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Green, Drs Elmer and Alyce – Healing using Autogenic Training and Biofeedback



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A description of the experience

Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green

Autogenic Training is an important modern way of setting up programs of body behavior, and because of its great theoretical and clinical importance, it is useful to explain in detail what it is and how external feedback of information from the body can speed it up.

Autogenic Training is a psychophysiological form of therapy - that is, it involves both mind and body simultaneously.

 It was developed in the early 1900s by Johannes H. Schultz, a psychiatrist and neurologist in Berlin He was one of a few physicians in the western world for whom reports of Indian yogis had awakened an interest in self-regulation. He was also intrigued by the results of research on sleep and hypnosis carried out by the renowned brain physiologist Oscar Vogt at the Berlin Institute during 1890-1900. Vogt found that some patients whom he had guided through a series of hypnotic sessions had learned to put themselves, for self-determined periods of time, into a state similar to the hypnotic state.

He observed that these "autohypnotic" exercises were of clinical value. If practiced several times a day, they could overcome effects of stress, such as tension and fatigue, prevent headaches, and seemingly improve overall functioning. He called these exercises "prophylactic rest-autohypnosis."

Interested in the self-directed nature of these phenomena, Johannes Schultz explored autosuggestion as a psychotherapeutic technique. He was particularly interested in a technique that would not-as conventional hypnotherapy often does-induce passivity or lack of self-responsibility in the patient and corresponding dependence on the therapist.

Earlier, Schultz had investigated hallucinations in normal persons. The reports of his hypnotized subjects convinced him that a feeling of heaviness in the extremities (often generalized to the whole body) and an associated feeling of warmth were basic factors in bringing about the hypnotic state. Further exploration along these lines demonstrated that a person could voluntarily (that is, by means of auto-, or self- direction) bring about a similar psychophysiological state. A person need only passively concentrate on certain verbal formulas (phrases) implying heaviness and warmth in the extremities-for example, the repetition of such a phrase as "My right arm is heavy." Then the subject proceeded to the left arm and the legs.

After proficiency in the heaviness exercise was achieved, the procedure was repeated with warmth: "My right hand is warm," etc. Gradually Schultz evolved a number of such verbal formulas, formed, into two basic series of exercises. The six standard exercises of the first series focused on

(1) the neuromuscular system (for relaxation of the striate musculature),

(2) the vasomotor system (for relaxation in the vascular system),

(3) the heart,

(4) the breathing mechanism,

(5) warmth in the abdominal area, and

(6) cooling of the forehead.

The meditative exercises of the second series are for trainees who have mastered the standard exercises, and are normally started after six to twelve months of standard training. They begin with passive concentration on phenomena of visual imagination, such as the spontaneous experiencing of colors, then of objects, then the imagining of abstract concepts like "happiness" and "justice." This is followed by meditating on one's own feelings or on the image of another person, and finally, at the deepest level, one may interrogate and get "answers from the unconscious" levels of one's own nature, as Schultz put it.

Physiological improvements that occur during the practice of Auto genic Training exercises are stabilized by regular practice over an extended period of time and have a normalizing influence on a great variety of bodily and mental disorders.

Clinical results have demonstrated that Autogenic Training has helped in the treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, disorders of the cardiovascular system and vasomotor disturbances, disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, and disorders of the endocrine system. It has been effective in the treatment of 60 to 90 percent of patients with long-standing disturbances such as insomnia, headache, bronchial asthma, and chronic constipation, and has proved helpful in behavioral and motor disturbances such as stuttering, writer's cramp, bed-wetting, anxiety, and phobias.

The source of the experience

Green, Dr Elmer and Alyce

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