I have worked with several patients with Parkinson’s disease, a disease that is generally thought to be of unknown origin but that causes a person to have severe shaking of the hands and severe difficulty in walking, especially in taking the first step. When Parkinson’s disease patients wish to walk, they must begin to lean forward until they are off balance, so that a foot moves out to catch them. In other words, they are incapable of consciously initiating a first step. They can only push themselves off balance and let reflex mechanisms catch them so that they can continue walking. Once the walking is under way, it can continue quite well. Doesn’t the inability to take a first step, the inability to initiate movement, seem the same as being trapped, not being able to move in any direction?
With one patient, explorations revealed that important memories were those in which he felt unable to make decisions involving physical movement. He had multiple memories fitting the pattern of an experience that occurred at the age of twenty, when his hand was caught in the gears of a machine. On reexperiencing and deprogramming this sensitizing event, the relaxation greatly diminished the tremor.
The senile tremor, or old age shake, is something we see often in persons aged seventy and older; we would be surprised if someone aged twenty-five had this same continual tremor. Once again, the name for the disease almost implies that one should expect it, that its cause and cure are somehow beyond us. Let’s take a closer look.
How many people have you seen aged twenty, thirty, or forty who already have some shaking of the hands? Of course this is usually present only intermittently. You might notice it only during an argument. Or maybe it’s only when a person is depressed that you notice a trembling of the hands or knees. Perhaps it is only after a long day of work that lasted well into the night that your hand trembles in the morning as you drink your cup of coffee. As the person grows older and older, and the conditioning grows stronger and stronger, the tremor may come more often. Noticing that one’s hand is shaking is seldom taken as a sign that some permanent neurological condition is coming on, so people tend to ignore this shaking in the early stages. Nevertheless, look about and see how many people are beginning to shake. Also notice that it seems to be markedly increased at times of stress and that it can disappear when the person is relaxed. Does it seem that these tremors fit the pattern of negative conditioning? Doesn’t it seem reasonable that these tremors are incoherent neural discharges being sent to various parts of the body, and that these discharges are just portions of negatively conditioned habit patterns? Time and again in exploration emotional tension is found at the base of such problems.
Many other diseases that we attribute to aging can be conceptualized in a similar manner, including that problem of old age called senility. When Charlotte is twenty-five years old, she is not a pleasant person to be around because she tends to be grouchy. By the time she is forty-five, she spends most of her time complaining about things. When she is sixty, she is very unpleasant to be around, even for her family and the people who love her, because of her constant complaints and attacks on other people for not satisfying her needs. By the time she is seventy-five she is senile and she sits in her chair in a nursing home, moaning and groaning and complaining in a demented way, over and over, day after day. I think that this is a particular habit pattern, with its tension getting worse and worse, moving to its logical conclusion, in which the person just sits and complains all day long. You can probably begin to work out mechanisms for other diseases generally accepted to be concomitants of old age. As you do so, note that tension and negative conditioning always seem to be at the root. Perhaps within the next century or two, longitudinal studies will be done to test these hypotheses.
The prevention of these diseases may be enhanced by beginning now to eliminate the deep-seated emotional problems you uncover in yourself, before the development of physical symptoms confuses the matter. If they have developed, however, the self-healing methods we will discuss may be added to this program.