Storming the ramparts (of mind-body medicine)

Today is Bastille Day, or la fête nationale, in France. The day commemorates the French Revolution. Of course, it was a terrible passage in French history (even called “the Reign of Terror”). But, as I’ll explain in a moment, it also helped pave the way for one very useful tool still used in mind-body medicine today.

On July 3rd in my Daily Dispatch, I wrote about the U.S. founding fathers and their interests in natural health. Interestingly, some of the same figures involved in the American Revolution were also involved in the period leading up to the French Revolution and the eventual establishment of the French Republic.

In fact, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson represented the fledgling United States in Paris during the 15 years between the declaration of U.S. independence in 1776 and the culmination of the French Revolution in 1793.

Franklin was a popular figure in the French court of Louis XVI during the last years of the French Bourbon monarchy. He was widely recognized as a man of letters and science.

The French King also asked Franklin to serve on a commission to study the revolutionary medical practices of Franz Anton Mesmer, a controversial doctor from Vienna. Exiled from Austria, Mesmer set all of Paris astir by using a form of hypnosis to “mesmerize” his patients and treat many different types of psychological and physical ailments.

No “material” treatment passed between Mesmer and his patients. Instead, he invoked “animal magnetism,” in his terms, and used a universal “fluidum,” or vital energy, that many natural scientists of the day, like Franklin, also studied.

Animal magnetism, or the energy of living things, was likened to “vital energy.”

Prominent scientists of the time, such as Franklin and Alexander von Humboldt of Germany, conducted experiments to observe or even try to capture this “vital energy.”

In fact, Franklin’s famous experiments with lightning and a key at the end of the line of a kite exemplified his desire to capture this “vital energy.”

King Louis’ scientific commission to study Mesmer also included chemist Antoine Lavoisier and physician Joseph Guillotine. (Unfortunately, during the French Revolution, Lavoisier became a victim of Guillotine’s most famous invention.)

However, before falling victim to the guillotine, Lavoisier discovered the chemical principles of combustion, whereby oxygen and hydrocarbon (or carbohydrate) combine to release heat energy. Then, these two elements generate carbon dioxide and water vapor as byproducts.

Living cells use this very same process to make the energy that fuels all life processes (cellular respiration). They also use this process to generate most of the water inside cells (cellular hydration).

The scientific panel that studied Mesmer eventually broke down over arguments about how mesmerism could work. They never got around to conducting the experiments they designed to show that it did work.

This failure marks the beginning of an ongoing trend in modern medicine to discount “alternative” treatments. Not because the treatments don’t work. (They do!) But because the mainstream can’t understand how they work.

Remember, as I always say, modern mainstream medicine maniacally insists on understanding a treatment’s “mechanism of action,” or how something works. And if they just can’t figure out how the treatment works, it isn’t legitimate in their eyes.

Of course, mesmerism led to a distinguished line of “magnetic healers” during the 19th century, which includes the founders of osteopathic medicine and chiropractic medicine. In the 20th century, mesmerism became properly known as the practice of “hypnotism,” with many proven medical and psychological therapeutic uses in the present day.

Amazingly, we still don’t exactly know how hypnotism works. But at least we can now say that modern clinical studies show it does work.

Drs. Spiegel at Stanford University explained some of the mystery of the technique beginning back in the mid-20th century. This father and son pair developed the “Spiegel Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales.” They used simple statistical profiles to rate hypnotic suggestibility. (It’s a kind of “psychometrics,” like the popular Meyers Briggs test used throughout business and management, for example).

It turns out 10 percent of people are very suggestible to hypnosis. Ten percent of people are totally resistant to it. And the remaining 80 percent of people fall on a scale somewhere in between.

My colleague and I found out that many other mind-body therapies fall along a scale, or spectrum, as well. Knowing this, we developed the use of psychometric evaluations, like the Spiegel hypnosis scales, for scientific application to other mind-body therapies.

With my colleague Mike Jawer, we published a book called Your Emotional Type: Finding Therapies That Will Work for You. We tell you which mind-body therapies will work for you depending on your emotional type.

Take this short emotional type quiz to learn more about which mind-body therapies are right for you.

So, today, in honor of Mesmer and all things French, enjoy your liberté, egalité, fraternité. In English, it means liberty, equality, and fraternity. But if that French mantra sounds a little too socialist for you, think of the American version of the cry for independence, which began 15 years before the French Revolution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Allons enfants de la Patrie; le jour de gloire est arriveé.