This section is from the book "Mental Therapeutics Or Just How To Heal Oneself And Others", by Theron Q. Dumont. Also available from Amazon: Mental Therapeutics or Just How to Heal Oneself and Others.
As the student has doubtless already surmised, there are many cures wrought by the underlying principle of Mental Therapeutics which, however, are not attributed thereto, but which are placed to the credit of some other healing agency or power, method or principle.
This must be so from the very nature of the fundamental principle of mental cures. It being seen that all healing really is performed by the mind in the cells, organs, and parts of the body; and that this mind is under the control of the Corporeal Mind; and that the latter takes up, accepts, and acts upon the suggestions reaching it from the minds of others; then it follows that mental cures may be made by agencies and methods which are accepted as efficacious by the Corporeal Mind, or rather by the great subconscious mentality of which the Corporeal Mind is a phase or part.
In accordance with this principle of operation, wonderful cures have been wrought by the most ridiculous and absurd methods and agencies, providing always that the method of agency was accepted as efficacious by the subconscious mentality of the person. The belief in, and faith in, almost anything under the sun (or over the sun) will act as a curative force along the lines above indicated. This being so, we naturally look for striking instances and examples of this natural law-and we find them on all sides. The history of medicine is filled with instances and examples of this kind, many of which are very amusing when one views them in the light of the scientific principle involved.
It has been known to physicians for many centuries that the "imagination" of the patient, if sufficiently aroused, was capable of working many important cures of serious ailments, not to speak of the less important ones. Physicians for centuries have laughed over this well-known fact, but without understanding the principle involved and called into effect. It is only during the past'twenty years or so that the medical profession has recognized the underlying psychology of cures by "imagination"; and even so, but a small number of physicians have had the keenness of perception, and soundness of judgment, to put into practice the principle which has been revealed to them by the great minds in the profession who have discovered the efficacy of such methods from actual practice.
It has long been the practice of physicians to administer "placebos" (i. e., "make believe" medicine) in the practice, when in doubt regarding the proper thing to prescribe. Colored water, strong-tasted drops, sugar-of-milk powders, bread-pills, and similar placebos have had their place in the list of remedies of most physicians. Originally intended to quiet the mind of the patient, and to satisfy the demands of the friends and family of the sick person for "some medicine," these placebos have justified their existence and employment. But it is a dull physician who does not soon discover that these placebos actually cause improvement and cures in many cases. The experience of any old physician (if he is foolish enough to relate it to a layman) will more than justify all that we have said of the virtue of placebos.
So true is it that the placebo has a decided therapeutic action, depending of course upon the particular belief aroused in the mind of the patient when it is prescribed, that many careful practitioners have not hesitated to say that many of the drugs on their list have no other virtue than that acquired in this way. Moreover, this principle is held to explain the fact that some practitioners have obtained wonderful results from certain remedies, or combinations of remedies, which their brethren failed to obtain after their attention had been called to them. The discoverer of a new remedy is filled with an earnest belief in it, which belief he communicates to his patient-can you doubt the result. The other physicians, lacking this faith, fail to impress it upon their patients-hence the less satisfactory result. An understanding of this principle has solved many a mystery of this kind-physicians are just beginning to understand the cause of the trouble.
Dr. Hack Tuke, an English physician of the last century, made a careful study of this interesting phase of mental healing; his book on the subject is still well worth reading and study, in spite of the recent discoveries of the underlying principle which the good doctor failed to discover. His book is filled with very interesting cases of cures by "imagination" (so he called it), but which we now recognize as genuine mental healing in disguise.
Tuke relates that he cured many cases of chronic rheumatism by rubbing them with a certain substance, without virtue in itself but for which he asserted magical and miraculous powers. To assure himself that this substance was without any real virtue in itself the good doctor changed it from time to time, sometimes using metal, then again wood, and sometimes wax or similar substances-the result was precisely the same in each case, the virtue being solely in the faith and belief inspired in the patient by his assertions. He relates that he cured warts in the same way; this result is accomplished by many persons who "pow wtow" warts away from the bodies of their friends.
Tuke also mentions the interesting case of an army officer who was subject to severe cramps in the stomach, which powerful remedies failed to cure. Tuke finally gave him "a powder containing four grains of ground biscuit," which wras to be administered every seven minutes, the greatest anxiety being expressed (within the hearing of the patient, of course) lest too much should be given-it being spoken of as a rare drug of great power. Tuke cured his man in a short time, the powerful drug (?) manifesting, its wonderful virtues. Tuke also relates a case in which the house surgeon in a French hospital experimented with one hundred persons, prescribing sugared water for them; he then, with a great show of anxiety and concern, announced that he had given them a powerful emetic instead of the intended remedy. Tuke adds: "The result may easily be anticipated by those who can estimate the power of the imagination; no fewer than eighty-four-fifths of the entire number-were unmistakably sick."
An eminent physician recorded an instance in which a patient reported that he felt a decided improvement immediately after a clinical thermometer had been placed in his mouth-he thought that it was some new kind of therapeutic instrument. The physician, being wise beyond his times, continued the treatment and healed the man speedily. Similar experiences are furnished by the resident physicians in many hospitals where a large number of patients are admitted.
Schofield, in his interesting work upon the Unconscious Mind, relates a number of cases in wrhich cures were performed by disguised mental healing. He also relates a number of cases in which the same principle has been incidentally called into operation without any intent to do so on the part of the physician. For instance, he relates that in the early days of Koch's tuberculin many patients rushed to Berlin to be treated. It was observed by the physicians administering the remedy that a certain set of symptoms (among others a rise of temperature after so many hours) usually followed the injection; these symptoms were accepted at first as being diagnostic of the existence of tuberculosis. But some of the physicians who knew something of the power of suggestion, made some tests- and obtained startling results. It was found that the patients usually anxiously awaited the occurrence of these particular symptoms, of which they had been informed by their fellow-patients. And, the tests proved that these same symptoms were manifested by many of the patients after they had been injected with pure water, without a trace of tuberculin.
Ferassi relates that he cured many cases of ague by giving the patient a charm consisting merely of the word "Febrifuge" written on it. Fever and ague, chills and fever, and similar complaints have been successfully treated by certain old women and old men in the neighborhoods affected, the method consisting merely of some sort of "pow wow," or mock "magic" treatment in which both the healer and the patient firmly believed. Seasickness, and car-sickness, has yielded to some remedies of the nature of the placebo. Stewards on ocean liners furnish interesting testimony along these lines -though they are careful to whom they give their confidence, for obvious reasons.
Schofield relates many interesting cases of this kind. In one case he cured a woman brought to a London hospital as suffering from incurable paralysis of the spine for two years; she had spent all her money in treatments, without results, and was brought to the hospital pending her admission to a charitable home for incurables. Schofield cured her in two hours-he does not state his method, but says positively that there were "agencies which owed all their virtue to their influence on the mind." He also relates another case in which a paralyzed girl was cured when she learned that she had won the affections of the curate who used to visit her bedside. Another case of the same kind was cured at the Hotel Dieu, in Paris, solely by being impressed by the wonderful place, its noted doctors, and its wonderful reputation. Schofield says of this last case: "The good doctor just passed around, but had not time to treat her till the third day; by which time when he came around she was out of bed, walking around the room, quite restored by the glimpses she had got of his majestic presence."
The undoubted cures wrought by "patent medicines" composed of simple herbs and diluted alcohol, or even still more simple materials, are to be accounted for in the same way. The same is true of the wonderful "appliances," "electric garments," "rheumatic rings," and similar articles which are advertised so extensively from time to time-they all work cures, and obtain testimonials from grateful patients. The "tractors" of Elijah Perkins, the New England blacksmith, in the early part of the last century is another instance of the same principle. Perkins built metallic tongs which he called "tractors," with which he stroked the bodies of patients. He made great cures, and his fame extended all over the country, and even to Europe. His followers were numbered by the thousands. Finally the bubble was pricked by a physician who made a counterfeit pair of tractors of wood painted to resemble the metal of the genuine tongs-they worked just as well, and thereby proved the mental nature of the cures.
The student and practitioner of Mental Therapeutics should become familiar with this class of mental cures-cases in which the cure is attributed to some material remedy, appliance, or method, although really resulting from the mental principle called into operation. When the principle is once thoroughly understood, then one has the key to the whole class of strange cures. This knowledge prevents one from being led into error, and being persuaded to "follow after strange gods" in healing; it also enables one to avail himself of fanciful methods and forms, when he sees that the patient expects and demands the same. Such a course is not to be recommended as a regular thing-but there arise cases in which the healer must take the material as he finds it, and then work it into the proper shape by methods along the lines of the least mental resistance. But he must never lose sight of the true principle involved in the cure.