It has been well documented we can be influenced by our surroundings or by what we hear even when our conscious mind is “turned off” or totally out of it, such as when we are asleep or under anesthesia. As previewed here on this blog, Mrs. Disco and I are doing everything we can to have as positive an influence on my healing process as possible. This meant we had a huge opportunity while I was “under the knife. During surgery, a time when a patient is most vulnerable/susceptible to picking up on what doctors/nurses are saying, we felt it would be a great opportunity to apply a powerful technique Mrs. Disco is not only trained in, but also amazing at: Guided Imagery.
Guided imagery can be explained in many ways—many of which I’ve heard, but I’m still not confident enough to publish what it is. So I’m going to leave that to Mrs. Disco in the paragraph below.
We look at it as a therapeutic tool using carefully chosen language, suggestions, and visualizations to positively influence the mind and body. What this means is that while Chris was under anesthesia for his Tommy John surgery, instead of listening to the voices of the medical staff and the beeping of machines, he was going through images and feelings of miraculous healing, among other things.
I find all of this fascinating. Mrs. Disco teaches me more about this kind of stuff every day as we go along the healing journey. There are some particular aspects of all of this we find truly intriguing. First one is the mind, in an altered state (under anesthesia for example), is capable of more rapid and intense healing, growth, learning, and performance. The other is that medical literature suggests when we have a sense of being in control, that, in and of itself, can aid in healing and recovery.
One of the things I was worried about with the surgery was that I would be able to feel what was going on, but be able to do nothing about it. Not sure where I got this, but maybe I’d flipped through an after-school drama one day and seen this phenomenon. Thankfully this didn’t happen, but based on how amazingly good I felt immediately after coming out of anesthesia, my mind was still working and listening.
So, if we can hear while we’re undergoing surgery and we heal better if we feel like we’re in control, then I’m pretty sure I don’t want to hear a doctor say, “I don’t think he’s going to make it” or “he’s bleeding all over the place” and I also want to feel like I’m in control in some way, shape, or form. Thankfully, I had an incredible surgeon, Dr. Kremchek, who is not only all about this, but we’ve noticed, he is also someone who focuses on the positive, naturally and effortlessly. So when Mrs. Disco came up with the idea for me to wear noise-canceling headphones to listen to an mp3 she made especially for my TJ surgery, Dr. Kremchek was all about it.
So how is someone supposed to feel like they are in control when they are actually completely out of it? Good question. I wondered the same thing.
I will add this aside…For some reason during the 2006 baseball season (before even meeting Mrs. Disco), I decided every time I wanted to sleep on a bus, I would play a mix of Radiohead songs. I had a bunch of their songs, but never actually listened to any of them, so I decided to listen to them while I was asleep. To this day, I have not purposefully listened to a Radiohead song while awake, but when one does come on the radio, I instantaneously know that I know the song and have heard it. Interesting…huh? I couldn’t tell you one lyric of any Radiohead song, but I have heard them—consciously or not—for hours and hours (long bus rides in the Midwest League) and they are implanted somewhere deep in my brain.
This brings us to my surgery. Mrs. Disco’s research told us we are susceptible to suggestion while unconscious, her experience made her the perfect candidate to record an audio track with Guided Imagery, and I had experienced first hand already the effects of listening to something while unconscious. It was all coming together perfectly. So for my surgery, I wore noise-canceling headphones while listening to guided suggestions asking my body to move blood away from the surgical area for a clean working space for my surgeon, asking my body to regulate my blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing by keeping it stable and by telling my body it’s okay to accept the new ligament as if it belonged there all along.
I’m so grateful God gave Mrs. Disco this amazing and totally pertinent ability to motivate me and help me heal through language and imagery. The mp3 is about an hour and twenty minutes long and its expansive content encompasses a bunch of stuff I don’t know much about, just know it works. She included the three sensory modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). We all have preferences of how we like information presented to us and usually tend to respond better when they are presented in our “choice modality”. For instance, some people are visual learners who like to see what you mean in a diagram or picture. Auditory learners tend to “get it” when they simply hear an idea, while kinesthetic learners need to experience what you are talking about for themselves. Like learning to ride a bike – some may only need to see someone else riding the bike to know how to do it on their own. Others may only need instructions given and are able to get on the bike and start riding. While others need to actually get on the bike and try it themselves before they can fully learn. Most people learn through a combination of sensory modalities, so Mrs. Disco included all three on my mp3.
Here are a couple very basic examples of the three modalities she used on my mp3 (Mrs. Disco asked me to tell you these are the most simplistic forms of applying these techniques)
Visual: See your body healing. Picture your elbow becoming stronger, now.”
Auditory: “When you hear the beeping of machines, your body relaxes even more as you tune into your Inner Healer for a miraculous recovery.”
Kinesthetic: “Every time air enters your lungs, you’ll be reminded to relax and experience pleasant sensations of healing”
The day of surgery, I asked the nurse to give me at least a ten-minute heads up before getting wheeled into the O.R. so I could start my mp3 to help me relax a little more. All I remember is hearing my wife’s sweet, soothing voice calming my thoughts, reassuring me I was safe and in good hands. Next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room elated with my amazingly strong, new elbow and telling anyone who walked by how awesome it was.
Today if you were to ask me what was on that CD, I would have no idea. But the surgery went perfectly and from day one I have been healing amazingly well and have been ahead of schedule. And every once in a while Mrs. Disco says something that makes me think…hmm, I know I’ve heard that before.
Next up: NLP & Hypnosis