4. First Experience of ‘Laying on Hands’
My own experience with healing began as a spontaneous activity during the French campaign of May 1940 and was entirely brought about by the lack of medical facilities in my unit. Horrified that men were being wounded and were without the comfort of anaesthetics or trained medical personnel, I felt impelled to put my hands on them. I did not have a great deal of time to think about what I was doing as the pressure forcing us back to the coast demanded all our concentration. It was only later, therefore, that I could feel real surprise at the results: haemorrhaging had been arrested; we had no morphine, but when I had put a hand (or two if I could spare them) on a wounded man, pain had started to ebb immediately; the effects of shock and exhaustion seemed to have been minimised.
The results were remarkable and persistent and to me both fascinating and extraordinary. It was not something which I could ignore. In the heat of war, I felt a duty to pursue the matter and used my hands whenever necessary. This happened in various circumstances, including the bombing of Britain, accidents during training during the years 1940-42 and thereafter in an infantry division in North Africa and in Italy.
Reactions in My Hands and From the Patient
I discovered that both I and the person I was treating could feel a variety of reactions. Most people reported a marked change of temperature. Normally they felt heat greater than one would expect from the mere touch of a human hand, but sometimes they would tell me they had experienced intense cold, almost as if a cold wind was blowing on the area I was touching. Sometimes the pain was so great that the patients could not bear being touched and I would have to hold my hand a little away from the wound, but the temperature change could still be felt. Occasionally, they would report a tingling feeling like pins and needles, or throbbing. Others felt that the pain intensified initially and then diffused and seemed to drain away. Sensations recorded less frequently have included a feeling of pressure as though the healer were leaning on the patient when, in fact, there may not have been any physical contact, and indeed very recently one patient exclaimed about the pressure on her chest when my hands were lightly touching her back. Since the war years, I have compared notes with thousands of people and these various reactions seem to be widely shared. Some healers can feel in their hands what is going on. Others feel nothing with their hands but can sense what is happening, sometimes by feeling the pain or illness in their own bodies. This happens to me on occasions. It can be extremely awkward if you are sitting at a dinner party and you develop a very painful knee or an appalling headache which you may be picking up from your neighbour.
Locating by Following a Line of Reaction on the Body
During the war, my healing activities, which of necessity were carried out in my spare time, were mostly concerned with helping the wounded, so that it was usually obvious where I should put my hands. Sometimes I would find that reaction to my hands was not limited to the wounded area and by moving my hands slowly and gently around, I could find a line of reaction away from the wound. This could be helpful in the case of shrapnel wounds as I could trace the damaged tissue when the offending bits of shell had lodged themselves in the body some inches from the point of entry. Using my hands as detectors, I found that I could scan the body and could find other areas of pain or damage Ä pulled or torn muscles, strained backs, fractured bones and the like. Increasingly, I found that the back seemed to be particularly sensitive even when there was no obvious damage to that area. I would find that I would have to keep my hands for a long time on some point on a patient’s back before the reaction faded and frequently the patient would report that a symptom elsewhere, such as a headache, pain in the knee, a numb finger, would disappear. I began to wonder if there was a relationship.
Response of Supposedly Nervous Disorders
On occasion, I tried to help men who had not been physically wounded but were suffering from nervous exhaustion and various forms of tension which were generally summed up as battle fatigue. Very frequently I seemed to be able to help them so that they could go back into action very quickly without recourse to prolonged psychiatric treatment. As I did not know what to do when confronted with someone who had no overt injury, I would merely scan with my hands until I found a spot where the patient or I or both found a reaction. In every case, I found, amongst other reactions, a precise point in the spine at the level of the fourth and fifth thoracic vertebrae. This happened so consistently that I could not accept it as coincidence. Could there be specific physical areas related to nervous disorders? This seemingly extraordinary hypotheses became for me inescapable fact when, over the years, I found that the majority of patients suffering from nervous disorders, including major psychoses such as schizophrenia and obsession, have a lesion, whether painful or not, at the same point.
Central Nervous System as the Bridge
The word ‘psychosomatic’, recognising the interaction between the ‘psyche’ and the ‘soma’ (body) gave me an inkling in those early days. If we are not just our physical bodies but a multitude of non-physical characteristics which have to express themselves through the body, there must be some point of interaction. The main conductor of energy up and down the body is the central nervous system, which is housed in the skull and the spine en route to the consumer unit, which might be a muscle, organ, gland or any other part of the body. It is my belief that it is this central nervous system, housed in the spine, which is the main area of interaction between our physical and non-physical attributes.
In emphasising the significance for me personally of the spinal cord and its associated neural network, I am in no way turning a blind eye to that important part of the central nervous system which is supraterritorial Ä the brain. This is the happy hunting ground of psychologists and hypnotherapists who, in their turn, give only indirect attention to the rest of the nervous system. Each to his own natural bent! My main purpose is to stress the importance of the central nervous system and hence the spine to both our physical and non-physical health.
A straightforward look into
all aspects of the healing phenomenon
© Bruce MacManaway, 1983. This book may be quoted from and printed out in single copies only for personal use and study, without permission.
For publication on websites or for printing in larger quantities or for commercial gain please e-mail Patrick MacManaway for permission.