This section is from the book "Handbook Of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science", by Henry S. Munro. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of Suggestive Therapeutics, Applied Hypnotism, Psychic Science.
Observation has convinced me that comparatively few people at the present time fully realize the potency of the imagination - of an idea pure and simple - as a factor in the cause and cure of disease. Suggestion, applied either with or without hypnotism, is but the employment of man's imagining power, his perceptive faculties, as a means of stimulating the normal physiological mechanisms of the human organization for therapeutic purposes. All suggestions are composed of ideas which influence the actions, or motions, and beliefs of human beings endowed with normal mental faculties and bodily functions. Observation and experiment has clearly demonstrated that the representation of an action or movement is an action or movement begun, an action or movement in the nascent state. These representations, or suggestions, or mental images influence one's motor and voluntary actions and movements, and the involuntary physiological actions and movements of the human organization as well.
Every representation or perception is a suggestion which presupposes actions and movements to some extent, and these representations or perceptions are the remnants of some past perception, the physiological residue of some past mental concept that has been retained by the neuron elements. These physiological processes or complexes, conserved as the result of some previous experience, can be called into functional activity by mere mental representations or suggestions, and in this way employed for therapeutic purposes. I hold before you a lemon cut in half. I say to you I am going to suck the juice of this lemon in your presence, and by giving attention to the procedure your salivary glands will begin to functionate. You readily see the effect of the suggestion as a physiological stimulant.
I have before me a number of physicians. A man is brought into our presence who was a stranger to us all. I hold before him a vial of an inert liquid, and tell him that it is my desire to demonstrate its effect upon him before the physicians present. By representation, mental image, or suggestion an effect is produced that is questioned by none present.
When a lad I took some clay pills to Sarah, the cook, who was sick in a hut in the rear of the promises. They had been made of soft clay and rolled in wheat flower, and resembled a pill composed of calomel, aloes, and rhubarb, which was employed by my father as a domestic remedy. Sarah supposed that the pills had been sent by him, as was his custom, and swallowed them without question, and on the next morning reported for duty, feeling much better because her bowel movements had been so satisfactory as the result of the inert clay.
We understand that both glandular action and visceral functions, having once been called into increased activity by the taste of a lemon, or the physiological action of a purgative pill, have been accompanied by definite brain changes as the result of the psychophysiological action that these experiences had left upon the neuron elements, and these conserved physiological complexes are stimulated by the psychic influence of the mention of a lemon, or the presence of an inert clay pill which resembled the medicine producing the original experience, and the same physiological action is reproduced, in conformance to the laws governing the normal functions of the nervous system. This is a simple demon-si ration of the well-accepted fact of physiological psychology, so often repeated, that the nervous system faithfully conserves and reproduces its experiences.
The principle above illustrated we see applied in a most crude and unscientific manner by all forms of present-day quackery. The nervous system responds to the physiological stimulus of spoken words; or to the various methods of treatment which make employment of tactile sensations- massage - as a means of reinforcing the sense impressions: or to oral suggestion, used consciously or unconsciously, by the treatment administered.
In a town of five thousand visited by the writer there was a physician engaged in the practice of medicine who was an unqualified ignoramus, but the results obtained through the employment of psychotherapeutic principles, used in disguise, enabled him to do more work and to practice with better success than the several well-educated physicians who were his competitors.
He enjoyed the reputation of knowing exactly what his medicine would do, owing to his methods of impressing his suggestions upon the consciousness of his patients. One of his methods was to give a dose of medicine after each meal and then instruct his patient to lie down for twenty minutes, "to let his stomach take up" - giving him the positive assurance that he would digest that meal perfectly, and that by the time the bottle of medicine was taken he could eat what he pleased and never know that he possessed a stomach.
Another one of his methods was to give seven drops of medicine every seven minutes for seven doses, beginning to give the first dose at seven minutes past seven o'clock, as a sure remedy for insomnia. "When you take the seventh dose, turn out the lights and shut your eyes, and you will never know when eight o'clock comes, and you will sleep soundly all night."
He had pretended specifics for any and every condition, and in all cases charged a stiff price, paid in advance. Too ignorant to be aware of his limitations, this untrained egotist had unconsciously stumbled upon a method of dealing with his patients that evoked the psychologic factor, while he, and his patients as well, were deluded into believing that his medicines actually accomplished the therapeutic results represented. He did obtain the results that he represented as the result of his suggestions, in perfect conformity to psychophysiological law, by employing the normal mechanisms of the physiological machinery to accomplish the results, supposed to be due to his medicines. The other physicians of this town were puzzled to know what remedies he used that were proving so trustworthy.