I had the distinct honour of participating in a teleconference with Dr. Bernie Siegel (www.berniesiegelmd.com) last night and was both impressed and inspired with his work. A surgeon with 30 years experience and numerous books, including “Faith Hope and Healing” and “Love, Medicine and Miracles”, quite frankly, knocked my socks off.
In many ways, I was thrilled to have someone validate my own beliefs. Dr. Siegel has witnessed first hand in his private practice how the power of the emotional mind can alter the body’s chemistry.
A graduate student some years ago did a study with actors. Two actors were each given a script to read, one uplifting, the other, depressing. Blood was drawn before, during and after with very interesting results. The actor with the positive script had higher levels of endorphins while the other had lower, proving that just our state of mind can cause measurable chemical changes in our bodies.
When raising Stefanie, I knew I was tough on her. I realize now that I made her much tougher than her siblings and it might have been perceived as not caring about her woes, when in fact it was exactly the opposite. Little did I know what physical pain she would be able to block as she grew and I guided her to truly knowing she could let go of the pain.
One day she was having a tooth removed and said that the freezing wasn’t working. I thought at the time that she was just feeling the pressure and tugging of the dentists pliers and told her, firmly, that she would be just fine. It hurt a bit and she squirmed a little but never complained. In the end it turned out that the freezing indeed hadn’t taken but she was able to withstand that tooth being pulled. She was so proud of herself.
I was less tough on Ian (which Stefanie reminded me about endlessly) for unknown reasons – probably because he was male and we Mums erroneously baby our boys.
Even though I wasn’t quite as stern, I believe to the depth of my core that parents are responsible for providing unwavering love and reassurance for our children. It starts when they are very little when a kiss can heal anything. They believe it, and their minds make it so.
I have continued to parent in this fashion with the other children and I was surprised (and shouldn’t have been) at Grace’s reaction when she had a very small cut. Being adopted at 16 months, she missed a lot of the reassuring words and kisses. She missed being cheered on after a tumble, on the verge of tears, until she realized she was okay and could get up to tumble again. She missed us making her laugh when she wanted to cry, and the proof was in her over-reaction. She needed to hear over and over that she would be fine and that she could just get up and carry on.
Dr. Seigel wasn’t specifically speaking about pain management last night but when positivity can alter our chemical makeup increasing endorphin levels, (a.k.a nature’s aspirin), it stands to reason that a simple loving kiss and an “all better” from a parent would indeed act as a natural analgesic.
Like so many things with children, much of the work is front end loaded with little reward, until one day all the hard work pays off and our children walk with confidence, self-reliance, and self-assurance.
For Stefanie, I pray her last moments were a little less agonizing because she had learned how to deal with pain. Even though I was not physically present, perhaps the gift of strength and reassurance was with her to the end, calming her terror and easing her suffering.