mind over matter

Your thoughts can make you ill, or it can heal you – a case study of a miraculous healing

© Jorgan Harris

1. Introduction

In 2005 I presented an international paper at the International Congress of Hypnosis in Krakow, Poland about hypnosis and auto immune diseases. I presented the case of Jeanne who was referred to me in 1998 for depression, since she was given only two years to live, with a very rare disease called scleroderma.

I did not know anything about scleroderma and had to do research on it.

In our first session, I said to her: “Why do I have to treat you for depression? You have reason to be depressed. You are going to die anyway. Why don’t we rather work on your illness?” She was shocked. She then agreed to work on the illness.

First, I had to discover what scleroderma was.

2. Scleroderma is an auto-immune disease

People never have diseases; they just experience something as a disease.

Scleroderma is an auto-immune disease (like Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis and Aids).

These diseases all involve an out-of-control immune system, where the body begins mistakenly attacking and destroying its own healthy cells. In other words, the body loses the ability to differentiate between its own cells and the menacing invaders.

The primary function of the immune system is to recognise foreign substances and prevent them from harming us. It represents the ability to protect ourselves against invasion; it also implies an awareness of the relationship between inside and outside and to what extent we are influenced by that relationship which is the ability to discriminate between what is us or is not us – between the self and the non-self. If the immune system is overactive towards external antigens, such as bacteria or pollen – an allergy can develop; if it’s under-active, an infection develops.

It is about the physical expression of the body’s ability to tell the difference between self and non-self. In other words, the immune system, when working properly, should be able to tell which cells and which chemicals belong to you and which not. It is supposed to protect your body and attack anything that is not yours. Auto-immune diseases can literally be understood as the self-attacking the self at an immunological level.

The word ‘tolerance’ is used to describe this discrimination between self and non-self, so we attack only non-self-substances. ‘Intolerance’ is the inability to distinguish between what is harmful and what is not, where the non-self actually appears as the self. Such a process of discrimination is a vital component of our sense of identity – the ability to define our own thoughts and feelings, rather than being easily influenced by others.

3. What is scleroderma really?

The term scleroderma comes from two Greek words: “sclero” meaning hard or thick and “derma” meaning skin. This particular term is used because hardening or thickening of the skin is one of the most visible manifestations of the dis-ease.

Symptoms of scleroderma may be visible where the affected skin is visible, or invisible when internal organs are affected.

It is known that the dis-ease process in scleroderma involves an overproduction of collagen. Collagen is the major protein of the connective tissue of the body. The overproduction of collagen causes thickening and hardening of the skin, organ and joint problems, reduced mobility, skin ulcers, as well as a possible lung and heart failure may take place.

The self is trying to protect the individual against the non-self by creating an overproduction of collagen. But the overproduction of collagen is killing the individual – it is killing the self against the non-self.

4. Analogue thinking

You are the author of your own illness.

Analogue thinking is where a symbolical meaning of a word becomes literal to the subconscious mind and it represents itself at a physical level.

Analogue thinking is where we are substituting something concrete for abstract thinking.

Consider the following:

  • a person breaking out in a rash is itching to break through limits and transcend them;
  • people who don’t want to see things, may have problems with their eyes;
  • people who feel they cannot stand up straight, may have back-problems;
  • people who feel they have no sweetness left may have a problem with diabetes;
  • I once saw a teacher who was becoming deaf. She told me she just did not want to hear the noise in her classroom anymore. She started to turn a deaf ear. Analogue thinking understands it as becoming physically deaf;
  • if something is eating away at you, it is like a cancer eating away at you;
  • if you can’t get rid of the “proverbial sh*t “ in your life, you may develop problems with constipation;
  • the skin is the ultimate boundary between the person and the world around the person;
  • people with eczema, a very itching dis-ease, may feel itchy towards other people or may itch to do something.

5. Analogue thinking and scleroderma

The not yours in the case of an auto-immune dis-ease patient should be addressed. What is it that the person made it his or hers that is not supposed to be his or hers? It is about a person’s belief-system that believe something is “good for him or her” but is in fact not good for him or her. A city with high walls may protect itself against invaders but it may also cut the city off from supplies.

Defining boundaries: the skin

Our skin is the contact point between us and the world around us. The skin flushes with anger or shame, blushes with love or embarrassment, goes white with shock, breaks out in goose bumps with cold or anticipation or sweats with exertion or fear. Every emotion creates a response that can be noted in the skin.

The skin is the outermost expression of our innermost being: through the skin we relate and communicate with others. It forms a boundary between us and the world – a meeting place of inner and outer. Difficulties with the skin are, therefore, often connected to difficulties with communication, especially if that communication is threatening our boundaries in any way.

Touching breaks through those limitations, crossing our boundaries by reaching into our feelings. Touching is the most basic form of communication, transmitting love, tenderness, healing, security, confidence, safety and passion. A baby can die if it is not touched enough, while adults can develop mental illness and trauma without human contact, as if they are shrivelling up inside a shell.

Touching is a natural part of intimacy but physical contact is not always pleasant; it can also trigger a fear of being hurt or of feeling exposed and vulnerable. A fear of touching shows a deeper fear of sharing ourselves, perhaps due to previous touching that was abusive. There may be feelings of being unclean or ugly, a sense of shame or guilt.

Hard skin

Areas of hardened and thickened skin indicate that thought patterns – such as fear or prejudice – have become hardened, unmoving or stuck. To be callous (to harden your heart) is to be hard and unfeeling. A built-up of skin deadens our ability to feel and receive input. It is like a protective wall, preventing any trusting or open communication with others. The person is becoming hardened or insensitive. The individual is closed off from others or from his or her own tenderness.


Joints make us mobile. Many of the symptoms that affect the joints lead via inflammation to pain, with this leading in turn to restrictions on movement and even total stiffening up. When joints stiffen up, a “rigid stance” is taken in respect of something or someone. A stiffened joint loses its function. Consider the following figures of speech: “to overstretch ourselves”, “to go too far”, “to put a strain on somebody”, “to put somebody under pressure”, “to become over-stressed or over-strained”, “to get all screwed up”.

6. The story of Jeanne

Jeanne had the following symptoms of scleroderma:

  • thick skin;
  • blocking of veins, arteries;
  • blocked tear glands / dry eyes;
  • stiff joints;
  • ulcerated fingers;
  • wounds becoming septic (the result of too rapid healing) and no surgery scars;
  • reduction of the ability to open her mouth (also due to the tightness of the skin);
  • high blood pressure.

From an analogue thinking point of view:

  • Is she blocking the flow of life through the blocking of flow through her veins and arteries?
  • Have her eyes gone dry? Why doesn’t she cry anymore? Have her tears dried up?
  • Has she become too stiff and too rigid in her thinking, with little or no flexibility?
  • The report of her General Practitioner showed that she is healing “too quickly” (an imbalance). If she removed her ear piercings for 48 hours, the holes would close.
  • What do fingers represent? Touching, holding, handling or getting a grip? What may the word “ulcerated” mean?
  • Wounds becoming septic (the result of a too-rapid healing) and no surgery scars.
  • Is she on the alert, that she does not even allow herself to feel the pain?
  • Is she subconsciously trying to heal too quickly from her (emotional pain)?
  • Why can’t she open her mouth? Is there something she needs to say but can’t or does not want to verbalise? Can’t she speak up for herself? It is interesting to note that Jeanne had a weak voice.
  • What is raising her blood pressure? Is her blood boiling?

Brief history

Jeanne was born in 1944 as the younger of two daughters. She was rejected at birth because her mother wanted a son. She was 3 or 4 years old when her father passed away. She described her mother as cold, harsh and domineering.

She started to withdraw and was constantly ill. By the age of 8 years old she was diagnosed with “thick skin” disease.

She had her first ulcerated finger at the age of 15 and at age 23 she was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. At 33 her hands were almost useless. She says: “my loss of touch was now apparent”.

In 1996, at age 52 she was finally diagnosed with scleroderma. She writes: “I was now financially crippled as well as health wise. I wanted to die and fell into a deep depression and discontinued the medications I could not afford”.

We started with hypnosis. During her first hypnosis session, she started to cry. After the session, she told me that it was the first time in eight years that she could shed any tears. She was seeing herself in her safe place as whole and healed. During this process, I started to learn more about her, what she feels passionate about and what would give meaning to her life, although it was just survival, on a physical and financial, as well as emotional level at this stage.

At this point I noticed that she was wearing predominantly blue-coloured clothes all the time. Enquiring about it, she told me that her mother always bought her sister red clothes and blue for her. When she asked her mother about it, her mother’s reaction was: “Red is for the beautiful, blue is for you”. Aside from the fact that this must have hurt her self-esteem, it also caused role confusion because she had to be a boy – a not yours.

We started to explore what her illness could teach her. Another major break-through was experienced here. I told her that she was not dying but actually committing suicide. She realised that she was the cause of her own illness and means that she was in control of it and of her life and that she could heal it. She started to realise that healing was possible.

How can her scleroderma be a blessing? Finally, I asked her: “Are you thick-skinned?” When I asked this question, it was as if her whole history just started to unfold. She told me about her mother, a traumatic marriage and other abuse where she had to be thick-skinned to survive. She literally became hardened, unmoved and stuck. She started to deaden her ability to feel and to receive input. Her protective wall had become too thick. It was a resistance. Her subconscious mind started to protect her by thickening the skin but her defence mechanism went out of balance and was now killing her. The immune system got confused in its attempt to attack the not yours (she was treated like a boy) but started to attack the yours. We figured out that this is why “she could not cry anymore”. She was analogically blocking her tears because “boys don’t cry”.

After some time, I could take her back to her childhood using hypnosis. I asked her to tell her mother whatever she wanted to say, but what she never could or did to her mother whatever she would have liked to do. She just refused to say anything (which may explain her shrinking mouth). I asked her to hit her mother and she then started to hit into the air. From here on there was almost no stopping her in her healing process. Even her joints started to loosen up to get into balance. At this point in time she started wearing red clothes.

She writes: “Over the next few months, my fingers healed, my nails began to grow properly and my sensations returned. My dentist commented that my mouth was bigger and measurements proved my opening capacity had grown by 8 cm. Tests have shown that my lungs and kidneys are now almost normal and I have energy I never knew existed. For the first time in my life, I felt alive! Better yet, my pain was gone”.

A couple of sessions later, she could finally forgive her mother.

Years later

I met her in October 2011 for a cup of coffee. She should have been dead for twelve years now. She is still alive and working (and kicking). She is not using any medication at all. She is not depressed anymore. She is working at an old age home where she needs to help the invalid. Her job requires her to move a lot and climbing stairs. There is no boundary between her and the world around her, she is not thick-skinned.

I believe in synchronicity. She did not intend to work at an old age home but it just so happened that the job required her work with the invalid, ill and dying.

In Jeanne’s own words

As far back as I can remember my life has always been traumatic, turbulent and abusive – from childhood and into adulthood. I believe this began when I was a baby.

It resulted in the vibes I put out attracting abusive souls and I accepted it all as my LOT in life.

My marriage in 1964 seemed like a blessing and a chance at happiness but it lasted 16 unhappy years. My husband moved out after 14 years leaving me with 4 young sons but for a further 2 years he bounced back and forth between his other women and me until I divorced him in 1980.

After many years of illness when I had finally been diagnosed my GP being a homoeopathic doctor gave me a book to read: “You can heal your life” by Louise Hay.

Reading it gave me something to cling to, (some) hope.

However, by the time I underwent hypnosis my care had been transferred to the state hospital due to my financial situation. The nursing staff was amazed at my sudden progress but the doctor called me very stupid. He told me I must face the fact that I would die probably by Christmas as there is NO cure for scleroderma.

Now at age 68 and virtually pain free the past does not seem real somehow. 15 years ago, I started a new life and have not looked back at all. I no longer attract abuse but I am still learning and hope that one day I will be ready to begin a meaningful relationship with someone special!

I do feel that changing my name under hypnosis was a significant step forward. At the time, it did not appear to be that important but I have since realised it allowed me to leave all the pain behind and FIND MYSELF.

[Note by Jorgan: for some reason, I called her Jeanne by accident while she was under hypnosis instead of Jean, her real name. After this she accepted Jeanne as her new name.]

As I watched fellow scleroderma sufferers die I vowed I would NOT succumb to this dreadful disease. I will fight it with every fibre of my being.

My advice to anyone, fighting a life-threatening disease, is to be STRONG enough to BELIEVE and FOLLOW YOUR HEART even if it means side stepping traditional advice.

Medical histories are NO match for our psyche.