Green, Drs Elmer and Alyce – Experiment with Temperature control - with a woman convinced it would not work
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green
Another woman, very pessimistic about her ability to succeed with any biofeedback machine, maintained before her first training session that even if everyone else could do it, she wouldn't be able to.
She was "a born loser," and nothing would work for her.
I taped the thermistor (the temperature-sensing element) of a temperature machine to the index finger of her right hand and said that the best thing to do was just begin and see what would happen.
Although it is not necessary to use phrases for self-programming in order to begin, we have found that the use of autogenic-type phrases, combined with biofeedback, is very effective in initiating change.
I began with the phrase "I feel quite quiet," allowed about fifteen seconds for her to repeat the phrase silently to herself, and then went on to the second phrase. By the time I had reached the twelfth phrase (or formula, as it is called in Autogenic Training), the temperature of the woman's finger had dropped 5 degrees F.
I stopped giving her the phrases, showed her the meter, and said, "Congratulations, you really have control."
She looked at the meter and saw that the temperature had dropped -much to her surprise, because she had expected nothing at all would happen.
"What do you mean? It went the wrong way."
My reply was "On the contrary, it did exactly what you said it would. You said that if you tried to warm your hand it wouldn't work for you, even if other people could do it, and you proved it by making the temperature go down. Obviously you have a remarkable degree of coordination between conscious and unconscious processes."
She looked very flustered. Then she laughed and said, "Well, maybe I am doing something. Now I'll really try to make my hand get warm."
Within three minutes her temperature had dropped another 2 degrees F, and then she said, "Well, it moved, but it won't go up for me. I give up."
Within a few seconds the temperature stopped decreasing, and within half a minute it started up. It went up continuously for about three minutes, increasing about 4 degrees F.
I said, "That's lesson number one. Give up. The involuntary nervous system can't be forced the way you usually force your muscles. You must learn how to visualize what you want to have happen and then allow the body to do it."
The rapidly rising temperature really impressed her, and she said enthusiastically, "Look at that. It's rising, it's really going up!" Within seconds the temperature stopped increasing and began going down again.
That gave me a chance to say, "That's lesson number two. Don't get excited. In order to make your hands get warm you must keep your cool. First tell the body what to do, by visualizing what you want to have happen, then be detached and just allow the body to do it."
I didn't tell her at the time that detachment was one of the primary goals in yoga. She was a scientific type, for whom the words "yoga" and "meditation" smacked of some far-off nonsense.
Later, I did discuss meditation with her and suggested that anything that had lasted for so many thousands of years couldn't be all wrong.