drpecci.com
psychospiritual integration
Your Life Journey from a Higher Perspective
Home      Lectures      Hand of the Healer
Print this pageAdd to Favorite

Print this pageAdd to Favorite
 

 

THE HAND OF THE HEALER AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TOUCH
 
No symposium on healing can be complete without discussing the quality of hands that heal and the nature of the skin that responds to them. The skin, as the organ most vulnerable to the external environment, serves as our most intimate interpreter of the material world.  It enshrouds our naked essence and forms the matrix of all the invisible electromagnetic and etheric fields that surround our body and that play an important part in maintaining the life forces within.
 
The existence of electrical fields around the surface of the skin that influence the health of the body and result in disease when improperly balanced is the basis for the claims of the effectiveness of acupuncture. Dr. William Tiller has written about a variety of devices using copper screens and wires specially placed to the extremities to relax and energize the body during sleep. These are diagrammed and extensively examined in his book: “Science and Human Transformation.” Edgar Cayce has given many readings regarding the power of precious stones and gems to influence the aura of the body. Yogananda recommended “astrological bangles” composed of metals such as gold, silver and copper as a boon to health when worn over the biceps of one arm.
 
Magnetic healing was known and practiced by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Hindus. According to Manly Hall, the sorceresses of Thessaly treated the sick with metal rods called “fingers,” while the ancient Chinese valued amber for its magnetic qualities. The lodestone has also been used for this purpose during the Middle Ages in Europe. Anton Mesmer introduced magnetic healing and animal magnetism to the Western world in the l8th Century; and although his results were often spectacular, he was denounced by the learned men of his day because “animal magnetism” could not be seen and hence was not “scientific.”
 
Even modern science is now becoming interested in studying further the apparent power of the hand of the healer. Techniques such as Kirlian photography can demonstrate the presence of a bright corona around the fingertips of a psychic healer that temporarily diminishes significantly in size immediately after touching the diseased member or organ of an ailing patient.
 
All perceptions received by the body can be either energizing or depleting.  Healing of the body through exposure to various lights and colors is a science in itself, and color therapy in one form or another has been frequently discussed in the Cayce readings. Too often we tend to neglect the necessity of open sunlight upon the skin, and then wonder why we are too lacking in energy to enjoy our routine duties. Only recently have the many values of Vitamin D become more recognized.
 
The Russians, according to the book, Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, have demonstrated the ability of the skin to differentiate between colors, even in the dark, and also to sense force fields around minerals, water and other substances in nature. This ability can apparently be trained in most people. Equally important, is research that was initiated a number of years ago at the Presbyterian Hospital in San Francisco in utilizing the skin to help the blind to see. A portable television camera transmits electrical impulses upon the back of the head of a blind subject, and the brain soon learns to integrate these impulses into a close approximation of the original picture.
 
Let us discuss some of the more basic characteristics of the skin.  Foremost, it forms a protective covering over all of the organs of the body. It examines incoming stimuli and can blunt them through drastic alterations in the circulation of the blood. Such vasomotor changes may lead to fainting when the skin is cut or pierced by a needle.
 
While any one of our senses may serve as a source of pain or pleasure, the skin is the largest organ of the body and is equipped with a myriad of temperature, touch, and kinesthetic receptors that makes it our greatest source of erogenous contact with the external world. Sometimes this becomes distorted so that even pain may play a part in sadomasochistic relationships. We also have a growing population of “cutters”, primarily in our teenage and young adult population who experience an addictive sense of relief from cutting on an arm to release emotional tension.
 
Our self-image is largely formed by the appearance of our skin by which others rightly or wrongly judge us as beautiful or ugly. Especially during the teens, it becomes a focus of conflict around exhibitionism and feelings of conceit or shame. In fact, a major distinction between guilt and shame is that shame is almost always centered on impulses to stimulate or bring attention to forbidden areas of the skin, and even the thought may bring a blush to the cheeks.
 
Freud has postulated that a series of erogenous zones which become prominent during various stages of our early development determines the ultimate  nature of our personalities and that most of our conflicts in later life can be traced back to conflicts around acceptance, rejection, suppression or otherwise thwarting of the normal psychological development relating to these zones. The mouth and the lips are used for both eating and pleasure, and mouthing is one of our earliest means of assessing the nature of objects in our environment.  Love is transmitted by the mother through the skin as the baby is rubbed, rolled, powdered, and hugged. The erogenous zones relating to excretion of bodily fluids and wastes becomes our earliest challenge for control and social adaptability. Various forms of stimulation to sensitive areas of the skin may illicit sexual impulses and as well as many deeper emotions.  What is not generally known is that our entire body has a consciousness of its own, which can be awakened by gentle massaging of the lateral thighs, knees, and just below the knees.
 
Paget labeled the first two years of life as the sensorimotor period, emphasizing that most of our early learning comes from sensorimotor activities and the input from the sensory receptors in our skin. Even in adults, some visual or auditory stimulation cannot be integrated by the brain without the appropriate associative muscle responses. Thus, we must move our tongues ever so slightly in order to comprehend fully what we are reading.
 
The skin is formed from the same embryonic germ layer (the ectoderm) as the brain, and so it shouldn’t be any surprise that what goes on in the brain is often seen on the skin. There is a tendency for the skin to be the site of emergency discharge in states of nervous tension. This is mediated through the endocrine-vegetative system and reflects what the brain is doing to those systems. The result is often one of a variety of relatively common psycho-physiologic skin diseases such as neurodermatitis, pruritis, rosacea, urticaria, etc. In addition, many systemic diseases have cutaneous manifestations that are often of important diagnostic value. Louise Hayes has listed a number of these in her popular book: “Heal Your Body A-Z.”
 
My friend, Mayo Hotten, has brought my attention to some highly technical research currently being done into the implications of localized, persistent areas of excessive autonomic activity on the surface of the skin. These areas are called “facilitated segments” (or osteopathic lesions) because they represent a state of hyperirritability in the associated sensory and autonomic pathways and can now be detected by specialized techniques which measure sweat secretion, blood flow, and temperature changes over patchy, localized areas of the body that may not have previously been indicated by tenderness or pain.
 
Dry iodine mixed with starch makes a white powder which, when moistened, becomes a black ink. An innovative chiropractor coated the back and the torso of a number of subjects with this white mixture and had them rest flat on a table in a hot room where they built up a sweat within an hour or two.   This experiment revealed different sweating patterns in different people. These patterns appear in apparently healthy people and often preceded, by months or years, disease to the underlying visceral organs. Clinical disease may be triggered by prolonged periods of stress, but regardless of the underlying cause, they represent a continued bombardment of sympathetic impulses that increases the vasomotor tone of that segment and compromises the blood supply to underlying organs.  The implication, again, is that many chronic degenerative diseases may be ascribable to hyperactivity of the sympathetic innervations to the affected organs that compromises their blood supply.
 
This appears to be consistent with the readings of Edgar Cayce where he recommended manipulation or massage over the spinal nerve roots leading to the deeper viscera and vital organs of the body in order to facilitate, relax or balance the nerve impulses from the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous systems to those organs. The relationship between certain areas of the skin to glands and organs far removed from the site is the basis for a variety of therapies that have come into vogue, including Polarity Therapy, Do-In, Zone Therapy and Shiatsu to name a few.
 
Much research is currently being done in psychosomatic medicine to measure the physical changes on the skin caused by emotional states. These findings indicate that guilt, anger, boredom, irritation may all predispose the individual to itching. States of fear, rage, and tension can induce an increase of sweat secretion. A sense of being wronged or injured is a trigger for urticaria in predisposed individuals. In general, cutaneous irritability reflects vasomotor instability as in the flushing with rage or blanching with fear. In one interesting experiment, a patch of skin on the arms of volunteers was made sensitive by scraping off the epidermis and leaving the pink underlying dermis exposed. The subjects were then given a psychiatric interview. Whenever the topic became emotionally charged, the skin showed a marked increase in weeping and exudation even though the subjects evidenced no obvious disturbance in their facial expressions. The body literally weeps, even when no outward expression of emotion are shown in the eyes. This appears to indicate that the skin is even more sensitive to emotional distress than are the eyes. Even such apparently physical conditions such as atopic dermatitis and eczema appear to be related to a real or threatened loss of love or a strong longing for love.  Not unrelated is the finding by Wallace (1970) that Yoga and Zen meditation causes a temporary rise in electrical skin resistance (ESR) of up to 500 percent. As we know, the common “lie detector” is based upon this principle that the electrical skin resistance due to sweating is increased when a person feels uncomfortable when stating an untruth.
 
All of our feelings and emotional responses to our everyday experiences are coded and stored into the connective tissues and muscle bundles throughout our body, remaining latently responsive to external stimuli that might trigger them back to conscious awareness. Eventually, chronic tension creates adhesions within the connective tissues and between muscle bellies. Ida Rolf developed a painful deep massage method called Rolfing (Structural Integration) to break up these adhesions. However, I have found that, unless the root causes are resolved, these adhesions that serve as a protective armoring for the ego, soon recur.
 
The psychoanalytic literature traces many cases of insecurity, anxiety, and depression to an early frustration or “damming up” of oral and cutaneous drives. Morbid cravings and intolerable tension states often represent an unconscious frustration of the wish to be held, caressed or to nestle against mother’s breast. In depressions and compulsive eating, orality parallels receptive skin eroticism, i.e., a longing for reassuring warmth. Often an outlet is sought in sexual activity, which is only temporarily satisfying.
 
 
The importance of physical contact in early development has been demonstrated by Harlow in monkeys and by Bowlby in children. Ashley Montagu and others have emphasized the importance of mother’s nursing and fondling her baby immediately after birth, a practice that, until recently, was discouraged in hospitals. In one study, a series of video-tapes were made comparing the reactions of mothers to their newborn babies immediately after birth compared with mothers whose babies were premature and kept from them in isolation for several days. The first group of mothers gazed fondly at their babies making such statements as: “He’s gorgeous,” or “I can’t believe she’s mine.” The second group approached their babies timidly and touched them as if they were picking fleas off them, with relatively little expression of warmth. Anthropologists have demonstrated that “mother love” is not an automatic instinct but grows as the result of a series of reciprocal patterns between mother and child involving crying, smiling and touching.
 
Much of children’s play is touch eroticism (mud pies, water, texture, etc.) In fact, the sublimation of touch pleasure is important later in learning to master the external world. To have cutaneous contact with a partner and to feel the warmth of his body is an essential component of all love relationships. To be rejected on the other hand, leaves one “cold.” Infantile sexuality is derived from repetitive cyclical motor patterns involving touch and pleasure from muscle pressure and vestibular activity such as rocking. Later the impulse to smear is seen as cutaneous introjections of pleasurable rectal discharge. Conversely we have Lady Macbeth and Pontius Pilate cleansing and washing their hands of dirty business. Shame, as mentioned previously, is associated with urethral erotic sensations.
 
At the George Miller Jr. Centers for the Handicapped in Contra Costa County, California, we have a Day Nursery for young children and infants and have been able to demonstrate remarkable improvement in severely retarded children who were previously relegated to state institutions as “vegetables.” For a long time, we thought that this progress was the result of our advanced educative and cognitive training techniques. However, one summer we began a program to train teenagers to help handle and care for these children and we were surprised to find that in many areas they were able to duplicate our results. We observed that, affectionate fondling of these babies by teenage volunteers resulted in their greater alertness, improvement in appetite, increased resistance to colds, and greater learning ability as measured by their advancement along the Denver Developmental Scales.
 
In addition to the electrical or magnetic fields, we might describe a psychological zone about the skin. Everyone has his own personal space which he expects others to respect as his private buffer against uninvited intimacy. The size of this zone has been studied and found to be highly culture-specific and tends to be a strong influence upon the varying nature of social customs and amenities in different countries. To purposely force yourself inside the outer limits of this emotionally charged zone or to unnecessarily maintain an excessive distance from it conveys a powerful communicative connotation. At the very least, it indicates a breach of etiquette.
 
Mr. Robert Woodson from the Department of Communication at Florida State University has pointed out to me the behavior of white, middle-class Americans when they are forced into close physical contact with others in public conveyances such as a crowded subway, bus or elevator:
 
“To display proper or appropriate behavior in this particular situation, an individual must become immobile, keep his hands at his side, maintain a somewhat more than normal tense muscle tonus (especially should he be accidentally touched), and fix his eyes on infinity.”
 
The skin is man’s primary vehicle for the expression of love and caring. The great tragedy of the world today is loneliness in the face of great technological advances that appear designed to make intimacy less necessary. Unfortunately, most of us learn to use the skin as a limiting membrane walling us off from the imagined dangers of intimacy with the external world. And rather than use this largest and richest of our sensory structures to open up our world into ever new and broadening experiences, we choose, instead, to make of it a protective shell inside of which we are encased in our loneliness.  There is one common denominator which I find in each anxious, confused, and depressed patient I see, and that is the need for meaningful physical contact, the urge to be hugged. In some cases, I have referred patients to skillful massage therapists as a way to reverse the trend and restore to them a body that dares to feel.
 
Economic factors have created a growing disregard by the medical profession of the importance of the “laying on of hands,” so critical in the past as a means to convey strength, caring and confidence to the patient and in establishing that critical rapport which initiates the processes of healing. The modern physician ignores the touching of the skin in his effort to examine it with x-rays.
 
Let us ask ourselves: For what purpose was given the power of one man to bring healing to another if not for the reason of cementing that bond and communion between two humans that leads to the greater spiritual development of both.    
 

. . . To Be Continued