by Brenda Stockdale, HMDI Contributing Editor
Hot buttered popcorn. A juicy hot dog. Creamy chocolate. The fizz of an ice cold Coca- Cola. When these images popped up on movie screens in 1957 snack sales soared. The problem was that moviegoers didn’t actually see the images–at least not consciously. As it turns out, these were the effects of subliminal messaging (i.e. messages perceived below the level of awareness) on behavior.
Today our homes and offices are bombarded with this very kind of messaging–except that we’re the ones sending the message to ourselves. Even though we may not consciously think of the experience or story behind the items in our home, there are subliminal messages in each and every piece of furniture, art, or color. In fact, research indicates the day-to-day effects of such messages on our health and well-being can be profound, for good or ill.
Is it a message you want to receive?
With appreciation for the effects of subliminal messages, I often ask patients to scrutinize their healing environment at home. (Are medical bills and insurance statements stacked up on the bedside table? Is the picture on the refrigerator of you and your teenage daughter a reminder of a happy time?) I encourage this regularly at the cancer center, but I didn’t think to ask Susie, a client of mine, to do the same.
After a few weeks of working with Susie, her panic attacks ceased and she was sleeping through the night, but her cardiac measures remained the same: due to cardiomyopathy, her cardiac output was reduced nearly by half, to only 30% ejection fraction, in addition to a conduction defect requiring surgery to implant a pacemaker).
I realized a key component had been overlooked during our last session together. So, I asked Susie to imagine scanning her home with the detached eye of an observer. What sort of messages had she been sending to herself? As it happened, she and her husband read books, watched TV, and played cards in the living room—where, on either side of the television, on the mantle sat two urns–one for her mother, one for his. Susie decided to relocate the urns, receiving a more life-enhancing message. To our mutual surprise, at her pre-surgery evaluation the following week, she discovered her ejection fraction and conduction defect had improved so much a pacemaker was no longer necessary and she was cleared for international travel.
I saw Susie recently after a regularly scheduled follow-up with her cardiologist and her ejection fraction is now perfectly normal. Simply put: she no longer has cardiomyopathy.
Susie’s story is not an isolated event. Equally impressive are studies with people where large survival benefits are linked with small changes in daily life. So we can start small. We can take a close look at our healing domain, whatever it may be—a house, a room, or a flat. We can experiment. De-clutter, maximize flow, and prioritize. Whether it’s a poem on our refrigerator or a flower in a vase, the television shows we bring into our living rooms or the friends we hang out with, make sure the messages we’re sending affirm the life we want to live.
© 2015 Brenda Stockdale. All rights reserved.