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Exploring the Nature of Mind Over Matter

Part II of the series, "Consciousness, Free Will, and the Mind."

Key points

  • Human vibrational energy; words, spoken or written, feelings and music, affect the molecular structure of water.
  • Similarly, words carrying an emotional charge affect every cell, tissue, and organ of one's body.
  • Hypnosis has been successfully used to treat individuals suffering from chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and PTSD.
  • Psychotherapists have successfully used hypnosis in the service of age regression and the uncovering of past traumas.

Through the 1990s, Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese author, researcher, photographer, and entrepreneur, performed a series of experiments observing the physical effect of words, prayers, music, and environment on the crystalline structure of water. Emoto exposed water to different variables and subsequently froze it so that crystalline structures formed.

In one series of experiments, Emoto taped different words, both positive and negative on containers filled with water. The water container stamped with positive words produced more symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing crystals than the water in containers stamped with dark, negative phrases.

“Water is the mirror of the mind,” according to Emoto. Emoto’s research demonstrates that human vibrational energy; words, spoken or written, feelings and music, affect the molecular structure of water. But it is not only water that our thoughts and feelings affect.

Many people have replicated Emoto’s rice experiment including two of my friends. They started their experiment on February 1st, 2007. They kept two labeled jars of cooked white rice on top of their piano, not too far apart so that they would have the same light and room temperature, etc. Toward the rice on the left, they daily directed their voices, saying “Thank you! You're beautiful!” Toward the rice on the right, they said, “You fool! You stink!"

Three months later, the rice in the left jar looked almost intact, and the one on the right started to deteriorate and turn black. Six months later, the rice on the left looked darker but still pretty healthy. The rice in the jar on the right was almost totally black and rotten.

Water makes up 80 percent of rice as well as of our bodies. So, what effect do words with an emotional charge have on humans? While there is much psychological evidence for the power of words, there is a dearth of biological research on this subject. An example of the former approach is the research of David Chamberlain, a San Diego psychologist and one of the early pioneers of Pre and Perinatal Psychology.

According to Chamberlain, birth memories that arise in the course of insight-oriented psychotherapy illustrate how babies can be stung and poisoned for decades by unkind remarks such as “What’s wrong with her head?” or, “Wow, this looks like a sickly one.”


Another example of how words can affect the mind and how the mind in turn can affect the body is hypnosis. Hypnosis is best described as an altered state of consciousness, similar to relaxation, meditation, or sleep. James Braid (1795-1860), introduced the term hypnosis from the Greek “hypnos” meaning sleep, as he considered hypnosis to be a “nervous sleep."

Traditionally, psychologists and neuroscientists have been skeptical of hypnosis and distrustful of participants’ subjective reports of profound changes in perception following specific suggestions. However, the advent of cognitive neuroscience and the application of neuroimaging methods to hypnosis has brought about the validation of participants’ subjective responses to hypnosis.

Therefore, it is not surprising that in 1958, the American Medical Association suggested that hypnosis should be included in the curriculum of medical schools, and in 1960, the Association of American Psychologists officially acknowledged the therapeutic use of hypnosis by psychologists.

Individuals suffering from chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and PTSD have benefited from hypnosis. Psychotherapists have also successfully used hypnosis in the service of age regression and the uncovering of past traumas.


Hypnosis and placebo have much in common. While hypnosis-like phenomena have a documented history going back thousands of years, accounts of placebo effects span only several centuries. So, what is a placebo?

A placebo is an inactive treatment or substance, sometimes called a “sugar pill.” In fact, a placebo may be a pill, tablet, injection, medical device, or suggestion. Placebos often look like real medical treatment except they do not contain the active medication.

Using placebos in clinical trials helps scientists better understand whether a new medical treatment is safer and more effective than no treatment at all. This is not always easy because some patients get better in a clinical trial even when they don’t receive any active medical treatment during the study. This is called the "placebo effect." The placebo effect describes any psychological or physical effect that placebo treatment has on an individual.

Placebos have been shown to produce measurable, physiological changes, such as an increase in heart rate or blood pressure. Placebos can reduce the symptoms of numerous conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic pain. Researchers have repeatedly shown interventions such as “sham” acupuncture to be as effective as acupuncture. Sham acupuncture uses retractable needles that do not pierce the skin.

Placebo interventions vary in strength depending on many factors. For instance, an injection causes a stronger placebo effect than a tablet. Two tablets work better than one, capsules are stronger than tablets, and larger pills produce greater reactions. One review of multiple studies found that even the color of pills made a difference in the placebo results. The positive health benefit that a patient experiences in response to a placebo is a function of the symbols, rituals, and behaviors embedded in their clinical encounter.


Part of the power of the placebo lies in the expectations of the individual receiving them. These expectations can relate to the treatment, the substance, or the prescribing doctor. If these expectations are positive, the patient will have a positive response to the placebo and vice versa. A person expecting a certain outcome such as pain relief, will by way of his mental operations initiate a cascade of physiological responses (hormonal, immunological, etc.) that will cause effects similar to what a medication might have achieved. Like hypnosis, placebos demonstrate clearly the power the mind has over matter.

During the last 20 years, neuroscience research has revealed that the cerebral cortex constantly generates predictions on what will happen next and that neurons in charge of sensory processing only encode the difference between our predictions and the actual reality.

Hypnosis Clock Pocket Watch
Source: pixabay/geralt

A team of neuroscientists from TU Dresden presents new findings that show that not only the cerebral cortex, but the entire auditory pathway, represents sounds according to prior expectations. The Dresden group has found evidence that this process also dominates the most primitive and evolutionary conserved parts of the brain. All that we perceive might be deeply contaminated by our subjective beliefs of the physical world.

And where are expectations and predictions located? In the absence of a neurological substrate for such, I suggest it is the embodied mind.


Emoto, Masaru (2005). The Hidden Message in Water. Atria Books, New York, NY.

Chamberlain, David (1988). Babies Remember Birth. Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P Tarcher

Hergenhahn, B., & Henley, T. (2013). An introduction to the history of psychology. Andover, Hampshire, UK: Cengage Learning

Jensen, M. P., Jamieson, G. A., Santarcangelo, E. L., ... & Terhune, D. B. et al., (2017). New directions in hypnosis research: strategies for advancing the cognitive and clinical neuroscience of hypnosis. Neuroscience of consciousness, 2017(1), nix004.

Holdevici, I. (2014). A brief introduction to the history and clinical use of hypnosis. Romanian Journal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Hypnosis, 1(1), 1-5.

Tabas, A., Mihai, G., Kiebel, S., Trampel, R., & von Kriegstein, K. (2020). Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. Elife, 9, e64501

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