Change Limiting Beliefs © Martyn Carruthers
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About the time of the American Revolution, there was in Paris a Swiss physician from Vienna by the name of Dr Anton Mesmer. Dr Mesmer was the sensation and scandal of his day, for he cured all manner of disease by strange and unorthodox methods. Although later denounced by a team of scientists (that included Benjamin Franklin), Dr Mesmer’s teachings and methods drew many students, some of whom presented performances of mesmerism. Around 1830, a clock-maker from Portland, Maine attended such a performance, became a mesmerist and later the most well known mental healer in America. His name was Phineas Parkhurst Quimby.
Quimby described a philosophy of healing, using spiritual metaphors. In the following extract, Quimby uses a metaphor of daguerreotypes for what is now called the unconscious mind. (Quimby worked with daguerreotypes as a youth, you may have seen these early photographs in museums – pictures on copper plates sensitized with chemicals). Here, writing in the third person, Quimby speaks for himself:
Quimby’s Silent Healing
“A patient comes in to see Dr Quimby. He (Dr Quimby) renders himself absent to everything but the impression of the patient’s feelings. These are quickly daguerreotyped on him. They contain no intelligence, but shadow forth a reflection of themselves which he looks at: this contains the disease as it appears to the patient. Being confident that it is the shadow of a false idea, he is not afraid of it, but laughs at it. Then his feelings in regard to the disease, which are health and strength, are daguerreotyped on the receptive-plate of the patient, which also throws forth a shadow. The patient, seeing this shadow of the disease in a new light, gains confidence. This change of feeling is daguerreotyped on the doctor again, and this [new impression] also throws forth a shadow, and he sees the change and continues to treat it the same way. So the patient’s feelings sympathize with his, the shadow grows dim, and finally light takes its place, and there is nothing left of the disease.“
The essence of this method, Quimby implies, is to feel a person’s disease, create an image that represents the person’s beliefs about it, and change the image, repeating this until the patient changes their beliefs about their disease. Quimby was credited with healing thousands of people with this method – which he called the Silent Cure.
If you want to test this method, note that rapport with sick people can cause you to experience their symptoms. I suggest that you first find resources for your own good health, and that you have a baby-sitter (oops, I mean coach) with you. Quimby used a resource that he called the Principle of Goodness and a number of important presuppositions as guides. Perhaps the most useful of Quimby’s presuppositions is that “people can heal themselves, if they have both motivation and means“.
Quimby wrote that 70% of disease was caused by wrong beliefs. I asked some physicians about their experience and was told that at least 50% of their patients had disease that was either lifestyle-based or that was worsened by their patients expectations. In this light, helping people change their beliefs about disease is as important (and as ignored) now as it was in Quimby’s time.
I used Quimby’s descriptions to produce an interesting strategy for changing beliefs (before I understood how people cling to limiting beliefs to maintain important relationships). The following is a brief summary of a part of Quimby’s work.
Quimby Belief Change Strategy*
I explored Quimby’s methods around 1990, and found that my interpretations of Quimby’s methods produced useful and simple methods for coaching people to change terrible limiting beliefs. Around 1994 I worked with Annegret Meyer (now Annegret Hallanzy), a family therapist near Munich, Germany) to integrate Quimby’s ideas into an overall model for effective long term change, which I called Soulwork Systemic Coaching.
I found The Quimby Manuscripts (1921) difficult to read. The editor, Horatio Dresser, was trained by Quimby, yet he wrote “He (Quimby) could not express his thoughts clearly. One searches the manuscripts in vain for a clear explanation of the silent cure“. However, the explanations are there. Expert Modeling provided a Rosetta stone with which to model and test them.
While many passages in The Quimby Manuscripts may appeal to helping professionals, I found Quimby’s only prediction to be compelling:
I prophesy that the time will come when men and women shall heal all diseases
something unpleasant will happen if they leave.
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