A Medicine of Hope and Possibility | Dr. Jeffrey Rediger | TEDxNewBedford

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Translator: Dolores Hirschmann
Reviewer: Tanya Cushman What does it mean when someone
survives an incurable and fatal illness, told that they are going to die? The projected time of death
comes and goes, and then it turns out
that the illness is gone. Medicine calls this a fluke. Is it? Cancer, diabetes, heart disease,
asthma and arthritis afflict 45% of the American population. For the most part,
these are lifestyle illnesses. They cause enormous suffering; they account for two-thirds of all deaths and 75% of all healthcare spending. Just a modest reduction in healthcare,
in the change of behaviors, would delay or prevent the onset of 40 million cases
of chronic illness each year. Do stories from the edge of medicine
have anything for us? It’s strange that
in the history of medicine, cases of spontaneous remission have almost never seen the light
of a rigorous science. If you were on the science
side, or a physician, you’d call it spontaneous remission
or a placebo and shrug your shoulders. If you are on the spiritual side,
or a theologian, you’d call it a miracle
or spiritual healing. All of these terms are black boxes
that have not been unpacked by science. As a member of the faculty
at Harvard Medical School and the Chief of Psychiatry
at a medical center and a medical director
at a psychiatric hospital, I’ve been walking around
the mind-body problem for many years with both medical
and psychiatric patients. I also studied this problem during my Master of Divinity
at Princeton Seminary. I think it’s important for you to know that I was a skeptic of both
religion and science for a long time. I was raised on a farm
with an Amish background. TV, radio, sports,
dancing, school functions – those were not options for me. I was only allowed to associate
with people from our church. So, what did I do? I rebelled, big time. Some of you rebelled. “Look, I’m drinking.” “Look, I’m having sex.” My rebellion was “Mom and Dad,
I want to do a science project.” (Laughter) “You’re studying evolution?” I was looking like a heathen, headed straight for hell
and a whole lot of trouble. My thought – that is if you can
do something that gets both parents upset, you’re onto something good. (Laughter) So, I left the farm,
went to college and kept going. Seminary, med school,
Zen Buddhism, evolution. I knew how to push buttons. (Laughter) Since 2003, I have been listening to
over 100 people from around the world tell me about their recoveries
from incurable illness and looking at the medical evidence. Claire was diagnosed by biopsy in 2008 with the most fatal form
of pancreatic cancer, told that she was going to die: two to five percent,
still alive at five years. Why did I interview her? Because in 2013, her CT of the abdomen
read negative for cancer. Doctor Cain was diagnosed, also by biopsy, with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. In this disease, your lungs
turn to cardboard, and you die. There is no effective treatment. Doctor Cain went on disability
and put her affairs in order. But today, her chest CT is clean, and she is back to work
as a physician, busier than ever. Now, if these are fatal illnesses,
how do these people get better? Is it possible that the mind
played a role in their recovery? Hmm. Hmm. This could get me in a lot of trouble. But hold on for a minute, when I was in seminary, it wasn’t crazy to ask
whether the mind can heal the body. Many cultures have
a long tradition of this. When I was in seminary and med school, I worked really hard
to understand what was true at the very bottom
of both religion and science. I struggled with
the underlying assumptions of theology, philosophy of science
and modern physics. Take Zen Buddhism for example. Don’t forget about the need
to push buttons. Zen Buddhism says
that there is one cause of illness. Illness is disease. Dis – ease: a lack
of inner balance and harmony. I later learned that ancient Christianity
taught the same thing. After seminary, I went to med school, and from where I was
at that point in my life, I really needed factual evidence. Med school was so helpful
to me at that time; I needed science. In med school, I learned
that disease originates in the body; that every disease has its own
discrete pathogenesis and cure; the signs and symptoms of one illness are very different than the signs
and symptoms of another; and each has its own treatment –
medicines, procedures. I need something external to me to fix me. Years later, as a physician, I can see that this does work
much of the time: I prescribe medicines,
and people often do get better. The brilliance of Western culture is that when you have
a medical problem, you go see a doctor. When you have a psychological problem,
you go see a psychotherapist. And when you have a spiritual problem, you go see a priest,
rabbi, minister or sheikh. The brilliance of Western culture lies in its capacity
to recognize distinctions and analyze the parts of the larger whole. In the Eastern framework, however, there is no such sharp distinction
between the body and the mind. In Eastern medicine, both physical and mental illnesses are treated by rebalancing
the body’s energetic system. Years later, as I tried to understand what these people with remissions
were trying to tell me, I circled back to these
ancient theological writings. I was reminded of the teaching that the body is thought to be a metaphor for something that
the deeper mind is trying to learn. I began to wonder, “Are these people able to open a curtain
of perception in the deeper mind, in some way, and that this then plays a role
in their health recovery?” This seemed to be what they were trying
to tell me in their different ways. Maybe we need to respect the respective
strengths of both East and West: the Western capacity to make distinctions, and the Eastern capacity
to see interconnections. And if we can superimpose
these two models, maybe we will see that there are powers
and vitality and pathways that we are only beginning
to map in the West. This is a huge topic. So, let me just say this. A new day is dawning, and it’s a fantastic time
that we have ahead of us. Modern physics is coming to medicine, and I believe it
is going to change everything. Science fiction is here. Your smartphone is becoming more like
the tricorder on Star Trek, every day. Not that I was ever
allowed to see Star Trek. But I do know that the tricorder XPrize will be given to the first team that can develop
the first low-cost mobile device that can diagnose an illness better
than a team of board-certified physicians. That is science fiction. We saw, earlier today,
how 3D printing of body parts is coming. That is science fiction. Your smartphone is going
to increasingly become the control center for a completely different
paradigm of health. Possibilities of health and vitality
will be available to you that has, historically,
never been possible before. You will need a new mindset
to become the CEO of your own health, and you will need to know
how to focus on health and not just on the maintenance
or prevention of disease. So, if I may, I’d like to ask
a science-fiction question. Can the mind heal the body? This is a mystery. I do not believe that we
can think ourselves into health. Back to Claire with pancreatic cancer. She said she knew, at a deep level,
if she was going to beat the illness, she needed to not chase a cure, but
to change her relationship with herself. Doctor Cain, while she was on disability, did a ton of research on how to create a fulfilling life
while living with a lethal disease. She said that she never gave up hope, and at some point, she realized
that she needed to surrender to a new way of seeing
and experiencing herself. What does this mean? It means that we have a lot to learn yet. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen people who thought
they were well, but weren’t. I’ve seen illnesses return when people
go back to toxic relationships. But I’ve also seen people
get better and stay better. And these are not flukes or anecdotes. Identifiable principles
exist among people, and we should be studying them. If I wanted to understand
ultimate performance in sports, I would study Michael Jordan. I do not believe that he would take kindly
to being called a fluke or an anecdote. If we want to understand
ultimate performance in health, then we should be studying
people like Claire and Doctor Cain. What is the takeaway? The takeaway is this: there are powers in your heart and
in your mind that no medicine can touch. Those of us in medicine have a responsibility
to understand this better. There are aspects to this that at the highest level, I can only still speak about
as a theologian. Something in us appears to benefit from experiencing that which is perfect,
whole and complete within us. Those who are able to open
that curtain of perception say that when they do,
there is nothing to judge. People change a lot of things, but what they really want to talk about – the gift of the disease is that it changed
their relationship with themselves. This has incredible significance, it seems to me, for medical and psychiatric
patients who suffer. Those who feel seen and cared for, and then who experience
enhanced self-esteem seem to be more interested
and also more able to give up the unhealthy behaviors
that caused them to suffer and that contribute
to our lifestyle illnesses. It’s a form of cleanup almost
because now something higher is in place. So what does this mean for you? What would it take for you
to not take care of others to the exclusion of following your own
deepest wishes and longings and dreams? What would it take for you
to honor the dignity of your life? It’s really important that we understand this is not to be a burden
or a source of guilt for those who work hard
and don’t get better. It’s not about that. We have more to do
with figuring out our own path than trying to figure out someone else’s. I do know that ethical,
grounded hope with evidence is very different than false hope. This is what I believe: Number one: There’s nothing spontaneous
about spontaneous remission. Every person I have spoken with has effected a deep change of perception of themselves and the world, whether that took
ten minutes or ten years. Number two: The interface
of the body, mind and the soul may well be the most profound
mystery of our time. Perhaps, someday
we will have the privilege of uncovering this elusive relationship. Until then, I remain inspired
by stories with evidence. They give me hope. They prompt me to ask
what barriers I can overcome within me. Number three: Stories
with evidence need a platform because these stories inspire people. And people who are inspired
overcome barriers and then inspire others. As we create pathways
of health and vitality, others will find and create
their own pathways. In conclusion, let’s create a science of health
and not just a science of disease. We become what we focus on, so focus on creating a life
of value and purpose and vitality, built on what is right and great about you so that you won’t suffer and so that you won’t need
the unhealthy behavior. This would essentially be
a medicine of hope and possibility, a form of positive medicine. If we can do this, if we can provide grounded,
ethical hope to those who suffer, and if we can create pathways that help you experience what is right
and whole and complete within you, then perhaps, one day, we will be able
to say we have recreated fire. Thank you. (Applause)

 

16 Responses

  1. Joyce LHeureux

    December 28, 2015 11:28 am

    Jeff, I would like to get a program such as this in Warwick – we need it, I need it. I know what is good – and I know that balance is what I would like the information for the National walk with a dog! Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Susan Justice

    January 6, 2016 8:18 pm

    don't have head phones not loud enough to hear well… have seen you on t.v. know you are good. yes a strain to have to listen to.

    Reply
  3. Stephen Rath

    January 22, 2016 5:58 am

    Excellent! So inspiring. I am fortunate to know many people who have brought about health in themselves through personal dedication and follow-through with focus on their body's actions with the help of an alternative medical practitioner, their mind's peace through meditation (whether sitting, moving or standing) and the acceptance of and belief in their themselves and their choices. Powerful. Dr. Rediger is brilliant in combining the trifecta of studies in theology, medicine and psychiatry: a true marriage of western sensibilities and ancient eastern knowledge. (Just a note: my audio was excellent on a mac laptop at 1/3 volume)

    Reply
  4. Lynn Thompson

    February 3, 2016 2:40 am

    I wish everyone in the world would watch this! Thank you Dr.Rediger for your hope, compassion and insight. Healthier minds and lifestyles = healthier bodies and less suffering.

    Reply
  5. Kultaran Singh

    February 11, 2016 10:08 am

    Hi Dr. Jeffery, I believe in what you say in fact, I have been facilitating these learning's to the Health care professional in various hospital around India, Nepal & Srilanka. I have conducted around 200 workshops, attempting to train the Health care works to assist in supporting this change in belief of patients, who can not themselves attempt to change their thoughts and lives, since the last 9 years. I completely understand what you say when you mention about the possibilities of the mind healing diseases. I too have come across "miraculous" cures specially in the oncology sector while interacting with some of these patients and their care giver/ healthcare providers. [email protected]

    Reply
  6. Jan Erickson

    July 3, 2016 3:45 am

    Loved your presentation. If you're not already familiar with the book, Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani, I believe you would find her story fascinating. Anita describes a similar shift in her relationship to herself that allowed her healing. Thank you for sharing your work.

    Reply
  7. Dorothy Torrey

    July 6, 2016 11:38 pm

    When I had a diagnosis of breast cancer back in 2003, I said, "No" to traditional treatment at 3 top Boston Hospitals and made a decision to bring my body back into balance and to understand the root causes of illness and disease. This is because 6 months earlier, I happened to go to a conference and heard a woman who spoke briefly and reversed her diagnosis by following an alkaline lifestyle. I did not want to cause my body any harm from doing radiation, chemo, drugs or surgery. What is so amazing is that I never suffered 1 sick day from cancer in all of these 13 years. And, my 2 sisters who also had diagnoses and did the traditional treatment said that they wish they followed what I did because it was the better way. They both died a couple of years ago, and today, I live an energetic, vibrant life making a difference here on earth. I am filled with gratitude that I was willing and open to make a paradigm shift and look at health and wellness instead of sickness and disease. It's a most beautiful journey that ultimately brings you true joy!

    Reply
  8. Maryellen Shipp

    July 9, 2016 8:52 pm

    Enjoyed this immensely, I healed five fractures of my pelvis in record time with guided imagery. Four years ago, I had just finished the book "How your mind can heal your body" by David Hamilton, PhD the very evening I fell down my steps. I did not think it was a coincidence but rather.."You believe this, practice it". I was in a hospital bed in my den for a month. I downloaded "Whistle While you Work" from Snow White and played while I imagined I had elves spraying new bone on my fractures. I had fun with it and only did it once a day. I have had absolutely no problems with my pelvis since. If you haven't seen Dr. Joe Dispenza's work, check it out.

    Reply
  9. Dennis Page

    October 9, 2017 3:32 am

    Dear Dr. Rediger,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your TED talk and, being a student of Christian Science myself, have to wonder if you have read the book, "Science and Health With Key To The Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. If you have not yet read it, I think you will find it most inspiring, supplying you with answers to some of your questions. Jackie Page

    Reply
  10. Keith Mayhew Hammond

    February 11, 2019 9:04 pm

    I really like that this guy was not pretentious at all. Often westerners who decide to delve into Dharma based religions for rebellious reasons tend to pretentiously speak of their new found religion as automatically superior, usually without even an in depth study to compare this claim against scrutiny – or in a similar way will call Eastern medicine traditions as superior to western. This man instead mentioned that there were benefits to both and that combining the two different ways of looking at medicine could give us a more wholesome understanding of it. I really like that.

    Reply
  11. cam mann

    February 25, 2019 12:03 am

    Dr retiger was my doctor in McLean hospital 2 years ago. He couldn’t diagnose me even after two weeks. He created the hospital. He is a very fair guy but also has a very strange plastic attitude in person.It’s like he has no feelings, and see’s right through you. He might end up being my doctor again in the future. He is somewhat scary and everyone thinks he’s a celebrity because his appearance on Oprah.

    Reply

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