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The Phantom of the Opera and Phantom Limb Pain

Aug 17, 2007
In the Phantom of the Opera, strange inexplicable things happened in an opera house that were attributed to a phantom. No one could see him and yet he was there. By the end of the opera, the phantom was revealed to be a real live person that existed and breathed like any other human being.

Phantom limb pains are also inexplicable. They exist, yet there is no real substance to them. The pain is sometimes extremely intense and yet there is no way of knowing what the cause is. In other words, the pain is like a phantom.

For example, a leg is amputated and yet the 'missing' leg can still be felt as though it was there and often there is pain in the area of the missing limb.
Ask a doctor what causes the pain and he will come up with all sorts of theories that claim there is no pain and it is simply in the mind. Tell that to someone who is suffering the excruciating agony of Phantom Limb Pain and he or she will simply say, 'It still hurts like hell!' and,, of course, it still remains there, hurting and hurting and hurting!!!

Is there a treatment? Yes and no!

Conventional medicine practitioners do not have a treatment. How can they as they don't know what causes it? And, taking pain killers hardly has an effect, unless it is a placebo (imaginary) one.

As far as the doctors and physicians are concerned, it's your tough luck. Yet there is a treatment.

But before I tell you about it, let me tell you a true story from my Hypnotherapist's Case Book which I use as a teaching aid on my Hypnotherapy Courses.

The Story:

Looking sad with stooped shoulders, my next client limped into my consulting room. He had the look of a defeated soldier, rugged face and an air of dejection.

"How can I help?" I asked.

"It's the pain Doctor Shields. The pain in my left leg. It is driving me crazy and I can't get any relief from it."

"Ok, do you mind if I looked at it?!

"If you could see it, I wouldn't mind. But, it isn't there. It was cut off after an accident I had in a combined harvester."

"Tell me about it."

"It was a year ago. I work on farms and one morning I had a row with my wife but still had to go to work. You see, I was going through a bad patch at the time as my wages are very low and I had some money problems. I love my wife to pieces and as they say, 'You always hurt the one you love.'
I remember banging the door as I left and feeling very angry, not just with my wife, but with the whole world at the way life was treating me."

"I then got into my Harvester, started the engine, put it in gear and then started to collect the corn. I hadn't noticed that the grill covering the 'working parts' had been removed and without realising it, I put my left foot on the floor and it went straight into the gears."

"The bottom part of my leg was totally mangled and my lower leg had to be taken off."

He continued, "That's about it really except that about a week or so after the amputation, I started getting terrible pains in the part of the leg that wasn't there. I could still feel the leg and even tried to stand on it sometimes, but it is just empty space, but the pain has got worse and I don't know how much more I can take."

After asking more questions, I used hypnosis and established the pain at a 9 out of 10 level. I then asked him if he believed in the human spirit?

His reply was, "No, not really. I think this world is everything. I don't think we have a spirit just a body. I have never been religious and have no interest in God or anything like that."

"That's not a problem," I said, "but are you willing to listen to a theory that would explain why you have the pain. A theory that requires you to accept that besides having a physical body, you also have an identical spiritual body?"

The gloom surrounding him suddenly lifted and he looked enthusiastic.

"I would believe anything, if you can help me Dr. Shields. If you can get rid of the pain, I would think of that as a miracle, and that's religious isn't it?"

"OK, so let's get down to brass tacks and call the pain by it's real name. It's real name is 'guilt'."

His jaw dropped. "Why should I feel guilty about the pain?"

"No, that is the wrong way around. It is not guilt as a result of the pain, it is the pain as a result of the guilt. You see, when you argued with your wife, and had the accident, my guess is that you felt guilty. It's just as though you had the accident as a result of your anger and that is unacceptable to your personality. Is that starting to make sense?"

"Not really." he replied.

"Ok, think of it this way. You argued with your wife whom you love very much. You realised, perhaps subconsciously, that it was not her fault and you were simply using her as a 'whipping boy' to get rid of your anger. You started the Harvester with your mind full of that same anger that you had directed at your wife. You were so pre-occupied that you did not see the cover to the working parts of the Harvester was not there and you had the accident. Are you with me so far?"

"Yes."

"As the accident happened, you were still blaming your wife for your bad luck, but subconsciously you knew that was wrong. In other words, you were feeling guilty as the accident happened and even more guilty if you blamed your wife at a later date for 'causing' the accident by arguing with you."

"But, I don't blame my wife for the accident. I admit that the thought passed my mind that if I had not argued with her, the accident would not have happened, but it wasn't her fault, it was all mine."

"Ok, I accept that, so in reality, you actually blame yourself and feel guilty because you are now no longer the man you used to be. Possibly you also blame yourself for all the suffering your accident has caused your wife?"

"That sounds more like it," he replied rubbing his chin, "as I actually can feel the guilt as we speak."

I sat silently for a while letting him think of what I had said. After a few minutes that seemed like an eternity, I continued by asking him if he could accept that 'guilt' feelings lie in the mind and using hypnosis may be able to get into the mind and help remove the guilt feelings.

He agreed and that was the beginning of the therapy I used to remove the guilt feelings.

End of story.

Now some of you more experienced in the implanting of suggestions in the mind of a client, may raise your eyebrows. But, let me say that I accept that this unfortunate man may have accepted what I had said as true only because he saw me as an 'authoritive' figure.

We all know that if a doctor tells you that you have an illness that you were unaware of, there is a high probability that you will accept what the doctor says as being true and the illness, if it did not exist, may even manifest itself within your body. However, in this case there was a ring of truth about it. But even if my theory was not true, it was obvious that the Unconscious Mind had accepted 'guilt' as the cause of the pain, as the end result eventually proved.

The Cause: To understand the cause of Phantom Limb Pain, you have to accept that we all have both a spiritual and a physical body that are identical and linked directly through the Unconscious Mind. In other words, you have physical arms and identical spiritual arms. The spiritual body cannot be seen as it vibrates too quickly for the physical eye to see it, but it exists.

The physical body, in the main, functions as a result of physical actions, e.g. heart circulating blood, and it is controlled by the Unconscious Mind, as is the spiritual body. Take away part of the physical body and the spiritual counterpart continues to exist as it cannot be destroyed.

As the spiritual body is totally controlled by the Unconscious Mind (sometimes called the 'Subconscious Mind') it will either accept the loss of the physical part or it will react in whatever way it thinks appropriate. An example being, producing pain or even denying the loss so the victim still feels the missing limb, or part of it, is there.

Some of us have experienced the excruciating pain the Unconscious Mind can produce. It cannot be compared to physical pain as it is so intense and cannot be relieved with pain killers. Those of us who have lost a loved one through death or divorce, will know exactly what I am talking about. That kind of pain is felt in the Spiritual Body and cannot be measured or treated with pain killers. If the Unconscious Mind believes that pain is the only way to handle the loss of a limb, that pain will almost always be extremely intense.

The Treatment: The treatment is to deal with the Unconscious Mind and not try a treatment that is only effective on the physical body. Look for anything that may cause the pain that is in the Unconscious Mind. Guilt is a common cause. Masochism is another. Self-punishment is yet another. The list can go on and on, but a good therapist will find the cause and deal with it.

Using the 'pain reduction technique' of relaxation and grading the pain from one to ten, could be used initially to ease the pain a little. I teach this method to my students asking the client to take control of the pain and reduce the initial intensity number through a relaxation method.

Always remember, pain cannot be felt if the muscles in the pain area are relaxed. This equally applies to Phantom Limb Pain. Produce relaxation in the missing limb and the pain signals to the brain will lessen or disappear. But, to remove Phantom Limb Pain permanently, the root cause has to be dealt with.
About the Author
Robert Shields teaches Hypnotherapy and Fear Elimination Therapy He has taught Hypnotherapists since 1986 and is a qualified hypnotherapy trainer in the U.S.A., Canada and the United Kingdom. His 31-lesson diploma course ( http://hypnotherapy-training.com )presently costs $197.97 or UKP98.00.
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