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The Power of Positive Intent

by Marie Feuer

Psychological intervention for mind/body:  Positive Intent

Rather than addressing a specific intervention for a specific condition, I hold that no matter what the method used, for whatever condition, what is important is the mindset, intention, and consciousness of the healing practioner. No matter how much technique one has, if one is not self aware of thoughts and feelings, or if an unconscious prejudice is present, the counselor will not be effective as a healing force for the client. How powerful is intention as a force on the body and on the mind? Can human consciousness be used to activate the body to remember its coherence and reestablish health?  Can focused thought influence the thoughts of others and help in treating psychological complaints?

Research exploring the power of the mind examined the effects of conscious and unconscious thought and found projections of the mind can effect objects of interaction be they organic or inorganic substances. As early as the 1960’s research was proving that laying on of hands could affect physical conditions including cancer (Bengston & Krinsley, 2000). Dr. Bernard Grad of McGill University conducted experiments with plants watered with samples of water exposed to depressed and well adjusted subjects and found differences in the plants growth patterns. The plants watered by samples of water used by depressed subjects had suppressed growth patterns. Later he chemically analyzed the water samples and found the molecular structure changed as did hydrogen bonding between the molecules (1965). Other scientists have confirmed Grad’s findings, and expanded this body of information. Most notable is Masuraru Emoto’s work published in his beautiful book “The Hidden Messages in Water” (2004). Carroll Nash at St Josephs University in Philadelphia found people could influence the growth rate of bacteria by willing it so (1982). Gerald Solfvin’ s experiments on malarial mice showed that when one had honest “hope” that a subject (in this case, mice) would get “better,” it worked. In his double blind experiment assistants were told that a psychic healer would be healing half of the mice subjects, and that only half of the mice were injected with malaria. In fact all the mice were injected and there was no psychic healer. One assistant was considerably optimistic about the potential for healing. The mice under his care became much less ill than the mice under the care of the other assistants (1982).

Elizabeth Targ was a psychiatrist at the California Pacific Medical Center’s Complementary Research Institute who studied alternative medicine. She was interested in finding out if intentional distant healing could affect changes in T-cell counts for end-stage AIDS patients. Her research unearthed evidence that positive or negative thoughts could influence diseased systems in people.

Targ and Fred Sicher, a psychologist, put together a trial to test the effects of positive thoughts applied by non denominational healers on 20  end –stage AIDS patients using the measure of T-cells. They were not testing a particular healing method (Like Christian prayer) and used a multitude of healers all applying different healing methods. All the healers had experience working on “hopeless” cases. The participants included  Shamans, Qigong masters, crystal workers, etc.. It was a double blind study with 20 AIDS subjects divided into two groups. Both groups received  orthodox treatment for AIDS. One group also received distant healing with the healers rotating through all the patients. All healers treated all patients. The remote healers had no contact with patients and worked with a photo, a name and a T-cell count. During the 6 month trial period 40% of the control group died. The group that was worked on remotely by the healers not only lived, but self-reports and medical evaluations concluded the treatment was working (Sicher, Targ, Moore, & Smith, 1998).

The experiment was repeated with 40 subjects, this time looking to see if distant healing could slow down the progress of AIDS. This study also controlled for the power of positive thinking among the subjects. Subjects were interviewed and only about half of the group thought they were being treated. Additionally Targ was meticulous in examining other possible patient factors and ran 50 statistical tests to eliminate variables in patients that might have influenced results. After 6 months, the AIDS subjects worked on remotely by healers were healthier in every parameter (Sicher et al., 1998).

Dr. William Braud a professor and researcher in the field of consciousness studies (http://integral-inquiry.com/cybrary.html), used remote intervention to influence the mental processes of subjects. As a result, subjects treated remotely were able to focuses their attention more successfully (1995). Used consciously or unconsciously, direct mental influence is a tool in therapy. Images held in a therapist’s mind can influence the physiology, and mind of client. If a therapist is not self aware of his/her own current feelings or prejudices towards a patient, no amount of technique can promote healing. Intention influences physical and mental health, it effects outcomes.

Along these same lines, another aspect to consider is the effects of projective identification (PI). Projective identification occurs when a person denies a part of his/herself and projects this denied part of him/herself. This projection does not “bounce off” the other person, but rather projects “into” the other influencing the receiver and in some cases controlling the receiver. The projection can be good or bad feelings and projection can be occur consciously as is often done with “con” men or  sociopaths, or as is more common, unconsciously. The receiver of PI is changed by the projection and can in fact begin to behave or feel as if the projected thoughts, beliefs, or feelings were internally generated.
Typically, we think of the client when discussing projective identification and as therapists discussions examine how to identify the occurrence and withstand the powerful pressure this influence can exert. Some have gone as far as to compare PI to mind control and indeed we can consider this possibility in light of the research presented.  Therapists who do not know their own mind, thoughts, feelings, are more susceptible to the effects of client PI, unable to discern between the projected feelings and thoughts of their clients versus their own internally generated ones.

Fascinatingly enough, what is not discussed is that the therapist (or doctor, etc) can also generate PI. Unresolved issues, unconscious thoughts and feelings can be stimulated by and projected onto/into a client. While this process have a positive therapeutic for the client, if the PI thoughts are negative the client, unaware of this dynamic can suffer the effects physically, mentally, and emotionally. The research examples given here show that genuine and honest positive thoughts can positively effect outcomes, and vice versa. We know as therapists that when our clients express one set of feelings or beliefs, and unconsciously hold another reality to be true that progress and recovery cannot occur. Why do we not discuss the reverse; if a therapist believe s/he is projecting positive thoughts and feelings towards a client however, unconsciously hold another set of beliefs,  the client will suffer. While some of this is addressed when a therapist works under supervision (and who supervises the supervisor), what happens when the therapist is on his/her own? Health practioners need to practice—on themselves. As they are the instrument of healing and change they need to keep that instrument finely tuned. Self-cultivation, spiritually, mentally, and physically need to be considered as part of the helping professionals’ ongoing protocol to make them a clear channel for healing. 

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Bengston, W.F., & Krinsley, D. (2000). The effect of the “laying on of hands” on transplanted breast cancer in mice. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 14(3), 353-364. Retrieved November 2, 2006 from http://www.scientificexploration.org/jse/articles/pdf/14.3_bengston_krinsley.pdf.
Braud, W., Shafer, D., McNeill, K., & Guerra. (1995, April). Attention focusing facilitated through remote mental interaction. American Society for Psychical Research, (89)2, 103-115. Retrieved November 1, 2006 from http://www.integral-inquiry.com/docs/649/attention2.pdf.
Emoto, M. & Thayne, D.A. (2004). The hidden messages in water. Oregon: Beyond Words Publisher.
Grad, B. (1965). Some biological effects of effects “laying on of hands”: a review of experiments with animals and plants. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 59, 95-127.
Nash, C.B. (1982). Psychokinetic control of bacterial growth. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 51, 217-221.
Sicher, F., Targ, E., Moore, D., & Smith, H.S. (1998, December) A randomized double-blind study of the effect of distant healing in a population with advanced AIDS. Report of a small scale study. Western Journal of Medicine, 169(6): 356–363. Retrieved October 31, 2006 from http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1305403&blobtype=pdf.
Solfvin. G. F. (1982). Psi expectancy effects in psychic healing studies with malarial mice. European Journal of Parapsychology, 4(2), 160-197.

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