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Dr. Stemmler's Common Sense Medicine Series

Fall, 2005

Overcoming Suffering by Discovering the Power within Us


Our role models

We live in a world where suffering will almost certainly affect each one of us at some point in our lives.
Some people are born with a natural ability to overcome their suffering, regardless of how intense or long lasting it might be.
Take for example men like Nelson Mandela, Senator John McCain, and Lance Amstrong. They all endured tremendous suffering, through long term imprisonment and intense discrimination, brutal physical and mental abuses, as well as the agony of facing a medical death sentence, and then having to submit to horrifying treatments to escape it.
Three men who confronted their suffering head on, building up strength and power from their challenging experience, strength that eventually propelled them into becoming a president, a senator, and a 7-times winner of the Tour the France. These are famous people and known to the world, but I see such valiant sufferers in my practice every day.
Men and women who beat all the odds, who rise triumphantly above their adversities, and who embrace life as one big adventure, with all its peaks and all its valleys. They are all our role models, the famous athlete, as well as your quiet neighbor down the street.


Yes, but what about me?

What about those of us who succumb to adversity, who give up long before we give ourselves a chance to prevail? Those of us who resort to drugs and unnecessary invasive procedures in order to avoid any suffering, however minor it might be? We are all blessed with bountiful healing power, but so often we are unaware of our own capabilities. There is an ever-growing body of common sense knowledge in medicine, from which we can learn to take care of ourselves in clever and strategic ways. Here is where a little knowledge, if properly chosen and applied, can go a long way. It is not necessary to sit through hours of intense study in order to learn how to calm our fears and soothe our pain. Learning such strategies, what will best work for each of us, should be part of all holistic care, and our physicians must serve as our teachers.


Stories that are real close to home

Years ago, I consulted a very nice colleague of mine, an ophtalmologist, and I asked him if he could remove a cyst on my eyelid. As he was about to draw up the local anesthetic, I said to him, "That won't be necessary, I can use my self-hypnosis and I won't feel any pain." He looked at me as if I had just descended from Mars, so I added, "I have not used dental anesthesia for the last 20 years." Now he appeared a little irritated. "Why do you have to do this?" he asked. "Because it is easy and simple", I continued, "and because it makes me stronger and more self-reliant, so that I will be better prepared to face any future suffering that I may encounter in my life. I try to teach my patients as many techniques as possible, so that they may also be able to handle adversity in skillful ways. I think physicians must serve both as healers and as teachers."

Once, walking in the Sonoran Desert, I twisted my right ankle, felt intense pain, and was unable to take another step. Not willing to spend the night among scorpions and rattlers, I resorted to the only technology I had taken with me on my hike: my hands.

I simply pressed on my ankle on my hand, an area that is represented on the last joint of the pinky, on the same side of my ankle injury, in this case, my right hand. In the Korean Hand Acupuncture system, the entire body, including all the meridians and their points are again found on each hand. With this knowledge, I was able to press on the "sore points" on my finger, corresponding to the injured area on my ankle.
So what happened to my ankle as I was watching another magical sunset, and a roadrunner dashing by? The pain faded almost instantly. "I can't believe this, wow!" I said to my husband, "I can walk again. This medicine never ceases to amaze me."


Learning as much as we can about what works for us

There are so many little tricks that can help us handle whatever comes our way, especially when we find ourselves in situations where we may not be near the medical support that is normally accessible to us. And perhaps we would sometimes even prefer to use simple, common sense options rather than always having to rely on drugs.
It is easier than one may think to learn some of these pearls of knowledge.
Acupressure, on the body and the hand, can be easily learned, and if targeted to specific problems, may be of great help to reduce pain and suffering.
Pain can also be controlled with breathing and stretching techniques, all simple and safe methods worth learning.
Self-hypnosis works on physical and emotional pain, stress reduction, and habits.
Skills derived from neuroemotional techniques and neurolinguistic programming, can be of enormous help with often disabling problems, such as stage fright, fear of flying, heights, and closed spaces, as well as with a large spectrum of physical and emotional disturbances, that cause daily suffering for many of us.
There is also a largely untapped value in the healing power of music and art, both for self-expression and for simple appreciation.
One of the later volumes in my planned 9 books for the Dr. Stemmler's Common Sense Medicine Series, will be completely dedicated to the teaching of many of these approaches. But the publication date for that book is still two to three years away.
In the meantime, I will be available to teach patients individually, by special appointment. Just write up a wish list with particular areas that you would like to concentrate on. I will then meet with you for an extended session, on a day reserved for Teaching Consultations, so that you may learn different methods to safely and effectively manage your own specific problems. Once you have your wish list, give it to Francie, so that she can arrange your personal class with me.
Let us grow strong together!


So much vitality in so few inches:
A perch of hopping, chirping, spotted finches
Japanese Haiku Poe


Christina Stemmler, M.D.

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