How To Decode Your Body’s Messages

Q: Can your health be affected by your self-image, beliefs, and expectations?

A: Absolutely! In my book, Deep Healing: The Essence of Mind/Body Medicine, he not only explains why this is true, but conversely how your body can tell you some things about your innermost feelings and thoughts you didn’t know.

Most of us know that traumatic experiences in our lives can affect our health. We have probably had the experience of getting sick to our stomachs during or after an upsetting event, or getting a bad cold or the flu following a traumatic emotional loss. But just as our minds can send out messages that have a negative impact on our bodies, the very power to do that suggests the exact opposite: that perhaps our minds can also have a positive influence on our health.

If this is true, then we need to honestly examine the beliefs and attitudes that might be affecting our health. Conversely we need to take a fearless look at our chronic health problems and see what they are telling us about ourselves. As Woody Allen said in Annie Hall,  “I don’t get angry — I grow a tumor.” Perhaps his statement was more than just humor.

Self-Survey Questions
Here are some questions that are intended as guidelines to focus your attention on issues that affect the mind-body. For optimal results, you can continue to ask them as you go about your daily life. You may find that these questions help you take charge of your health in ways you may have once thought impossible.

1.     Have you noticed if you get more colds when you are depressed, under great pressure, or are feeling angry at someone in your life?

2.    Has a physician or friend ever told you that if you don’t slow down, you’re going to have a heart attack? Has anyone recently told you to “take time to smell the roses?”

3.     How is the health of those you modeled your life upon (i.e., mother, father)?

4.     Beliefs such as your drive for success, power or recognition, guide the path of your life. Is the drive for material wealth such an overriding belief that you take no time for your family, personal recreation, or doing something really good for yourself?

5.     Do you see these kinds or correlations in others ?

6.     Do you get headaches, stomach pain, tight jaw or hold your breath when you feel tense? Do you experience these symptoms before an important meeting or before making a decision?

7.     Does your stomach or intestine cramp or act up at certain emotional times? For instance, do you experience an increase in stomach pains when faced with criticism from authority figures?

8.     Do you have loose bowels, constipation, or frequent urination at times of fear and sadness?

9.     Is there a lack of religious, ethical, or spiritual beliefs to guide you in your life and give you a sense of purpose?

10.     Do you tend to develop throat, thyroid, or respiratory problems when you are anticipating an important dialogue, or are preparing a public presentation?

11.     Do you injure your back or develop pain/spasm because of the pressure you put on yourself?

12.     Do your allergies worsen at times when you feel defensive? Or, when you are unable to express anger towards others?

13.     Do you have a skin rash or irritation that worsens when you are embarrassed or nervous or when you get too close in a relationship?

14.    Do you have asthma attacks more often when you are  feeling anxious?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you can begin to see that the relationship between the body and the mind is indeed very complex and interesting. Of course, the emotional component is only one aspect of a chronic disease. There are genetic, environmental, and nutritional aspects to each type of illness. Previous injury or infection, the use of drugs, and exposure to chemicals can determine which organs become involved, but the psychological environment sets the stage by strengthening or weakening the immune system.

Emotions & Immunity

Your immune system is responsible for the constant surveillance of your health. This amazingly complex system is able to detect the tiniest bits of foreign material or invaders that might be a threat to your health. In the case of a virus or bacterium, your immune system identifies what kinds they are and then synthesizes substances to eliminate them or render them benign. However, as a result of stress, your immune system can become overloaded and unbalanced, becoming less effective. While this explanation oversimplifies how and why the system malfunctions, it does provide us with a good picture of the process.

In many ways, the immune system is dependent on the central nervous system for its proper functioning. This is how your thoughts, feelings and beliefs play a role in your immune functions. When you experience high levels of stress, for instance, the immune system may be thrown out of balance. The study of the relationship between stress and the immune system has given rise to an entire field of medicine known as psychoneuroimmunology.

Twenty-five years ago, Miller set himself upon the daunting task of awakening the medical community to preventive healing methods which used no drugs or surgery, but which changed the immune system through directly changing the mind and its habitual pictures. By examining immune cells during a variety of mental states, the medical community has begun to see that medicine and psychology are two sides of the same coin.

The specifics of how these immune responses actually work is so complex that only a team of doctors could explain it to you in detail, but the essence of it can be boiled down into four basic types of “messages.” When the immune system overreacts it can lead to 1. allergies (external) or 2. autoimmune disease (internal). When it underreacts, it can lead to 3. repeated infection (external) or 4. to cancerous tumors (internal).

If the immune system fails to detect foreign invaders or doesn’t mount a strong enough defense against them, this is underreaction, and can lead to our getting repeated and acute and chronic infections. This helps to explain why when individuals are under severe stress, some experience increased numbers of colds, yeast infections, flare-ups of herpes, some kind of sinus infections, or other conditions caused by microorganisms. Which organs become involved depends on a variety of factors such as genetics, nutrition, exposure, drugs, chemicals, and prior injury or infection, as mentioned earlier.


When the immune system underreacts to internally generated factors, it fails to rid the body of abnormal cells and cellular waste. Often these are mutant cells that function ineffectively, and could become cancer cells if allowed to multiply. Immune cells are ordinarily capable of identifying and destroying them. When your immune system fails to identify or destroy such abnormal cells, it can lead to serious disease, such as cancer.

When the immune system overreacts to the internal environment, it can produce what we call “autoimmune” disease, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus erythematosus. A chief characteristic of most autoimmune diseases is that antibodies are produced that attack normal healthy cells. Often, these “friendly-fire” antibodies aim their attacks against specific cells — the cells lining the joints, the kidney, or blood vessels, for instance.

On the other hand, an overreaction of the immune system to external agents can lead to the development of allergic reactions. An allergic reaction happens when your immune system reacts to substances that are not a threat to your health. Histamine is produced by the healthy immune system to isolate areas of the body that have been attacked by harmful chemicals and microorganisms. It does this by creating swelling and inflammation. An overreacting immune system might produce histamine in response to a harmless substance; grass pollen, goldenrod, etc.

Q: I have heard it said that part of our mind works like a computer filing system. You even mentioned this in one of your articles. What is this “computer filing system” and how does it affect our health?

A:  It’s not that I think we have a Macintosh desktop unit (or IBM PC) in our heads — what he have, however, is very much like computer software! It’s not the kind you can get at Fry’s, it’s built in (on our hard drive so to speak), and it’s the most powerful software on earth.

Most people’s lives run along very predictable pathways.  The person who was an annoying boor yesterday is likely to be one today, tomorrow, and for years to come.  People tend to experience recurrences of the same diseases and habits over and over again, never thinking to change their behavior. This is similar to getting an error message on the computer; a lot of people keep trying the same procedure over and over, sure that they are right and the computer is somehow wrong and will see the error of its ways.

Remember that over 90 percent of our diseases require us to behave in a certain way in order to get them — the direct result of the thoughts that we run through our minds, our attitudes, ways of handling stress! Repeating patterns like alcohol, cigarettes, shyness, aggressiveness, — and even our usual moods — depression, irrepressible optimism —are in no way preordained by the Gods, not even by the external universe.  They are primarily the result of the thoughts going through our minds. And much of what we think is programmed in during our developmental years.

I have developed specific procedures involving hypnosis or deep relaxation through which I can locate the program and even the date of the program in most cases, and help my client rewrite it. Examples are recorded in my book, Deep Healing: The Essence of Mind/Body Medicine. It’s a fascinating process.

As a physician for instance, I might see a person before a very important speech. Let’s say her name is Marie. She feels frightened, experiencing sweaty palms, a tense stomach, etc.  Marie has never liked speaking in front of a group of people but now finds herself about to deliver the valedictory address. It could have been oral exams to become certified in her profession, or speak to the assembled employees of two companies that have just merged. Finally, she has a chance to speak about something she really cares about. Yet, all those symptoms block the kind of inspiring peak performance that is possible. In addition, it makes her feel miserable throughout the whole process, for which she blames the process.  In her mind, she is constantly running thoughts of times of when she made mistakes in the past.  Many of these thoughts are at the conscious level, but even more are being run through at the unconscious level.

In addition, negative thoughts of the future —fears of fainting, stuttering, failing to get the point across, being attacked (and all kinds of unnecessary thoughts about the future) are running through Marie’s mind—and this has been happening for days.

Mental Programs

Marie has a program running in her mind that sorts through all the possible thoughts in the universe (of which there are quite a few) and comes up with precisely those thoughts which will trigger a malfunction of the hypothalamus.

The hypothalmus is the part of the brain that links thinking to physical status, behavior, and physiological functioning. When it goes out of kilter it can create very unpleasant physiological states such as sweating palms, dry mouth, and stomachache.  The same chemical imbalance this creates in the body also makes it difficult to think, and tends to block the reception of any pleasant experiences.  In addition to a growing fear and loathing of the upcoming presentation, Marie suddenly doesn’t get much pleasure from walking in the park, has recently found sex uninteresting, and in general is not a very happy camper.

This condition of the body and the unhappy mood then feedback through our sensory receptors — we notice ourselves feeling miserable and performing poorly and we begin to feel even more negative, and even less positive about the talk that we have to give or the test we have to take.

As every computer programmer knows GIGO — garbage in garbage out. The quality of your software, in other words, who (or what) writes your software and why, determines the quality of your life.

Through hypnosis or deep relaxation, I ask the person to go back in the archives of their mind to the first time they felt this way. In most cases, the programming happened during a specific incident or series of incidents early in life where the feedback from the universe (which may have been one parent having a bad day) was somehow unacceptable. The archives store every entry, and the mind under hypnosis is able to relive the exact moment when directed to.

We have two kinds of archives, the external archives and the internal archives.  The external archives consist of information we have learned from books, libraries, magazines, the internet, experts in certain fields and good friends, therapists and relatives that we feel can offer us valuable information, knowledge, and wisdom.

The internal archives has to do with what’s been stored within us even from times before our birth.  Our chromosomes carry such genetic memories.

I believe this genetic memory tunes us into trees and waterfalls, beautiful skies, beautiful flowers, and beautiful smells.  I think there is an internal archive of orientation that causes us to enjoy (and music has arisen in every culture). In every population people evolve the concept of God, of the Divine. Perhaps this is a kind of a species ROM memory, designed to lead us towards a simpler, healthier life.

On the other hand, our inner archive also contains a certain amount of garbage. The cost of modern society upon our well-being can be seen in this pile of garbage.  As we become more and more cut off from natural sources of love, beauty, exercise, and eating, we see more and more imbalance and disease. Stress-related diseases arise as we lose track of the natural flow of life in the maelstrom of our artificial lifestyles.

We are born with 2,000,000,000 neurons and few connections.  By the time we reach adolescence we have up to 15,000 connections to each neuron — 50,000 connections per second waking and sleeping during our childhood.  This is when the fundamental programs are laid down.  The neurons and glia are the bricks and mortar, the environment is the architect.  Our environment was our family, friends, social relationships, and our teachers. This is why it is not a simple thing to “undo” the influences of childhood in a single sitting.

For example, our nervous patient may have had a report to read in the second grade and didn’t admit to being unprepared. Perhaps her mother was in the hospital that day and with all the stress she forgot about the report. When she tried to “fake it” the teacher bellowed with anger and the other kiddies laughed mercilessly. That image set the progam for failure. By locating that image in the archive we can reprogram it for success. In this case, she might rescript the scene and visualize approaching the teacher, explaining the situation, and asking for one more day to prepare.

Perhaps then we visualize the upcoming talk. Is there time to prepare adequately? If so, we visualize total success in the delivery of the talk, from a state of deep relaxation and calm.

My first job when a person such as Marie comes to see me is to get her attention.  People are usually so bound into their own unpleasant internal process that they are really not listening very well to things coming from the outside. Next, I guide her into what I call the state of deep relaxation which, fundamentally, means guiding her to think thoughts and create mental images that are associated with relaxation.  This is, in effect, loading a new “application” into the brain.

In ten minutes or so, she is more relaxed than she has been for months.  The mind is clear of distractions and all negative thoughts about herself and her upcoming presentation has drained away.

This new mental state then creates a different state in the hypothalamus and a different physiological state. The results are an improved level of muscle tension, and an improved flow of chemical transmitters through the body carrying signals that inform the muscles and nerves that it is safe to be at rest, to absorb nutrients, to refresh and restore.

The openness that takes place in the mind is now used to create a positive image of the future —the image that you most would like to have if all your dreams came true, specifically in the area of life you are addressing. If you are preparing to speak in public, this image will probably be of an inspired talk which will elicit praise from everyone present. If it is a performance, the image might be of a graceful, effortless performance that achieves great results.

You can now intentionally hold that image in front of your consciousness so as to, in effect, “burn” the image into the image making (graphics package) portion of the conscious mind.  At the same time, the image begins to be copied onto our internal hard disk.  The patient practices going through this whole process several times a day at home.  In so doing, the image is more and more securely recorded within them.  Now their mind can go off and do other things.

Then whenever you feel it is necessary — such as when you begin to feel frightened, depressed or heavy, or just for practice, you go within and repeat this process of emptying the mind of its current set of programs and to “upload” this new image.

Once again, as the new image is loaded, you begin to experience your body and your world differently. As you experience everything differently, you suddenly see options that weren’t available before. You find you have confidence in your own creative skills and know you can rely on them to prevent problems before they happen. You feel less fragile and more able to absorb any minor conflict that might arise; as a matter of fact, you feel equal to the challenge! Your inner picture of the world suddenly gets brighter as if you found the dimmer switch on the monitor of the mind and turned it all the way up. You can run through the upcoming challenge mentally from beginning to end without error messages. You are home free.

Q. There are so many “alternatives” in alternative health. How do I know what choices are healthy for me — what foods to eat, pills to take, books to read? WHERE DO I BEGIN?

A.  It’s an individual matter. Everyone is different. Diseases don’t make choices, people do. The primary goal of the excellent physician, healer, or health practitioner is to serve the person — to enhance, enrich and empower them by all available means. So if you are choosing a healer, find one that treats you as a patient, not a disease.

If you go to a herbalist you will get herbs; if you go to a nutritionist, a diet. The chiropractor will adjust you, and the acupuncturist will try needles. So you must be in contact with your inner wisdom, before you decide which path to take, and which advice to follow. The first step in any treatment should be to put yourself in touch with your own inner wisdom — the Wise Self, the most mature, intelligent, experienced “adult” part of you.

When this Wise Self is contacted and empowered, it can help you make such decisions very effectively. The person who drinks too much alcohol yet takes another drink, the smoker who knows that cigarettes aren’t good for her lungs but opens another pack anyway, the sedentary office-worker who is not getting a sufficient number of workout hours, the overweight person who can’t resist dessert or a second helping–each of these are situations where the ability to contact and listen to a powerful Wise Self would have enormous effects upon health, relationships, self-image, self-esteem and performance.

When temptation comes along, it is this wise part of us we want to bring into play.  It can see the temptation, measure what good or bad it would bring into our life, how it would affect those we love, how it would affect the future.  We then weigh the risks and benefits and then choose what to do.

It’s much like someone who is going to go out backpacking.  They know there is not much chance of rain, but they have to decide whether to carry the extra pounds of rainproof gear; poncho, canvas, tent, etc.  The thought of not having to lug all that along is very appealing.  But who wants to be trapped out in cold weather without rainproofing?  So, our intrepid backpacker takes rain gear.

On the other hand, when he considers whether or not to take signal flares and a ten pound emergency transmitter along, he reaches a different conclusion! This process is very similar to the one we should use when we have health choices to make. We don’t want to be reckless, but neither do we want to become hypochondriacs. The Wise Self knows where the balance point is.

Q. How do you find this balance point?

A. In my books, tapes, and lectures, I often refer to the “Serenity Prayer.” With all the technology at our disposal, this ancient prayer is still one of the greatest healing tools available. To bring balance into our life, we can ask the Wise Self to “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This serves as an invitation to the deeper mind  to open up our intuition so that we make the right choices in life, without becoming dependent on doctors, priests, or psychologists.

There are many other ways to communicate with our higher self. In Deep Healing; The Essence of Mind/Body Medicine, I emphasize three ways to do this.

1. Deep Relaxation, The Doorway to Deep Healing: First of all, deep relaxation is the simplest and fastest path through which anyone can improve their health and well-being.  It can be dramatically effective in relieving symptoms such as inflammation, anxiety, and muscle tension. It improves circulation and speeds up healing.  Through deep relaxation we can put aside the stress that blocks our link to the higher Self.

2. Positive Self-Programming:  Focused affirmations are very powerful. People have always used the power of self-talk to reinforce what they know to be true, and to get in touch with the higher self. They can counteract older, negative, or troublesome messages we may have been receiving from the world around us, or that we have been sending to ourselves and thus, out into the world around us. Our self-talk is a powerful inner mechanism through which we can make dramatic changes in our lives. It can effect every part of our being-mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. These changes put us more in synch with the higher self.

The Master Skill, Positive Mental Imagery: Imagery helps us change our situation and our habits.  When an image is held in the mind, it will tend to elicit from the nervous system reactions that are consistent with that image, and this effects all the organs of the body. By developing the skill of creating positive mental imagery (PMI), we can get an image of our higher self, and begin to journey with it in ways that work for us.

When these three are combined, it can vastly improve our ability to perform at optimal levels, even when taking on some of life’s greatest challenges. It can also awaken our conscious connection with the Wise Self, which will guide us towards the best healer or physician. But let’s not forget that the Wise Self is the most powerful healer we will ever meet.

Individuals Combine Inner Wisdom and Social Networking to Create a New Type of Leadership

Emmett Miller, M.D., Pioneer in Mind-Body Medicine, Releases CDs to Awaken the Leader Within

(Los Altos, CA) January 14, 2008—Candidates running for president are spending millions on campaigns to demonstrate to voters that they are the best qualified to bring about change and lead the country to better days. But, to find true leadership that brings about change, individuals need to vote their conscience by first accessing their inner wisdom. By awakening the wisdom deep in the core of their being — their inner leader — they can guide thoughts and actions and use social networking to create a collective wisdom that brings healing change to themselves, communities and civilization.

Dr. Emmett Miller, an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of Mind-Body Medicine has released two CDs, Awakening the Leader Within and Healing Our Planet as a way to facilitate individual and global healing. Miller uses guided imagery to get individuals to relax physically, concentrate on breathing, quiet their minds and come into the present. In this state, they can access their inner wisdom and make new, intentional choices. It opens the psyche to connect deeply with others to accomplish distributed leadership. Once people use inner wisdom to guide thoughts and behaviors, they can apply this same process to behaviors in relation all of their surroundings and guide interactions with the people they connect with daily such as family, friends and co-workers.

“The concept of seeking leadership from within — as opposed to looking for it among politicians, business executives, religious zealots and others—is the outgrowth of my work in the field of Mind-Body Medicine,” said Miller. “For 35 years, I have helped people learn to access and use their deeper resources for self healing. This usually involves releasing maladaptive ways of thinking and behaving learned in the past, and developing wiser ways to interact with oneself and the world. I soon found that the same principles were effective in family therapy and in work with organizations and communities, up to the state level with California’s Self-Esteem Task Force. I also found this same wise guidance could be applied to each and every aspect of a person’s life and extend out globally.”

By combining inner leadership with social networking, people can create collective wisdom that  brings healing change to communities, organizations and civilization. Social networking enables those who are cultivating their inner leadership abilities to share their wisdom and passion with others on the same path using conversational models. For example, uses innovative social technology to enable communities of people throughout the world to explore issues and solve problems, then to share information with other such groups via the website.

What sets Miller’s approach apart are two things: the idea of looking inside for the leadership and collaborative community action that is so clearly lacking in so many areas of society, and the idea that external leadership can be traced to a lack of leadership within. The approach uses the same power tools that are used in therapeutic context to access deeper aspects of the psyche. Tools include deep relaxation, use of guided imagery, meditation and cognitive restructuring techniques.

Most people do not understand the principles of wise leadership of their personal lives, and thus cannot understand the principles of how leadership works in the world around them. They abdicate responsibility and choose poor leaders, which creates a vicious circle. The moment one discovers the leader within, the helpless stance begins to disappear, and people become aware of the enormous power they have to create the right leadership for themselves, their families, communities and the world.

“The purpose of my program is to access the wisdom to discern what needs to be done – but it goes beyond that, to turn a person’s intellectual knowing into a powerfully felt sense of commitment to carry out an internal revolution and seize control of his or her life.”

Miller’s approach also goes beyond the old paradigm that the observer is separate from that being observed, that we are separate from others and the environment. People have an important part to play, and their inner healing has an important effect on the world. No man is an island, and an important part of this program is to inspire us to connect with other similarly empowered people (kindred spirits) to heal the environment (physical and social and planetary).

According to Miller, few people are aware that they have the power to control their own lives. People have been suffering from a kind of cultural ADD, distracted by the pace of life, the demands and manipulations of the media. Individuals have been misled and distracted by the 24×7 infotainment channels, advertising, sexual hyper-stimulation and manufactured threats that keep people anxious. This preconditions people to accept conditions that, while falsely promising happiness and security, merely create wealth for a powerful few and cause great economic, physical, mental and spiritual suffering for the population at large.

This ongoing abuse  has sapped individual self-esteem and led to beliefs of not being good enough or powerful enough to change.  Additionally, people have been misled from within by addictions, prejudices, and stress. They haven’t been given access to the tools of self-awareness, self esteem and self-empowerment.

“Those who begin to experience leadership from within feel anything but powerless. They feel inspired, enthusiastic, and in love with life and the possibilities that abound. They see meadows, not minefields, stepping stones, not stumbling blocks. They see the incredible opportunities that lay before us to change the direction of our society and our planet, as well as our own lives. I have seen it happen thousands of times. This has been my life’s work. Now, with the advent of digital media and the Internet, I have found a way to publish it to the world. The time has come; the world is awakening to the need for change, and new leadership. I want to help individuals create individual and distributed leadership that brings about positive change for each and every member of society.”