Getting Well Again


Getting Well AgainThe Bestselling Classic About the Simontons’ Revolutionary Life-Saving Self-Awareness Techniques, by Otto Carl Simonton, with Stephanie Matthews-Simonton and James L. Creighton, New York: Bantam, 1992, first published in 1978.

Fritjof Capra mentions in his book The Turning Point that he was astonished to find out that the words healing and healer have a pejorative meaning for most medical doctors. In fact, these terms are associated with charlatanism and quackery. That is why, among other things, the Simontons did not have an easy job. Their breakthrough were techniques today called ‘self-awareness techniques’ that at the time when they started where called visualization techniques or mental imaging. It was one of several approaches they had tried out, but as these techniques were more successful than others in helping their cancer patients, they stuck with them. (By the way, there are many other alternative cancer cures; some are based on diet, some on bioenergetic treatment, some on ozone inhalation, etc.).

The most important thing in the process of helping the patient to collaborate in healing their cancer is to get them to learn that they have a role to play in their healing. For they are conditioned by traditional medicine to be mere injunction-receivers, and passive sufferers of a fate. The authors write:

Most of our patients, who come to us from all over the country, have received a ‘medically incurable’ diagnosis from their doctors. According to national cancer statistics, they have an average life expectancy of one year. When these people believe that only medical treatment can help them—but their physicians have said that medicine is no longer of much avail and that they probably have only a few months to live—they feel doomed, trapped, helpless, and usually fulfill the doctor’s expectations. But if patients mobilize their own resources and actively participate in their recovery, they may well exceed their life expectancy and significantly alter the quality of life./4

One of the most daring ideas that doctors ever came up with was to offer patients placebo drugs, suggesting they got drug XYZ, famous and tested, and proven to be effective according to pharmaceutical publicity. In truth, what they received was a sugar pill. Well, it’s hard to believe that this works better than normal medicine because it has no side effects. But it has been shown over and over that it cures as effectively as a real drug. The authors relate a dramatic case that vividly illustrates the power of the placebo effect:

A most dramatic case of the placebo effect has been reported by Dr. Bruno Klopfer, a researcher involved in the testing of the drug Krebiozen. In 1950, Krebiozen had received sensational national publicity as a ‘cure’ for cancer and was being tested by the American Medical Association and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Once of Dr. Klopfer’s patients had lymphosarcoma, a generalized, far advanced malignancy involving the lymph nodes. The patient had huge tumor masses throughout his body and was in such desperate physical condition that he frequently had to take oxygen by mask, and fluid had to be / removed from his chest every two days. When the patient discovered that Dr. Klopfer was involved in research on Krebiozen, he begged to be given Krebiozen treatments. Klopfer did so, and the patient’s recovery was startling. Within a short time the tumors had shrunk dramatically, and the patient was able to resume a normal life, including flying his private plane. Then as AMA and FDA reports of the negative results of Krebiozen started to be publicized, the patient took a dramatic turn for the worse. Thinking the circumstances extreme enough to justify unusual measures, Klopfer told his patient that he had obtained a new, superrefined, double-strength Krebiozen that would produce better results. Actually, the injections Klopfer gave were simply sterile water. Yet the patient’s recovery was even more remarkable. Once again the tumor masses melted, chest fluid vanished, and he became ambulatory and even went back to flying. The patient remained symptom-free for over two months. The patient’s belief alone, independent of the value of the medication, produced his recovery.  Then further stories of the AMA and FDA’s tests appeared in the press: ‘Nationwide tests show Krebiozen to be a worthless drug in the treatment of cancer.’ Within a few days the patient was dead./26-27

As to the much debated question what actually causes cancer, the authors review in the book the following etiologies: carcinogenic substances, genetic predisposition, radiation, diet and the immune system.

Regarding carcinogenic substances, the authors note that there is no simple cause–effect relationship between harmful substances, chemicals, chronic irritants, and cancer, and that the matter is rather controversial in the literature.

Regarding genetic predisposition, the authors note that a human-based research was not yet available, the research being available having been conducted on mice. They concluded that this research left considerable doubt on any ‘it’s genetics alone’ theory.

Regarding radiation, the authors note that background radiation, also called cosmic radiation, is too universal a cause to possibly contribute to the cancer etiology.

With regard to another possibility being discussed, as to fluorocarbons released from aerosol cans that destroy the ozone layer of the atmosphere, leading to an increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, the authors admit that although this could certainly lead to potential health problems, high levels of ultraviolet rays were associated only with skin cancer.

Regarding x-rays and other radiation used in medical diagnosis and treatment, the evidence was still unclear because many people who have been exposed to high levels of x-rays and other radiation do not contract cancer.

Regarding diet as a possible cause of cancer, which is a relatively recent etiology, the authors note the following quite remarkable details:

For instance, Japan, where the diet is still predominantly based on fish and rice and contains substantially less fat than does the American or European diet, has both a lower / incidence of cancer and a substantially different profile in types of cancers than the other industrialized countries. Since the incidence of cancer goes up sharply among Japanese living in the United States … some researchers have settled on differences in diet as a likely explanation. /38-39

The authors argue that for understanding cancer, we need to find out why some people have a stronger immune system than others?

A great deal of time, energy, and resource have been poured into the search for the causes of cancer, but one important fact is often overlooked: When exposed to known cancer-producing substances, most people still remain healthy. It is quite clear, for example, that the incidence of lung cancer goes up sharply with heavy smoking. But if all it took to get cancer was exposure to nicotine and tars, then all heavy smokers would contract the disease. Yet most heavy smokers do not get lung cancer./40

As problems with organ transplantation showed, the body’s immune system normally is strong. For example, a cancer-affected organ would not be accepted by the receiver, and if forced to do so, as was shown by experiments, the receiver would indeed contract the cancer, but as soon as the organ was again removed, the cancer would quickly disappear. This research, as the authors conclude, has led to a broad medical acceptance of what is called the ‘surveillance theory’ of cancer development:

External agents, radiation, genetics, diet—all four factors may play a role in the causation of the disease, but none of them is a full explanation without considering why particular individuals, at particular points in their lives, contract cancer./44

Now, the answer is of course, that the real causes of cancer are related to emotional stress, in the sense that the suppression of emotions, or certain emotions, clearly contributes to the causation of cancer. Another factor is the inability noted in most cancer patients to express their emotions and thus release themselves at times from pent-up emotional tension.

For example in a research done by Dr. Thomas A. Holmes and associates at the University of Washington School of Medicine, a scale was designed that assigned numerical values (1-100) to certain stressful events: ‘Death of Spouse’, is rated 100, followed by ‘Divorce’, with 73 and ‘Marital Separation’ with 65. However, even in Holmes’ study, 51 percent of the individuals with scores of 300 did not get sick during the period of the study, which let the authors conclude that an event, even a stressful one, is construed differently from person to person. A decisive study done in the 1920s by Dr. Hans Selye at the University of Prague gave conclusive evidence for the stress-related etiology:

This evidence clearly demonstrates the very real physical effects of stress. But it is still another effect that is of greatest importance to the cancer patient. Selye has discovered that chronic stress suppresses the immune system which is responsible for engulfing and destroying cancerous cells or alien microorganisms. The important point is this: The physical conditions Selye describes as being produced by stress are virtually identical to those under which an abnormal cell could reproduce and spread into a dangerous cancer. Not surprisingly, cancer patients frequently have weakened immune systems. /53

Selye’s findings were confirmed by other research and it was found that, for example, lymphocyte function, a critical measure of the potency of the body’s immune system, ‘was significantly depressed in those who had lost a wife or husband.’ Another study the authors report points to mental factors leading to the suppression of the immune system where it was demonstrated ‘that the body’s immunity to tuberculosis can be profoundly affected by hypnotic suggestion,’ which leads to the conclusion that mental and emotional stress impacts on the body’s defenses.

The authors conclude that there are major themes of research in the etiology of cancer that crystallized out:

High levels of emotional stress increase susceptibility to illness. Chronic stress results in a suppression of the immune system, which in turn creates increased susceptibility to illness—and especially to cancer. Emotional stress, which suppresses the immune system, also leads to hormonal imbalances. These / imbalances could increase the production of abnormal cells at precisely the time the body is least capable of destroying them./54-55

Dr. Simonton in discussion with Jeffrey Mishlove
Dr. Simonton in discussion with Jeffrey Mishlove

But this is not yet the core of the book. The authors went further in their research and found historical connections between cancer and emotions, and that certain beliefs clearly trigger a predisposition for cancer: it is not down the road that we got stress, but how we cope with it what really is the subtle cause of cancer.

Most of the time, the ways in which we respond to the stresses of life are habitual, dictated by our unconscious beliefs about who we are, who we ‘should’ be, and the way the world and other people are and should be. These patterns of behavior form a total orientation, or stance toward life./56

I always intuitively knew that compulsory morality is a strong factor in the etiology of cancer, and the cancer patients I met in my life have corroborated this insight. They were invariably people who were thinking much more on the lines of ‘should be’ and ‘ought to behave’ than the average citizen who tends to think on the lines of ‘Me first’. Quoting a researcher who published a book in 1893 with the title Cancer and the Cancer-Process, and who stated that ‘idiots and lunatics are remarkably exempt from cancer in every shape’, the authors go on to examine an array of research findings that corroborated their hypothesis of ‘emotional causation’. Among the factors that cause predisposition for cancer, the authors examine the research of Dr. Lawrence LeShan, an experimental psychologist who found evidence that co-dependence and emotional abuse may contribute to the cancer etiology. He identified four recurring elements, something like a fatally coincidental sequence, in the life stories of more than 500 cancer patients:

The patient’s youth was marked by feelings of isolation, neglect, and despair, with intense interpersonal relationships appearing difficult and dangerous. In early adulthood, the patient was able to establish a strong, meaningful relationship with a person, or found great satisfaction in his or her vocation. A tremendous amount of energy was poured into this relationship or role. Indeed, it became the reason for living, the center of the patient’s life. The relationship or role was then removed—through death, a move, a child leaving home, a retirement, or the like. The result was despair, as though the ‘bruise’ left over from childhood had been painfully struck again. One of the fundamental characteristics of these patients was that the despair was ‘bottled up’. These individuals were unable to let other people know when they felt hurt, angry, hostile. Others frequently viewed the cancer patients as unusually wonderful people, saying of them: ‘He’s such a good, sweet man’ or ‘She’s a saint’. LeShan concludes, ‘The benign quality, the ‘goodness’ of these people was in fact a sign of their failure to believe in themselves sufficiently, and their lack of hope./63

I have scribbled at the edge of page 63 of the book, in big and angry letters: ‘Cancer is a Western plague. These people never had the freedom to express their emotions, and they never developed their real self. This is the real cause of cancer!’

LeShan reports that 76 percent of all the cancer patients he interviewed shared this basic emotional life history. Of the cancer patients who entered into intensive psychotherapy with him, over 95 percent showed this pattern. Only 10 percent of a control group of noncancer patients revealed this pattern. /64

After reviewing some of their patient’s life stories, the authors inquire into the psychological process of illness and come to stress certain factors they have seen in all the life stories they reviewed, such as, for example:

Experiences in childhood result in decisions to be a certain kind of person.

The individual is rocked by a cluster of stressful life events.

These stresses create a problem with which the individual does not know how to deal.

The individual sees no way of changing the rules about how he or she must act and so feels trapped and helpless to resolve the problem. /

The individual puts distance between himself or herself and the problem, becoming static, unchanging, rigid./74-75

For each of these categories, the authors forward conclusive evidence from the case histories, which I will not discuss here because of copyright. I can only say that this part of the book is perhaps the most important as it provides very concise evidence as to the real causes of cancer, which can be summarized as being emotional, behavioral, and belief-related. But this is not all there is in the etiology of cancer. The authors also provide conclusive evidence for the fact that also the expectations a patient fosters about cancer as a disease contribute to the etiology, and that there is evidence for the fact that the stiff neurotic adherence to a life-denying ideology or religion or otherwise morality-imposing belief system decidedly contributes to the causation of cancer.

After this first research part of the book, the authors present their own approach in the second part, that starts at page 100, and thus approximately after one-third of the book. I find that this was a good balance to keep by the authors, and congratulate them, and their publisher, for the good editing and composition of this booklet, which comes with a 19-pages Bibliography and an Index.

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