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Improvement of Diabetes in Conjunction with Regression Therapy – Lewis Mehl (Is.4)

by Lewis E. Mehl

Dr. Mehl feels that for accurate theorizing about health it is necessary to consider individual belief systems and help clients step outside these beliefs. The goal of the therapist is to help the patient in a journey toward the reconstitution of beliefs and a consequent embracing of life. Various techniques, including past-life recall, are used in this effort. He traces the process through the successful treatment of a diabetic young woman.

For accurate theorizing about health it is necessary to consider individual belief systems. These represent the formulae that individuals use to put together their conceptions of how things work and how to fit into the world. Therapy is a process that involves helping clients step outside these beliefs to experience their effects and to use inner resources to reformulate these beliefs and attitudes.

A belief system structures the organization of a disease. Changing beliefs changes the organization. To understand change we need to know how a person has created the world he wishes to change. Healing changes reality by changing the way a patient creates and maintains a world view. It is a systematic, supported deconstitution and reconstitution process and consists of allowing the self to reconstitute in a supportive environment. The task of the healer is to engage the inertial elements, thereby altering the balance of the system so that morphogenic processes are freed to continue their work of growth and change. This process involves movement toward well-being. The role of the care provider is to form a cooperative relationship and then to step back and allow the individual to choose the particular treatment most appropriate to his or her way of experiencing life, a process requiring ongoing commitment to emotional honesty on the part of both practitioner and patient.

 An understanding of health and disease comes from a study of the process of clients who have experienced significant improvement of a physical disease. It realizes that the goal of medicine is not perfect health but a process of movement toward health that is emotionally and spiritually satisfying. It is a movement toward embracing life in all its fullness—living in our body so completely that we know what it needs and give it that. Through embracing life we can transcend medical research and know for ourselves what we need.

Such a journey toward a reconstitution of beliefs and an embracing of life was made by Wanda, a diabetic on large doses of insulin and other medication for diabetes. The onset of her diabetes occurred when she was fifteen. Pressure from ambitious parents forced her into a year of over achievement, in which she felt strained to produce intellectually beyond her feeling of balance and well-being, leaving her trapped by their expectations. Following this over-productive year, while away at camp for the summer, in an effort to comfort herself she reacted by eating only sugar. This precipitated her first attack of diabetes, a clear message to a family with a wide-spread history of this disease that over-production could never again be expected from her. In this way she solved the dilemma of not living up to crippling intellectual demands and also not facing the disaster of open rebellion. At the time our treatment began, her diabetes, which had continued since the camp episode, was in poor control. The process of healing consisted of techniques such as visualization, indirect hypnosis, and biofeedback to help Wanda discover the inner landscape of her belief system and gradually reduce the stress in her life.

Wanda believed in reincarnation. When deeply relaxed she would frequently find herself in times and places other than what she defined as this lifetime. Through these experiences we discovered beliefs Wanda held about herself on conscious and unconscious levels. For example, she believed in karma and felt she had been a victim or had been victimized in many past lifetimes because of the karma she had to work out: her diabetes was a punishment from karma accumulated in past lives. It is not necessary to believe in past lives to help clients such as Wanda. Past-life experience should be handled similarly to any other described experience, following the principle that the practitioner helps the client create a series of experiences through which beliefs can be re-evaluated.

Most of Wanda’s past-life experiences involved her refusal to comply with requests and demands placed upon her by those in power over her (the same process she experienced with her parents). In one particularly illuminating session she experienced herself as a Samurai in Japan during the Middle Ages. She, as a male, was trained to fight for the emperor’s entertainment. Her father in her current life was her trainer in that life. When she realized the purpose of her training, she rebelled and refused to enter the arena. Her trainer told her she would disgrace her family, and, if she refused to fight, he would kill her. She did enter the arena to fight a much younger man and deliberately took a wrong step so he could kill her. She experienced strong feelings of grief and sadness for dying in such a useless way (also a metaphor for the death of her pancreas).

In a later session she experienced a past life in which she and her current lover had taken a stance in relation to their beliefs and were to be killed because of this. There was nothing they could do. Wanda related calmly meditating while waiting to be killed and then seeing her and her friend die. In many other lifetimes she saw herself being killed because of her beliefs, often with accompanying tortures. Finally, in a hari-kari experience in Japan, she set her intention that in succeeding lives she would develop a physical disease rather than be killed. The recurrent situation was that someone in power wanted her to do or believe in something against her will. The only way to resist was to be killed or get sick with a disease and die, which led to the belief that it was better to be in control of her death by dying from a physical disease than to be killed (which is what Wanda enacted at age fifteen).

Another aspect of the situation was the amount of violence stored in her unconscious. One might hypothesize that this suppressed rage had been turned inward and was eating away at her pancreas. She may have been afraid she would murder someone if she expressed these violent feelings. Exploration of her family system revealed the presence of strong anger. For instance, her brother had once beaten her unconscious when she criticized him in the manner of their father. But her brother, instead of turning his anger against himself in the form of disease, as Wanda had done, chose to act it out and enlisted in the war in Vietnam, spending eight years there with verbalized enjoyment of killing the Vietnamese. For Wanda, acting out her rage was too dangerous. It had to be directed inward, power being attained through illness, a pattern which replicated that of her father, who was impotent to deal with a mother and a wife, both of whom were described as “powerful, tyrannical, and castrating.” Her father had solved his dilemma over power by developing diabetes as a juvenile. This set a pattern for Wanda of how to solve problems and reinforced many of her beliefs.

My approach to health and disease seeks to include all factors that affect human life. In Wanda’s case the genetic factors and the impact of her family system were added to nutritional factors, not only the summer spent eating only candy but also the fact that sugar was a highly charged subject in her family since her father was diabetic. This nutritional component was compounded by the fact that eating sweets was equivalent to feeling good and being loved and offered compensation for a painful inner void of frustration, anger, and disappointment. Another factor was the level of stress she experienced, because her diabetes accelerated in times of stress. Research suggests that stressful life situations, which are either consciously or unconsciously interpreted by the diabetic patient as having relevance to his security, can produce fluctuations in the level of ketone bodies and glucose in the venous blood.

Wanda conceptualized herself as having many parts or sub-personalities, each having a different need. As we allowed these to emerge and observed their needs and directions, we were able to bring them into greater harmony. These various parts carried injunctions or beliefs, and examining them, standing outside them as an observer and as an integrating ego, we were able to evaluate them and reconstitute their importance and helpfulness in her life. More and more, these parts began to cooperate and to direct themselves toward health and integrations, which led to improvement in her diabetes.

These parts were observed, deconstituted, and reconstituted in a series of sessions where different therapeutic modalities were used but which leaned heavily on visualization techniques and hypnosis to help us map her belief systems. Induction into a relaxed state was important for her. In the following session, using a visualization technique, she touched on the depths of her anger.

Initially I instructed her to breathe deeply and I gave an indirect hypnotic suggestion to imagine her self in a place conducive to her receiving the help she needed. Then I asked her to take slow deep breaths, suggesting that she direct her breathing and relaxation energy into various parts of her body as she breathed in. We began with the top of her head and moved on to the back of her head, the forehead, the area behind the eyes, the jaws and face, the neck and the back.

When she began directing energy to her back, I gave instruction for her to see herself lying in a warm, grassy meadow, feeling the sun upon her skin, while hearing water flowing through the meadow. Then I linked the idea of water flowing in the river, down the hill, to the notion of the relaxation process spreading down her back, vertebra by vertebra indirectly relating each vertebra to a waterfall in the river. To this I included indirect suggestions that she could go deeper down inside herself. Then a linkage was made between the pelvis and a pool in the river. In the river pool the water collects and then flows out in two separate tributaries which I then compared indirectly, in the form of a metaphor, to the relaxation energy flowing down through her legs. Here were more indirect hypnotic suggestions to go deeper down as the relaxing energy flowed through her knees, her ankles, her feet, and into her toes.

I gave her suggestions to imagine herself going to a place where she could meet the part of herself that was trying to sabotage her process of getting well. I told her to cover her body with white light as a kind of protective armor to keep her safe in any situation she encountered. I made sure she knew she could instantly return to the room in which we had begun if things became too frightening. She raised a finger to indicate she was experiencing herself in a place where she could meet her troublesome past. I asked her to get in touch with that part of herself. She was quiet while she did so and then began to describe in minute detail her imagined environment. She was in a desert. There was no food or water anywhere. She felt as though she had placed herself in a survival contest that she was failing.

I asked her to find a guide to help her, but she could not. She was crying and feeling very much like a victim. It seemed worthwhile to transform the victim experience into its opposite. I had a spontaneous vision of her as a ruler, a minor governor, or a city ruler of a desert city with many minarets and mosques. I described my vision to her and she quickly began to embellish my description, claiming the palace as one who knew and ruled it. She described feeling very indifferent to people and love. This led her to describing an experience of being just in her “energy body.” As this body she felt malevolent impulses and let her “child” (in the Transactional Analysis sense) go out of control. She reported being restrained by other energy beings and by purple fields of energy. Because the energy of this restraint became intense and she became terrified, I gave her a hypnotic suggestion to allow herself to return to waking consciousness, suggesting that all she had discovered would be accessible to her waking consciousness at the right time when she could cope with it. Then I used some simple focusing and body movement exercises to help her reorient herself to the present.

The experience can be seen as both real and symbolic and expressive of her childhood when she would have liked to destroy her world of home and family, but the yoke of family rules and conscience suppressed her destroyer part so completely that it attacked herself. Scientists have found that many diabetics make antibodies which attack parts of them as though attacking foreign invaders. This visualization exposed the belief that if she really let herself have power, she might kill or destroy someone or some thing and that therefore she had to keep her power under someone else’s control. Other sessions used dreams in a similar way to this free visualization to explore various parts of her self and various beliefs and systems of beliefs. Beliefs which were uncovered included her conviction of the harmful results of refusing to do another’s bidding, her certitude that she was not good enough to succeed and that the result of trying would be failure, her assumption that she was similar to her father emotionally and physiologically, and finally, her impression that stress was overwhelming and required capitulation. An especially destructive core belief was that getting healthy was a failure/success process geared to please others. Toward the end of her therapy it was important for Wanda to modify this belief by permitting herself to release improvement in her diabetes as a charged issue.

In connection with these core beliefs she experienced a general difficulty in being aware of negative feelings, meaning anger, hurt, rage, etc. The more she was unaware of such feelings, the more her insulin needs increased; and the more expressive she became of these feelings, the less insulin she needed. Significant is the fact that Wanda was able to gain control of and improve her diabetes through this discovery and expression of her emotions.

The physiological effects of stress for Wanda were centered in her pancreas. Her experience confirmed a variety of research findings that stress hormones adversely affect diabetes, Though it is not possible to know the relative contributions of genetics, stress, family dynamics, and other factors in her condition, it was obvious that important roles were played by the stress of her adolescence and her response to the normal separation process teenagers act out with parents, which, coupled with a pure sugar diet for three months, effected the burning out of her pancreas.

Wanda’s experience also confirmed the observation that the emergence of a severe physical illness provides a stability within the person, family, and/or community that metaphorically serves to put the brake on a cable car plummeting downhill toward ego disintegration. In this sense diabetes was adaptive toward preserving the life of her ego, even though it was threatening to the life of her body. It provided a way for her to sidestep the pressures and expectations of family and teachers which she was convinced she could not meet without losing face. Other approaches might have been delinquency or schizophrenia but probably her family presented such severe sanctions not to be “crazy” or “bad” that these options were closed. Since expression of anger was viewed by the family as “crazy,” it is not surprising that as Wanda improved clinically and was able to show her feelings in outbursts of angry expressiveness, such reactions were viewed with horror by her family and considered to be a sign of mental illness. Research has shown that anger is more closely related to norepinephrine and fear is related to epinephrine. Constant maintenance of the fear response in susceptible individuals such as Wanda may alter physiology so as to deplete the adrenal gland, and through that, the pancreas. Expression of her anger rather than fear negates this process. In this way we can begin to trace the physiological pathways which resulted in Wanda’s greatly diminished need for medication.

In the fifth month of therapy important new information arose about the doubting part of Wanda, the part that doubted her ability ever to be whole and take care of herself. She had a spontaneous regression to an existence during the time of Jesus. She used that experience to discover, in comparison to Jesus, her own self-doubt. She felt she could never live up to Jesus’ example and that if she tried to live up to the standards of others who appeared so self-assured, she would only fail and feel worse than ever.

Meanwhile, as Wanda’s beliefs emerged for recognition and review, her insulin requirements were strikingly reduced. The final period of therapy helped her deepen her understanding of the destructive effect of her parents’ criticism and in the process clarified the double-bind she had been living with: that she should be perfect even though she could never hope to succeed in this. Research suggests that such a double-bind of equally strong beliefs, with opposite demands upon behavior and emotion seems likely to have negative physiological consequences. Feelings of hopelessness result from the marriage of such opposites, and, as the Simontons have argued regarding cancer, hopelessness depresses the ability of the immune system and could be an important factor in diabetes susceptibility.

After nearly a year of therapy Wanda stopped individual therapy and began serving as an apprentice to a local holistic health practitioner. She has remained at a level of 0-20 units of regular insulin per day for the past two years. She has re-channeled much of her energy, which previously was committed to maintaining her disease, into productive outer directions.

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Topics on this article

Regression Therapy

Keywords on this article

anger, case study, diabetes