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 Mind/Body Medicine: Wellness, Self-Care, and Optimal Performance 

The sources of harmful, incoherent patterns are numerous. Have you ever seen a person accidentally injure himself or herself, for example, striking a thumb with a hammer, and then swear at the injured part or at the hammer? Perhaps an impatient oath or criticism ("Oh, what an idiot I am!") is uttered almost automatically. This, together with the pain of the accident and the brain's awareness of the injury, serves to create (or sustain) a negative program involving this part of the body. Thus, until the injury is completely healed, there will be an incoherency in the very discharges needed to resolve the injury. As you might expect, such injuries heal more slowly. This kind of attitude toward a temporarily disabled organ tends to produce the same type of pattern as was true of the war veteran, previously discussed, whose leg failed to heal well after amputation.

Less detrimental to healing, but still important, are the usual tension and fear responses to an injury. A person who receives a shock while fixing a lamp usually jerks the hand away with a force and speed far out of proportion to the intensity of the jolt itself. The person who inadvertently steps on a tack demonstrates a similar tendency to overreact. This unconscious withdrawal response is actually adaptive, for an instant. If we add an image of negative expectation to this, however, we may produce a maladaptive physical response.

An example of this is the pianist who injures a thumb and immediately thinks, "Oh, no! If this is still sore on Saturday, I will probably give a poor performance and lose my scholarship!" In such cases, the fear may well slow the healing through the incoherency it promotes. Even if the imagined consequences are not realistic, this thinking is maladaptive because it can slow healing.

No matter how small the degree of tension, healing is better served by immediately inducing relaxation and coherency. The bricklayer who is hopping about on one foot, groaning in pain, is responding maladaptively. He should immediately sit or lie down and induce a state of relaxation, especially in the injured part. He should experience the pain impulses simply as a signal that there has been an injury, and try not to tense up against them. He should picture that part healing rapidly. All fear should be eliminated, by showing the unconscious that it is OK for the entire body to be relaxed. The awareness that proper treatment will be given, that the danger has passed, that the time has come for healing, rather than tension and withdrawal, will allow him to relax the body.

Of course if immediate first aid is necessary, such as for the controlling of bleeding, this should be accomplished followed by a relaxation induction. A few minutes later further examination and treatment can be carried out. In other words, restore relaxation and coherency as soon as practical.

You might wonder, "How, in the presence of acute pain, can anyone relax? Isn't that hard?" By hard, you mean that there's a natural tendency toward tension that follows an injury, and that to relax in the face of it requires work. But this kind of work is the very essence of deconditioning and positive programming. It's like fighting your way upstream, but you will be successful if you are powered by your rational reasoning, recognizing that the current you are fighting is just the flood of incoherent patterns that might otherwise slow your recovery. The conscious work you do in relaxing, not tensing yourself in response to the injury, serves to speed up the unconscious healing processes in the same way that pedaling a bicycle uphill enables you to later coast rapidly downhill. In other words, the work will pay off-try it!

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