Opening Your Inner “I”: Discover healing imagery through Selective Awareness” by Emmett E. Miller
Reviewed by Jacqui Dodds
This week I am turning my attention to an excellent example of Western self hypnosis techniques, developed by a very creative and wise medical doctor who determined to learn how to use the power of the mind to help the many patients who presented to him with a wide range of physical and mental illnesses. I plan to return to reviewing more of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s books in a little while but think it’s time to consider a very Western way of using the mind to heal.
o today I shall review “Opening Your Inner “I”: Discover healing imagery through Selective Awareness” by Emmett Miller, M.D. In this book Emmett Miller unfolds his theory of Selective Awareness Exploration as a form of age regression analysis, facilitated by deep relaxation. Essentially, he teaches us how to identify and change the play of incoherent messages, that are generally unconscious but covertly direct how our mind perceives situations, often causing distressing emotions, disease and painful body reactions to the original hidden instructions. In other words, he goes to the source of unwanted habitual reactions and provides a way to change them.
his book is extremely thorough in providing a comprehensive history of the influences on Emmett Miller’s thinking and medical practice as well as illustrating the use and effects of his methods in excellent case histories. He notes that his disenchantment with some of medicine’s over-emphasis on removing symptoms, rather than the cause of the problem, prompted him to draw on his experience and studies of meditation, transactional analysis, behavioural psychology, hypnosis, psychoanalysis, yoga, biofeedback, faith healing, psychosomatic medicine, computer programming and even mathematics! The combined philosphies and skills developed in these areas gave him the confidence to believe that earlier conditioned learning, resulting in present emotional and physical pain and disease, was similar to a computer program directing patterned responses that could be changed as soon as recognition removed and replaced the hidden driving motivation.
particularly useful aspect of this book is his carefully designed, detailed and progressive series of exercises that introduce to the reader the direct experiences of relaxation and selective awareness, thereby building the ability to use self hypnosis to heal many of the mental and physical illnesses that plague us. As he says, this book has to be “carefully chewed and digested…If you simply skim it or spend your time merely comparing philosophies, you will miss its main point — your experience“. For me, as a long term meditator and psychotherapist, it was very interesting to follow his scripted directions and to refresh my awareness of the power of relaxation linked to selective awareness of chosen body parts; body movements; memories at different ages and many other scenarios, chosen to uncover positive and negative programming. In particular, I was very happy to learn some new simple muscle tensing and relaxing exercises that gave some relief from the chronic back pain I suffer from.
mmett Miller’s explanations of the negative and positive reinforcers of learned behavioral conditioning are very clear and well illustrated in case histories and, where appropriate, in the exercises for the reader. In essence, he shows how the animal or human is automatically programmed to try to escape the perceived cause of a painful situation and to seek out the perceived source of relief or satisfaction. The critical point is that those perceptions of the original situation are often mistaken, below the threshold of conscious recognition, and cause stereotyped physical muscle and mental, emotional response patterns, directed by the unconscious learning, that are inconsistent with later conscious intentions. However, he goes far beyond the behaviorist thinking illustrated in the famous Pavlov’s dog experiments, linking food and hunger gratification with bells.
he Coherency Theory that he has developed combines scientific rigor and observation with the compassion and skills of a dedicated healer. He argues that many psychological and psychosomatic theories fail to show the actual mechanisms of how the mind, conceived as non-physical, effects the brain and body, perceived as physical. For example, he critiques the interactions of the Freudian id, ego and superego as too abstract and the neurophysiological descriptions of the brain and central nervous system as lacking directions on the connections with our self image and relationship styles and the effects on health. He describes how in medical training it was recognised that emotions and stress were linked with disease and pain but, apart from medication to mask the symptoms, he believes progress has been slow in exploring the mechanism of how this occurred and therefore how it could be reversed.
lthough some readers may be uncomfortable at the mechanistic and behaviorist orientation of Emmett Miller’s methods of self hypnosis, I found it interesting and useful to brush up on these techniques and test their effectiveness on reducing my own chronic pain issues. Speaking from a Buddhist perspective, the relative ‘truth’ of my pain – and my clients’ pain – can be at least partially addressed with techniques based on relative mechanistic concepts, even though I recognise that the ultimate relief of my suffering will be based on an integrated recognition of the ultimate truths of annicca (impermanence) and anatta (no-self/no seperate existence).
s an overall theme, ‘Opening Your Inner “I” is based on the idea that “you are what you think”, just as the Buddha is quoted as saying. All the theoretical ideas, case histories and exercises in this book present ways to harness the mind using meditation as self-hypnosis to help one form good habits and break bad habits that result in reduced wellbeing, pain and disease. To do this, Emmett Miller uses the language of self-programming and self-deprogramming and draws on mechanistic concepts to link body-mind. Despite the mechanistic language, I find the intention to support the wholesome and replace the unwholesome habit patterns to be entirely consistent with Buddhist aspiration and with most Western psychotherapeutic thinking. What distinguishes the methods in this book is the provision of experiential self hypnotic explorations that can be done by the reader to heal themselves as they read through the book. Apart from basic instruction on relieving tension, anxiety and physical symptoms, he specifically addresses likely causes and self-hypnotic exercises for many allergies, including hay fever; disorders of the endocrine system; chronic and degenerative diseases; high blood pressure and heart disease; cardiac disease; skin problems, vision problems; surgical wounds; pregnancy; autoimmune diseases, cancerous tumours, dentistry and oral diseases.
pening the Inner “I” can therefore be described as a very well informed, inspirational and easy to read self help book. The open-minded, creative and compassionate nature of Emmett Miller that I was privileged to observe first hand at a conference he spoke at around 15 years ago, shines through his writing to inspire and guide the reader. At the conference he delighted us by playing the guitar and giving impromptu exploratory movement exercises for the large audience listening to his keynote address. It was clear then, and I have now been reminded by re-reading his book, that he is a true ‘healer’.
hope you enjoy this book as much as I have. It is so very practical and the methods do work! You will see that I am, on this occasion, directing you to Emmett Miller’s website if you are considering buying this book since both Fishpond and Amazon are showing the book as “currently unavailable”. You will see there that he has produced a large number of MP3 Downloads, DVDs and other healing products that you might also like to review. These include meditations directed at particular emotional difficulties and diseases, including sleep problems, weight issues and guidance on optimizing the benefits of chemotherapy and other medical treatments. I bought one of his early meditation tapes 15+ years ago and found his voice and accompanying music was pleasant to listen to. I do recommend you check out the site.