Originally published in the Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis
1995, Vol 16, Number 2, pp51-58
“Hypnotic Intervention in the Psychological, and Hence Physiological, Regeneration of Amputated Tissue”
Hypnosis is recognised as a therapeutic tool for the promotion of the healing process. Regeneration of the tissue required “injury potentials” which may be heightened by suggestion. Eastern philosophy provides a workable model to overcome resistance to the idea of regrowth of amputated body parts. A sample script is provided to indicate the method of incorporating the major points. Belief systems provide the parameters of success.
That hypnosis can be of benefit in accelerating the healing of wounds, controlling blood flow, altering blood pressure and many other physiological processes has been well documented for many years (Van Pelt, S.J., Ambrose, G., & Newbold, G., 1975, Haley, 1967; Shrader, 1976). However the theoretical constructs used to explain such phenomena are not so clearly postulated or universally accepted.
Becker (1985) makes the point that much of his "luck" in his pioneering research on electronically stimulated bone fracture healing and tissue regeneration is due to his having "spent far too much time on a few incurable patients whom no one else wanted, trying to find out how our ignorance had failed them." His discoveries show that nature appears to make use of electricity in many simple and elegant ways.
The remarkable ability of the salamander (and other reptiles) to regenerate lost limbs appears to depend on the electrical effects. The damaged tissue around the amputated side produces a potential difference and a current flow around the injury location. These "injury potentials" occur widely and have even been detected in plant tissues (McGarry, 1982). Frogs do not register such large currents as salamanders and do not regenerate limbs, but even in the frog the development of bone, muscle and cartilage can be enhanced by implanting a minute electrical battery to enhance the “injury potentials”. Reversal of the battery polarity causes tissue degeneration (Battocletti, 1976).
Presman (1970) and Llaurado, J.G., Sances, A., and Battocletti, J.H. (1974) have also shown that the use of magnets can produce similar enhancement of the injury potentials and that the north pole of the magnet must be directed toward the damaged cells to facilitate the healing process.
This capability has not been completely lost in the progression of human evolution. Dr. Cynthia Illingworth (1974) has over many years found that children with amputated fingertips’ are able to regenerate a new fingertip, even having the same fingerprint, provided that the injury is not sutured but just dressed and kept sterile so that the natural electrical potentials can establish themselves. Dr. Tony Barker (1981), Barker & Foulds (1983) using a vibrating probe measuring technique, found that the magnitude of the currents around wounds and their variation in time were identical to those produced by the salamander.
Likewise Dr. Bjorn Nordenstrom (1983) has found that he can replace the “injury potentials” which should appear (but often do not) in the vicinity of tumour tissue by inserting electrodes, one into the tumour and the other into the surrounding tissue; he then applies the appropriate voltages for an external source.
Smith and Best (1989) state that the mechanisms whereby the cell layers develop within an embryo to form limbs and organs are electrically controlled. Nerve cell growth cones migrate parallel to an electric field to innervate their target organs and can sprout outgrowths in fields of the order of 10V/m (300 uV across the cell width).
Since hypnotherapy techniques have a proven record in replicating many of the results obtained with the use of electrical probes it may be that hypnotic procedures operating physiologically are manipulating the body at an electrical level. Melzack (1992) considers that the modification of the electrical activity of those parts of the body which are involved in maintaining the health and wellbeing of the body may be through the brain’s control circuits. It could therefore be possible to implement a therapy to regrow amputated body parts.The fact is though, that “western-science-orientated-materialists” tend not to be able to achieve this.
Success has, however been possible in those patients who have been able to adopt a “pagan” or “pantheistic” mind set. Yoga (and many other philosophies) teach that ‘intelligence’ or ‘consciousness’ extends through a dimension of vibration which includes a mental level where thought takes place, an emotional level where feelings are experienced, and a physical level (the ‘reality’ of the materialist). The whole interacting through a process of resonances. Intrinsic to this model is the concept that the lower frequencies (the body) are a ‘reflection’ of the higher levels – as above, so below – and that the basis for the shape of the physical body is embodied in the mental blueprint; the self-image that each entity has stored in its mind (Patanjali circa 500AD).
This model neatly explains phantom limb phenomena as the extension of the mental blueprint into the physical world, even though the physical material comprising that part of the body is missing. As healing takes place after an amputation it is usual, some say necessary, that the phantom limb disappears as the patient adjusts their mental blueprint to match the new amputated form (McGarry, 1992). It is therefore considered a necessary preliminary that in order to regrow missing parts of the original pre-amputation mental blueprint be reinstated as a guide for the regrowth.
The works of Reid (1989), Weber (1979) and others are providing a foundation of the flourishing movement among some nurses and medical practitioners who have recognised that there is a field force around living things and that “Psychophysical Healing” techniques have a place in health care. Integral to such eastern wholistic approaches is that what we are measuring in the body with our electrical measuring devices is not electrical (or magnetic) in nature but what Reid calls a “fifth force” and yogis and shamans call prana, chi, mana, etc. Such a bioenergetic field interacts with electrical and magnetic fields to provide us with readings we have obtained (Hameroff, 1974).
The next step in a therapeutic program is to introduce, or more correctly to reintroduce, the “injury potentials” to the side of the amputation so that the regeneration can proceed into the phantom limb zone. Consistent with Illingworth’s research it has been found that these signals will be stronger in children than in adults, and stronger still in infants than in children.
It has been found that different cells are laid down at the amputation site at different speeds. Skin and meat are much faster growing than bone for example,and nerve cells are the slowest of all and so limit the speed of regeneration.
Hypnosis together with a little dab of eastern philosophy is the treatment of choice for this protocol in western society and the following “royalty & copyright free” sample script has been used with success. For simplicity the script is given here for a partially missing left index finger – modify as necessary.
Use an appropriate induction for the patient then:
"I want you to imagine that you are sitting in front of a mirror. Use your imagination and memory to get a clear image of yourself in the mirror.
Pay attention to the details, see the way your hair falls, the colour of your eyes… etc. down through the body … the veins under the skin on your feet, the toenails on each toe.
(make allowance for the amputated part(s) of the body which should be seen as they currently are).
As you focus all your attention and awareness into that image in the mirror we are going to float free through time, drifting back through the days and weeks (and years?) to the time before you lost your left index finger.
(ideamotor responses indicating success at each stage give feedback that the patient is ready to proceed to the next step).
As we drift back to that time you can observe yourself in the mirror complete and whole again.
As you clearly observe that index finger from different angles you can observe the whorls of the fingerprint, you can notice whether the nail needs trimming, you can compare your two hands and observe the symmetry of the index fingers.
I want you to bring that image into the present and superimpose it on the present self-image.
Notice that the left index finger is the only part which doesn’t have two images on top of each other.
Double the part of the image which is single so that it becomes a solid and real as the rest of the body.
You can check that you have done that completely because when it is doubled you will find that you can feel your left index finger resting against your thigh along with the rest of your left hand.
You can continue to feel that finger as you begin to come out of the hypnotic state now."
Return the patient back to waking consciousness and check for phantom limb phenomena. Many patients report objective feedback from their ‘phantom limbs’ so in addition to their self-report, try touching the space which would have been occupied by the missing "limb" whilst the patient’s view is obstructed. See whether or not the patient is able to report when the "contact" is made. Success may give you a cold shiver, but that’s just your preconceptions crumbling – and this is one session that you won’t remember as boring.
Even if the patient can demonstrate successful "phantom limb" awareness after a first attempt at this therapy it should be repeated, preferably in the same session, and the success anchored so that the awareness continues to become stronger. This manifestation of the blueprint is the mould which is to be filled with the cellular structure of the physical material.
The next session should concentrate on building the injury potentials up to that which would be produced by an infant, if not a salamander.
After an appropriate hypnotic induction, regress the patient to early childhood, as early as possible, then:
"I want you to be aware of the vitality in this young body.
Feel the life force pulsing within you, the sense of lightness and the feeling of bubbling powerfulness of your energy.
This energy will be more spread out later when your body is larger, but just now it is much more concentrated.
The energy of the sun shines down into you, the energy of the earth shines up into you, and you are at the centre of this growing power of the lifeforce of the earth.
It’s in the air that you breathe, the water that you drink, the food that you eat.
Every moment that passes, you absorb more and more of this living energy.
It is part of why you grow.
Focus on the energy flowing in your left index finger, the power in the cells of the finger.
Bring this feeling up into the present now.
Feel it in your left index finger, flowing through every cell, calling to the rest of the body for the nutrients and minerals and materials to fill in the blueprint of your finger.
Feel the sensation of growth surging through space and time as the finger is regrowing."
Bring the patient to waking consciousness and check that the feeling of growth is constant. The subjective description of that sensation may be highly original "like a lullaby played by a symphony orchestra", and "a blue undertow" have been reported along with the more mundane "pressure" and "gentle tingle".
Further anchoring of the suggestions, given by tying the therapy as a package to everyday events will enhance the process of regeneration and reinforce the effectiveness of the therapy, of the type:
"Every time you do "X" you automatically strengthen all of these ideas that I’ve placed deep in your mind."
When I lost part of my left index finger (McGarry, 1993), my healing program included getting rid of the phantom limb awareness and so the preliminary part of this program was obviously necessary. Some patients report that they have gradually lost it over the time since their amputation, whilst others still have the phenomenon after many years.
In all cases treatment progressed best when the preliminary session described above was used.
Regeneration of tissue is slow. Typically about 6mm per year regardless of the age of the patient; in the case of my own finger–15mm in three years. My initial belief that the nerve cells don’t regenerate may be one of the reasons that I’ve found that nerve cells are the slowest to grow back.
As a keen archer I used my daily practice of 60 arrows to reinforce the regeneration ideas: "each arrow reinforces … etc." The light tingle in the fingertips which is normal after shooting practice then became a strengthening signal that the suggestions were being obeyed with subsequent feedback of measurable growth.
One of the most important parts of my training as a hypnotherapist was learning about what I call the fishskin fiasco (cited in Playfair, 1976). In 1951 Dr. Albert Mason reported in the British Medical Journal that he had successfully used hypnosis to treat Ichthyosiform Erythrodermia ("fishskin disease" – the famous elephant man suffered from this). Dr Mason’s success was initially due to his mistaken belief that he was treating multiple warts with which he was confident of success. Following publication of his article other hypnotherapists including Dr Wink found that they too could cure this disease. Dr Mason meanwhile discovered the real nature of the problem he was curing and then found he could no longer gain success. He published a second article in the British Medical Journal in 1961 announcing his revised findings and stated that he no longer felt that hypothesis could help with the treatment of this disease. Once Dr Wink, and six other hypnotherapists, who had been successfully treating ichthyosis on the basis of belief in Mason’s 1951 report read the second article they too began having failures.
The belief system of the therapist will set important limits on the possibility of success with this (or any) protocol. We owe it to our patients to stretch those limits not only in what we are able to do, but in the things we allow ourselves the capability of thinking.
© Copyright James McGarry, 1995. All Rights Reserved.
Barker, A.T., Jaffe, L.F. & Vonable, J.W. (1981), Lateral voltage gradients near mammalian skin wounds. American Journal of Medical Zoology, 21(4), 998-1007.
Barker, A.T., & Founds, I.S. (1983) Human skin battery potentials, their variation with site, age and sex. Clinical Physiology Papers 4(1), 101-102.
Battocletti, J.H. (1976) Electromagnetism, man and the environment. Boulder: Westview.
Becker, R.O., & Selden, G. (1985) The body electric. New York: Morrow
Illingworth, C.M. (1974) Trapped fingers and amputated fingertips in children. Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 9(6), 853-858.
Haley, J. (1967) Advanced techniques of hypnosis and therapy. New York: Grune & Stratton.
Hameroff, S.R. (1974) Ch’i: A neural hologram? Microtubules, bioholography and acupuncture. American Journal of Chinese Acupuncture, 2(2), 163-170.
Llaudrado, J.G., Sances, A. & Battocletti, J.H (1974) Bologic and clinical effects of low frequency magnetic and electrical fields. Springfield: Charles C Thomas.
McGarry, J. (1982) The power of mind: An experimental approach. The Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and hypnosis, 3(2), 91-97.
McGarry, J. (1993) Hypnotic interventions in psychological and physiological aspects of amputation. The Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis, 14(1), 7-12.
Metzack, R. (1992) Phantom limbs. Scientific American, April, 90-96.
Nordenstrom, B.E.W. (1983) Biologically closed electrical circuits: clinical, experimental and theoretical evidence for an additional circulatory system. Stockholm: Nordic Medical
Patanjali, Sri (circa 500, copied by individual yogis for personal reference) The sutras of raja yoga. Manipur: Manipur University Ashram Press.
Playfair, G. (1976) If this be magic. London: Wiley & Sons
Presman, A.S. (1970) translated from Russion by Sinclair F.L. Electromagnetic Fields and Life. New York: Plenum.
Reid, B. (1989) Medical hypotheses. London: Longmans.
Shrader, Wesley (1976) The amazing power of hypnosis, New York: Doubleday
Smith, C.W., & Best, S. (1989) Electromagnetic man: Health & hazard in the electrical environment. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Van Pelt, S.J., Ambrose, G. & Newbold, G. (1957 Medical Hypnosis Handbook. California: Wilshire
Weber, R. (1979) Philosophical foundations and frameworks for healing: Re-Vision. Summer/Fall, 66-77.