healing

eftIn my long and quite personal – apologies for that – introduction to this subject, I referred to an “evidence-based energy psychology technique” and promised that I would have given further details in the follow-on article. Here we are then, introducing, for those who don’t already know it Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT.

Often referred to as “psychological acupressure”, the technique allegedly works by releasing “blockages” within the “energy system” which are said to be the source of emotional discomfort and a variety of physical ailments. The idea is that such blockages, in addition to challenging us emotionally, often lead to limiting beliefs and behaviours and an inability to live life harmoniously. Resulting symptoms are emotional and/or physical and include lack of confidence and self-esteem, feeling stuck anxious or depressed, the emergence of compulsive and addictive behaviours and a variety of pain syndromes. An EFT treatment involves the use of fingertips rather than needles to tap on the end points of energy meridians that are situated just beneath the surface of the skin, combined with an extremely simplified form of talk therapy. The technique is so simple that it can easily be self-administered. A wide range of free tutorials are available here for anybody wishing to know more.

Now, I must admit that, when I first learnt about EFT, my toes curled up inside my shoes big time. Even with all the weirdness that I have painfully come to accept during my ten years as a student of psychical research, the idea of an “energy system” that can be “blocked” and lead to emotional or physical consequences made very little sense to me. But, before dismissing this as the umpteenth new fad in pop psychology and alternative therapies, I wanted to investigate a little more, especially because the proponents claim this to be an “evidence-based” method,  that is one supported by experimental evidence.

And, lo and behold, there is in fact a plethora of papers in which outcomes, such as, for instance, levels of pain or degree of depressive symptoms, are measured either between two groups, or between the same people before and after EFT. These studies – several dozens – are concerned with conditions such as anxiety, depression, pain and other physical symptoms, phobias, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, cravings and addictions and in support of weight loss. There are plenty of clinical reports, which describe the use of EFT with various groups, e.g. university students, prisoners, refugees, or abused children. There are comprehensive reviews and meta-analyses, drawing general conclusions about the characteristics of the method.

The conclusions leave little room for discussion, and the status of EFT as an evidence-based practice is summarized in this statement published in the American Psychological Association journal Review of General Psychology:

“A literature search identified 51 peer-reviewed papers that report or investigate clinical outcomes following the tapping of acupuncture points to address psychological issues. The 18 randomized controlled trials in this sample were critically evaluated for design quality, leading to the conclusion that they consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions. Criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association were also applied and found to be met for a number of conditions, including PTSD.”

Here, I cannot resist pointing out the ghastly treatment the skeptic-dominated Wikipedia reserves to EFT. As usual, we find feature newspaper reports, opinion pieces and review articles attacking the method, whilst the posting of any of the more than 100 outcome studies, randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and review papers supporting the method is actively censored by the guerrilla skeptic editors. Amen to that.

The question is, however, What does all this have to do with my being a “low responders” to aerobic and muscle training?

Well, after having gone through the EFT tutorials a few years ago and after having applied the technique with apparent considerable success for minor ailments with family and friends, it has dawned upon me, in recent times, that perhaps something could be done to lessen the impact of the genetic condition that makes me essentially untrainable. What if – I asked myself – the expression of this genetic makeup was exacerbated by my own beliefs of being weak and untrainable? If I cannot change my genes, can I perhaps slightly modify their expression?

So, I searched for any research on the use of EFT to improve athletic performance. And found some!

There is no point in annoying my readers with all the personal details of how I applied the EFT techniques onto myself, basically accepting the idea that my lack of progress can be at least in part determined by “energy imbalances” or “energy blockages”.

The important fact is that, to my surprise and delight, the method appears to have worked. As I was saying in my previous article, I have a very sensitive way to gauge my progress – the difficulty of the routes that I am able to climb. You may remember that, for years and years, my ceiling was at the “5c+” level. With great effort, I could manage a move or two at the “6a” level. Now, at the indoor climbing wall where I train during winter months, I climb six of the seven “6a” routes, from bottom to top. I also climb several “6a+”, and, quite astonishingly, I completed three “6b” routes.

Does this mean that I have changed my genetic makeup and I will be competing in sports climbing at the next Olympic games? Not in the least. But something has definitely happened. A performance ceiling that has been with me since I got into this mountain climbing craze, eight years ago, has definitely been broken. I have also worked with EFT on the sense of constant fatigue that has plagued me for the last year or so (despite my healthy and sporty lifestyle) and on the muscle and joint pains I didn’t know what to do with. And all that has definitely improved. I mean definitely, markedly. If you were to ask me how much my situation has improved – between sports performance and general well-being – I would answer: 25%. Yes, as exquisitely personal, intuitive and unscientific as that can be, I would say that I am 25% better then I was before.

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srtThis is the third and concluding article in my mini-series inspired by the writing of Terence Palmer PhD. I understand the confusion I may have created for some of my readers with the numbering of the articles, and I apologise. This one is indeed the third, but it’s numbered as II. Reason is that the first article was a general introduction, whilst the second and the third deal specifically with Spirit Release Therapy, and therefore are numbered I and II. A sub-series in the mini-series? Apologies again for that.

I would like to introduce now a couple of clinical examples, exactly as reported by Dr Palmer in his Paranormal Review article. Then, as usual, I will contribute some of my own reflection. Dr Palmer reports about:

“The schoolgirl who could not walk. This was a fifteen-year-old girl who had progressively lost the use of her legs until she had to be taken to school in a wheelchair. There was no medical explanation for her condition and when I visited her home she was seen to be crawling on her elbows from room to room as she dragged her legs behind her. On investigation, it was discovered that when she was eight years old she had been playing in the garden of a friend when her friend’s uncle had tried to sexually abuse her. The fear generated by this experience attracted a discarnate entity that used the fear to attach itself and incapacitate her. This case is representative of how fear is used as an attractant and reinforces the hypothesis of ‘sympathetic resonance’ where emotions emit an energetic frequency that acts as a beacon to attract negative spirit entities.”

Wow, says I.

From another case, we learn about:

“The school teacher with an impulse to electrocute herself. Investigation revealed that this woman had been a healer in a previous life and had been hanged as a witch in sixteenth century Scotland. Although she had a leaning to
wards nursing, her past-life experience prompted her into the teaching profession, but her healing abilities were being thwarted by a dark force entity (DFE) whose job it ws to prevent her. The entity was responsible for inducing her to the potentially lethal obsession to place her fingers into electrical sockets.”

Double wow, says I.

I have to admit that, even after all I have learnt in my ten years as a scholar of psychical research and with all the open mindedness I am capable of, these accounts make my toes curl inside my shoes big time.

My readers who have read the previous two articles may be under the impression that I am favourably disposed towards Spirit Release Therapy (SRT). This is not true, primarily because I know next to nothing about it. In a way, I must admit, the real reason to start this mini-series was a series of “collateral” reflections triggered by the original Paranormal Review article. Now, however, it is time to tackle the main issue head on.

To do so, I will assume that the two clinical cases briefly sketched by Dr Palmer are representative of what goes on in SRT. Incidentally, similar cases are reported by another author in the same issue of the Review. We have patients showing exceedingly weird symptoms and/or a variety of disruptive behaviours whom are reportedly cured by therapists by basically asking a “possessing spirit” to leave their body. This is an over-simplification, but it captures the essence of the procedure.

This first question is – what evidence do we have that SRT actually works (that is, the patients are relieved of their symptoms)? We only have the word of the therapists themselves and, possibly, corroborating statements by the patients. This is not unusual for healing interventions, however, particularly in psychology. Plus, this is such a “frontier” kind of therapy that I think controlled studies comparing its outcomes to more established therapies are a thing for the distant future. We therefore have to give credit to the qualified and serious professionals gathered in the Spirit Release Forum, and assume that yes, SRT does work.

The second question, which for me is more interesting, is – does the fact that SRT works, at least in some cases, prove that its theoretical foundation is correct? Does it mean that “dark force entities” actually exist, and that they do take possession of people’s bodies? No, not necessarily. Think of Freudian psychoanalysis, for instance, which can be said to work as a therapy, at least in some cases, and yet is based on a theoretical foundation that is today widely considered as unscientific, unsupported by evidence and basically false.

Is SRT’s claimed success a result of the quality of the therapist, of the nature of the relationship between therapist and patient (exactly as it seems to be happening in psychoanalysis)? Are therapist and patient engaging in a sort of pantomime, completely based on fantasy, but which turns out to be effective?

Yes, this is indeed a possibility. And, exactly the same can be said for the claimed success of Regression Therapy, which assumes that some symptoms experienced by a patient today are the result of traumas suffered during previous incarnations.

Or, one could take the results of SRT and its explanations at face value. And then accept that yes, we do live many lives; and yes, previous lives do condition the present one; and yes discarnate personalities exist in the spirit world in different forms, and some of these are “negative” and can indeed attach to living bodies and cause havoc; and, finally, yes, the Archangel Gabriel can be summoned to escort away Dark Samuel, a discarnate entity who thought that a certain patient was his own possession, as recounted in another one of Dr Palmer’s cases.

The fact that many of these ideas have been echoed for centuries in the communications by alleged discarnate entities and in the writing of a variety of “seers” (from Emmanuel Swedenborg to Edward Cayce) does nothing to ease my own sense of confusion and of being at a loss.

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51Kg--d0c8L._AC_US320_QL65_This is the second article in the mini-series inspired by the writing of Terence Palmer, PhD, appeared last year in the Paranormal Review of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). As briefly discussed in the previous article, Dr Palmer’s main focus of interest is Spirit Release Therapy (SRT) which, broadly speaking, is based on the working hypothesis that what may appear as Multiple Personality Disorder or as schizophrenia is in fact the manifestation of spirit possession. I understand that the very idea of spirit possession can be disturbing for some readers. Also, this article and the next are going to be a tad technical, mixing concepts from psychical research, consciousness studies and mental health. May I perhaps suggest that the more sensitive amongst my readers, and the less inclined to ponder over technical issues, rather than abandoning my mailing list altogether, just “wait out” a couple of articles?

Admittedly, the fact that spirit possession might be responsible for some mental health problems is a highly controversial hypothesis, one which is sure to send skeptics into a frenzy, and one with which even those open to/convinced about the idea that human personality survives the death of the physical body may find difficult to accept. It is one hypothesis, however, which, during the last couple of decades, has attracted interest on the part of some very reputable mental health professionals, including clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. They have come together in a professional organisation (the Spirit Release Forum) and they claim pretty extraordinary clinical results. We will look at a few cases in the next and last article. What I find very interesting is that addressing these severe mental disorders as if they were caused by a discarnate personality “taking possession” of a physical body already “inhabited” by one earthly personality appears to work, often extremely well. Symptoms improve, often dramatically, whether the working hypothesis is actually true or not.

In his overview of this vast subject, Dr Palmer introduces a couple of concepts which I found of capital importance for anybody reflecting on the issue of consciousness and its possible survival. These concepts are essential in as they provide the necessary foundation for SRT, and I would like to briefly discuss them here.

The first has to do with living bodies and to what SPR founder Frederic Myers called the “continuum of experience”. Dr Palmer writes:

“A question I am often asked is: what percentage of people are influenced by spirit? In order to answer this, let me first apply Myers’ conclusions that all human beings are spirits that occupy, or ‘possess’ a human body. If this assertion is correct then the percentage of the population that are affected by spirit is 100 percent. But to what extent are we affected or influenced by other spirits, either living, earthbound and discarnate, angelic or demonic? First, we have to accept the evidence from Myers’ research and take it at face value that spirits have the acknowledged ontological status that we all have. Then we can hypothesise on our individual susceptibility to spirit influence according to several factors.

For example, are we able to dissociate or enter into an altered state of consciousness, are we hypnotisable, do we have mystical experiences, do we hear voices, etc.? On a scale 0 – 100, if you are one of those people at the 0 – 20 end of the continuum, then you will not be influenced by suggestion or be aware of anything of a discarnate spiritual nature. You will not have any mystical experiences and due to your analytical mind you will be rational in your explanations as to why others have such experiences. You may also attribute your flashes of creative inspiration to your own subconscious rather than to any spirit guidance. However, as we move along the continuum then things do change. We become progressively more vulnerable and more susceptible to the power of suggestion, to creative or magical thinking, and to mystical experiences and spirit influence, and we may experience unexplained synchronicities.

As we approach the 80 – 100 at the extreme end of the continuum, those with a robust sense of self will be mediumistic and able to control the influence on them from the spirit world. These people will be Spiritualist mediums or shamans. But those with a fragmented sense of self […] will be subject to psychosis and negative spirit possession.

[…]

This is where the art and skill of the psychiatrist is tested. It is not sufficient to simply diagnose personality disorders, dissociation identity disorder (DID, psychosis or schizophrenia, but to consider the very high probability that the cause is spiritual in nature, especially when the symptoms are accompanied by auditory voice intrusions or command hallucinations.”

On this crucial subject, Palmer concludes: “During my research, I have discovered that there are correlations between hypnotisability and dissociation schizotypal personality disorders and what Thalbourne calls ‘transliminality’, which is his term for the ability to enter into an altered state of consciousness.” Is in it most intriguing that Thalbourne’s transliminality also strongly correlates with PSI performance in laboratory parapsychology experiments?

The second concept, which is not explicitly discussed by Dr Palmer but is integral to the working hypothesis behind SRT, has to do with the nature of the nonmaterial dimension of existence we call the spirit world, and with the conditions the discarnate personalities find themselves in. The “theoretical edifice” of SRT, I believe, would collapse if we did not accept the existence of “earthbound spirits” and, implicitly, of “negative spirits”.

This has been said time and again by spirits communicating with us through mediums. Souls (for lack of a better word) with a strong attachment to earthly life, possessions, power, pleasures, notably including those suffering from various forms of addiction, tend to gravitate in “lower levels” of the spirit world. They may be behind some of the haunting manifestations, they may be the ones featuring in some apparitions, and they may be the ones “taking possession” of earthly bodies in order to re-enact the life style they are so attached to.

To me, I must admit, this idea always felt a little too simple, and I have an instinctive distrust for explanations which look so simple, obvious, almost childish (like the idea of a personified, human god). However, not only this idea has been consistently put forward by spirit communicators in completely different eras, cultures and places (in itself an intriguing observation) but it also conveniently explains a range of different phenomena. And, crucially, it provides the basis for a clinical approach that produces very good, and at times excellent, results where many others have failed.

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earth
I apologise if, with this article, I deviate from my usual subject area. My readers know that, although I very often deal with controversial and difficult to explain subjects, is not simply the weird or the apparently mysterious that interests me. My main and continuing focus is the nature
of consciousness and its possible survival of physical death. Occasionally, however, a piece of information comes my way that triggers my curiosity and motivates me to dig a little deeper and even, as in this particular case, carry out a little experiment myself.

It is my friend Dave Haith that is generally behind my “extracurricular” escapades. He feeds me an almost constant flow of pointers, links, articles and some of his own thoughtful reflections. As part of this correspondence, a couple of months ago he shared with me a striking experience he’d just had. A long time sufferer of sever back pain problems, he had found instant relief by… connecting himself – electrically – to earth. Together with his own experience, he shared the link of feature documentaries, which I then went on watching.

As it often is the case with this kind of productions, the documentaries basically consist in an endless succession of testimonies by seemingly credible people claiming almost miraculous (and in some cases, entirely miraculous) improvements in a variety of health conditions obtained by making electrical contact with earth. The ideal method, we learn, is to walk barefoot on wet soil. Since this is impractical for most of us, the second best – and allegedly as effective – method is to connect a wire to the earth pin of our houses’ electrical sockets, and spend some time every day with that wire coiled around a wrist or an ankle.

Important note. Before I go any further, I need to warn my readers: in case you were tempted to try this method, BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL. Connecting your body to the wrong pin in your electrical socket may result in severe injury and likely death. Discuss this with a qualified electrician or engineer before you do anything!

Now, back to the documentaries (look up “earthing” on YouTube and you will find dozens), the litany of personal accounts and testimonies is occasionally interrupted by a science person (a scientist or a physician), sympathetic to the cause, providing what may be an explanation for the effects and corroborating the clinical findings. The beneficial effects of connecting oneself electrically to earth allegedly depend upon an excess of negative electrical charge prevailing on the surface of our planet. Whilst this is a well-documented fact, the exact mechanism through which such excess negative charge could positively affect the the human body remains unclear. However, some of these results seem to have been demonstrated in clinical trials, and a small number of peer-reviewed papers have indeed been published on the subject.

Me being myself, I must admit that I looked at this mass of information with a wary eye. “Yet another miracle cure…” I said to myself. Can it be possible that all these alternative therapies (alternative not only to mainstream medicine but often alternative to one another and somehow conflicting/contradictory) actually work? They all claim wondrous results, with tons of supporting anecdotal evidence and usually very little controlled studies. Also, I already have a hard time in taking in and making sense of the results of psychical research, and I don’t feel I have the intellectual space and energy to take in more subjects.

However, in the case of earthing, one apparently marginal experiment caught my attention. In the simplest of protocols, two similar cut flowers were put into identical vases, with an equal quantity of water. The only difference was that an electrical wire connected to earth was dropped in one of the two vases. Pictures were taken every day for a period of several weeks, to document any difference in the decay process. At the end of the experiment, the flower in the vase without the wire was a complete, withered wreck, to the point that the stem had bent. The other one has certainly decayed as well, but much, much less. Quite remarkable, I thought.

So, I told myself, why not trying this very simple experiment? My flowers went into the water on December 23rd, and for a good three weeks no noticeable difference was seen. But then, lo and behold, the flowers in the vase without the wire started showing unmistakeable signs of ageing, almost of fatigue, whilst the other bunch seemed to be doing much better. If you compare the stems, you will see that the one of the unwired flower appears brownish/gray, whilst the other one is still green. Unfortunately, the pictures do not do justice to the actual difference, which was much more noticeable in real life. Several visitors to the house were asked to choose which bunch looked better, before knowing about the wire, and nobody ever had a doubt. Clicking on the image you can see a large, high-definition version.

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Seven weeks after the flowers went into the water, I decided to call the experiment off. As shown in the pictures below, the petals of the flowers without the earthing wire had turned brown as if rotting. The earthed flower appears tired and aged, but not entirely dead yet. Please also note that the wired flower is bigger than the unwired one, and I had imagined that it would have used up the small quantity of nutrients (added in the same quantity to the water in the two vases) more quickly. Click on the images for larger, high-definition versions.

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Obviously, this is a completely uncontrolled experiment. I would not present it as anything more than an interesting oddity, for which a number of explanations could be put forward (including the well-known experimenter effect). However, I must confess that for the last two weeks my wife and I have been sleeping with an ankle bracelet connected to the house’s electrical earth… We therefore expect to live to 149 and 151, respectively!

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