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Diagnosis, Prognosis and Healing


Bernie Siegel, M.D.

As a practicing physician I have learned that a given diagnosis or pathology report does not predict the future for an individual. I have a standing bet: I will give a year's salary to anyone who can guess, within six months, from a pathology report, when someone died; but if they miss, I get their salary.

No one takes me up on the bet because you do not know what will happen to an individual. Therefore, I can give a diagnosis with hope. As one of my patients said when I told him he had cancer, "I guess that means I have five or ten thousand miles left."

Words can give hope or destroy it. Hope is physiologic. When taken away, it can lead to death in very short order. A woman overheard a cardiologist tell medical students she was a classic case of T.S. (Tricuspid Stenosis, a heart murmur). She thought it meant "Terminal Situation" and was dead in a day. Rose

On the other hand, a man's cardiologist told him he had a gallop rhythm (a sign of severe heart disease). He recovered. Why? Because he thought it meant his heart was as strong as a horse's.

When one asks patients to describe their afflictions, their language is always metaphorical and symbolic.

In the symbolism is the message of the patient's illness. Listen to their words. They will help you guide your patients through their affliction to a resurrection.

A patient's dreams and drawings can reveal that person's unconscious awareness of therapeutic choices and healing paths as well as the symbolic meaning of the illness. They often reveal the unknown, make it known and suggest solutions that were not available to the patient through normal awareness.

Drawings can also reveal discrepancies between what is said and what is deeply felt. For example, a person expressing feelings of hope and cheerfulness may draw a picture conveying despair. Drawings reveal whether the patient believes his medicine to be an ally or "poison."

The mind and body communicate through nerves, hormones and symbols. Jung interpreted dreams 50 years ago and used the information to help him make a physical diagnosis. We are capable of the same thing today. Equally important, we have learned that we can send symbolic healing messages back to the body.

The intellect and unconscious have separate and distinct knowledge at times. Unifying these systems through healing symbols alters the body's ability to recover.

The important point is the unique nature of each patient's symbols. We are basically lovers, not killers, and must find a way to incorporate our personal beliefs and symbols into a healing pattern. The message is to heal your life and thereby cure more diseases.

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