypnosis, Edgar Cayce often used the verb "subjugate" to describe the process wherein the mind of the hypnotist dominates the mind of the subject.
Although Edgar Cayce occasionally recommended "formal" hypnosis, more often he advocated a "naturalistic" approach, which was used in conjunction with other therapies. Cayce referred to this form of hypnosis as "suggestive therapeutics." Cayce did not invent the term, it was in common usage before his career as a psychic diagnostician. (Davis, 1909)
Cayce often utilized suggestive therapeutics in combination with other modalities. For example, he might recommend that the persons administering massage and osteopathic treatments give positive suggestions while performing the therapies. Similarly during electrotherapy, suggestions were to be given for the rebuilding of the nervous system. Cayce also advised that the hypnogogic state be utilized by giving hypnotic suggestions during the early stages of sleep.
The induction of a hypnotic trance is a common consequence of various physical treatments. For example, massage therapists frequently notice that individuals receiving a relaxing massage enter an altered state of consciousness resembling hypnotic trance. This is probably due to the muscle relaxation produced by the massage and the rhythmic patterns of the strokes.
Milton Erickson, perhaps the most famous hypnotherapist of this century, often referred to trance as a state of relaxed self-awareness. Therefore, getting people to physically relax and feel comfortable is an important preliminary step in most hypnotic inductions.
Erickson regarded body stillness as a reliable indicator of trance. (in Havens, p. 245) Stephen Gilligan (a student of Erickson) reiterated this theme by associating conscious mind activities with muscle tension: "As we will discuss further, it [the conscious mind] arises from and is maintained by muscular tension." (Gilligan, 1987, p. 23) Gilligan specifically mentions massage as a naturalistic means of achieving trance in which there is a "balancing of muscle tonus" and "the strong skin-bounded differentiation between self and other is dissipated by muscle tone shifts, thereby enabling the person to synchronize with complementary biological rhythms and align with unitary psychological processes." (Gilligan, 1987, p. 42) Gilligan suggests a cultural link between conscious mind activities and the types of trances utilized by a particular society.
"Hypnotically entranced individuals often do not feel like moving or talking in any elaborate fashion. To reiterate, this lack of movement partly reflects a value implicit in most hypnotic rituals.... The point to be made is that trance can be developed and maintained via inhibition of movement or rhythmic (circular and repetitive) movement, i.e., an absence of irregular and arhythmic orienting responses (and muscle tension) that give rise to the conscious mind. The relative immobility of the hypnotic subject may have developed as a needed complement to the incessant movement (goal-oriented action) occurring in the waking-state style favored by Western culture; it may also reflect the dissociation from the physical self (man dominating nature, including his body) that generally occurs in our culture." (Gilligan, p. 54)
Immobility and lack of muscle tension on the part of the subject and the use of rhythmic and repetitive movements by the masseur are very descriptive of the massage process. Participation in the massage process quickly leads one to agree with Gilligan that massage can be a powerful, trance-inducing experience.
If the electrical therapies advocated by Cayce have the calming effects which he described, it makes sense that subjects receiving these treatments would also be induced into a hypnotic trance and would be amenable to direct suggestion. Furthermore, Cayce recommended that the period immediately preceding sleep, and the first few minutes of sleep, be utilized to provide pre-sleep suggestions. Using the pre-sleep period as a naturalistic hypnotic induction makes virtually every client a potential hypnotic subject.
Henry Bolduc (1985) provides an excellent orientation to the use of hypnosis in the Cayce readings. As a professional hypnotist, his insights and practical suggestions for applying the Cayce suggestions (particularly regarding self-hypnosis) provide a useful introduction to this topic and are highly recommended. (Bolduc, 1985)
In a broader sense, Cayce viewed environment as a powerful suggestive force that must be utilized in therapy. This aspect of suggestion will be dealt with later when we consider the role of therapeutic milieu. Keep in mind that the readings consistently maintain that healing must come from within. Suggestive therapeutics is a powerful tool for stimulating the inner healing processes at the level of the unconscious mind. The readings regard the unconscious mind as the mind of the soul. Therefore, suggestive therapeutics is directed at this fundamental soul level of the self. The readings sometimes us the expression "inner self" in this context. Here are some excerpts from the Cayce readings which illustrate the concept of suggestive therapeutics:
"The treatments also that should be included by the same attendant, or the same one with the body, would be - when the body is put or is ready to go to rest of evening - to massage gently but thoroughly all along the whole cerebrospinal system, and during such periods (for most often we would find the body would gradually fall into that state of near between the waking and sleeping state) make gentle suggestions that QUIET, REST, PEACE, HAPPINESS, JOY, DEVELOPMENTS IN EVERY MANNER THAT ARE CONSTRUCTIVE PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY, will come to the body through its rest period! Or, the suggestion to the deeper portion of the subconscious forces of the body." (271-1)
"However, for these suggestions to be more effective, they should not be given in merely a singsong manner; nor said just once. But take at least the time to repeat same (the suggestion), positively, three to five times; that there may be the full response in the positive forces of the suggestion to the mental activities of the body.
And we would, for the time being, use the same suggestion; or the same affirmation. And by affirmation we mean that it should be an affirmation!" (271-4)
"As to the suggestions that should be given, - when there are the administrations of ANY of the influences for aid, whether the rubs or the packs or what not, the suggestions should be of a very positive nature, yet very gentle, and in a constructive way and manner; expressing hope always that there is a creating, through the hope, the expectancy for certain activities to the body that it desires to do, - much in the manner as would be given to a child in its promptings for an aid to itself.
And, let the suggestions be constructive in the spiritual sense, when the manipulations or adjustments are given, as well as when there are the periods of the rubs and other applications. These would be well in this manner, though each individual should construct same in his or her own words:
'Let there be accomplished through the desires of this body, mentally and physically, that which will enable the body to give the better, the truer, the more real expression of its own self; as well as that in which the entity or body may influence itself in relationships to others for greater physical, mental and spiritual attitudes towards conditions.'
Then, let the desire of the body through ALL its activities in the present be of a spiritual nature ...
Q. Should suggestions be made by BOTH the Doctor and those taking care of her?
A. Just as indicated, these should be made whenever any applications are made, - whether for the rubs, the adjustments, or the packs. The BODY desires attention, - but in a manner in which there are, as indicated, the suggestions that it is to become not so reliant upon others, but so - because of the very nature of the applications - that it may do more and more for itself.
Whenever there is the suggestion, it should be not as "There WON'T be," but "You WILL do so and so," see?
Q. What can we do for the crying - nervousness and her refusing to drink?
A. This can only be met through the suggestions, - for, as has been indicated, these periods come and go; and, as has been outlined heretofore, it is a lack of the coordinating between the cerebrospinal and sympathetic impulses or reflexes. (1553-17)
Even through the period of giving the massage, as well as the Appliance [Wet Cell Battery], let there be suggestions given to the body in that way not merely of speculation but as to positive activities of the body; planning, as it were, its activities for the next day. As an illustration: On the morrow, or in the morning there will be certain activities. This should be very thoroughly outlined, very consistently suggested.
Thus, we will find a change in the activities of the body, bringing the reflexes to the brain centers with the nervous system in the ganglia where there are the closer associations with the sympathetic and suggestive nerve forces of the body. (5014-1)
From the standpoint of application I would recommend that the person giving the suggestions write out a text to be used as a guide when giving the suggestions. Otherwise it is easy to "blank out" while giving the suggestions and lose focus. Note that many of the examples given by Edgar Cayce contain explicit text to be used. Sometimes he would merely provide an outline and encourage the caregivers to include certain basic ideas in a text using one's own words. In putting together a text, keep the following points in mind:
- Be sure that the intent and primary focus of the suggestions are coming from a spiritual perspective. Know that the suggestions can have a powerful influence on another human being. Even further, be aware that these suggestions are registering at a soul level. Be respectful of the other person. Be careful that the suggestions are not merely a form of personal control or manipulation. This is a sacred process. Form the text and deliver it in a prayerful, sacred manner.
- Edgar Cayce would often include in the hypnotic text definite suggestions for biological healing. For example, he would use phrases such as, "the cerebrospinal and sympathetic nervous systems will coordinate." Or, he might give a general statement to the effect that "all the systems of the body will function in a normal healthy manner." In terms of nervous system regeneration, suggestions for improved eliminations (drainages) and better coordination of all the systems of the body would be appropriate. Unless you have special expertise or knowledge about physiology, be careful about making the suggestions too specific. You may not necessarily know what specifically needs to be accomplished at a physical level. Trust the wisdom of the body by giving rather broad suggestions about improved coordination and drainages.
- Include some specific suggestions about behaviors or activities that need improvement. This could be simple activities of daily living such, as being able to get dressed or feed oneself. The suggestions may pertain to behavioral problems, such as arguing, fighting, or treatment noncompliance. Specific suggestions may address deficit symptoms, such as the loss of memory or cognitive abilities. The suggestions may deal with emotional problems, such as depression or anxiety. Sometimes Edgar Cayce would recommend that the text should list the activities that the person will be expected to participate in during the day. Naturally, this aspect of the text will be a personal matter that will be specific to each person's condition, which may change on a day to day basis.
- Keep the suggestions positive. Even when the person is doing something that they shouldn't be doing, find a way to express it as a positive. Whenever there is the suggestion, it should be not as "There WON'T be," but "You WILL do so and so, see?" (1553-17)
- The tendency is for most people to make the text too short and then feel as if they have run out of suggestions after only a few minutes. I recommend that the text be several paragraphs long. Each paragraph may deal with one of the above points.
For example, the first paragraph may contain two or three concise sentences of a spiritual nature to set the tone of the session. You may speak of love (love of God, love of others, love of self). Seek to get in touch with the soul of the person you are working with.
The second paragraph may contain two or three sentences focusing on the physical aspect of healing. The third paragraph can address specific behaviors or activities. A fourth paragraph may summarize the above points and close with a spiritual emphasis of hope and positive expectation.
When delivering the hypnotic suggestions, here are some key points to remember:
- Attune yourself to the healing process. Be a suitable vehicle for the Creative Forces. You will have to find your own process to reach attunement. There are various forms of meditation which are helpful in this regard. As noted above, be in a prayerful state when giving the suggestions as well as the physical treatment. Realize that an important aspect of spirituality is the spirit in which you do things - the spirit of application.
- Repeat each suggestion 3 - 5 times. You can do this in various ways. You could repeat specific sentences or paragraphs. You can repeat the whole text numerous times during the treatment session. If you give the suggestions in the pre-sleep (bedtime) mode, you will need to complete the text in the first few minutes after the person has fallen asleep. After 5 or 10 minutes the suggestions will not be as effective.
Of course, if you are giving a massage or spinal adjustment, or such, where you cannot read the text, you will have to improvise. But being familiar with the text and being aware of some of the issues involved for each individual is helpful. During certain treatments, such as the electrotherapy, it is easier and sometimes very helpful to have the text in front of you during the session. The text is merely a tool to assist with the hypnotic process, it is not an end in itself. Use it accordingly.
- If the person receiving the suggestions shows resistance to the suggestions, then rethink the text to see where the source of resistance is. Most people are accepting of the suggestions that they are loved and that their bodies are being healed. Behavioral suggestions sometimes elicit resistance if the person is not very deeply into trance. When dealing with resistance, do not make a big deal over it. Either find another more acceptable way of stating the suggestion or wait until the person is in a deeper state of hypnosis before making the suggestions which are causing the resistance.
If the person is resistant to the whole idea of making suggestions, then alter your style accordingly. For example, when giving treatments you can use an educational approach to suggestion. You can simply explain what the treatments are for and how they will affect the body. "The massage will relax your body and help the circulation to flow better." "The spinal adjustment I am now making will relieve pressure on the nerves along the spine and improve nervous system coordination." "The battery treatment will help the nerves in your brain to function more normally."
Cayce advised health care practitioners to talk to their patients when giving these kinds of suggestions. It is a conversational approach to hypnosis based on the premise that most people will go into an altered state of consciousness when receiving certain types of physical treatment (e.g., massage, spinal manipulation, electrotherapy, etc.). Many health care professionals already use this approach either consciously or unconsciously.
- You may experience some self-consciousness when first applying suggestive therapeutics. This is normal. Just keep in mind the purpose for which you are doing it. This is an essential component of Cayce's formula for rebuilding the brain. When done properly, this is a deeply spiritual process. Remember to work at spiritual attunement and you will be able to set aside personal feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness when doing suggestive therapeutics.
To conclude this section on suggestive therapeutics, I want to discuss a more expansive aspect of suggestion. Edgar Cayce noted that the environment itself is a powerful source of suggestion. Cayce maintained that the environment acts upon an individual in a suggestive manner through the sensory and sympathetic nervous systems (271-5). Therefore, a supportive, constructive milieu creates a positive influence on the nervous systems of persons undergoing treatment. We could use an analogy here from computer science. We can think of the brain as hardware and the mind as software. While undertaking the reconstruction of the hardware (nerve regeneration), it is essential to provide positive, constructive software (mental programming) for the system. Suggestive therapeutics and the maintenance of a healing, therapeutic environment are two means of providing healthy software via the power of suggestion. The Cayce readings insist that compassion as manifested in gentleness, kindness, patience, and caring, is a profound expression of spirituality and an essential aspect of therapeutic milieu. In an institutional setting, therapeutic milieu should be considered more than just a clean facility with adequate programs for exercise and recreation. Spiritual qualities, as manifested by the staff, provide the basis for the therapeutic process. In the home setting, the same principles apply on a more limited scale.