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Pain – The Power of Belief

There’s a festival held in Phuket, Thailand every year known as the Vegetarian Festival, where you can witness first-hand, the phenomenal power of belief in its rawest form.

Devotees of the Loom Hu Thai Su shrine, The Mah Song, engage in a form of self-mutilation, piercing themselves and inserting swords, knives, pins and other objects (both sharp and blunt) into their cheeks, mouths and tongues. This, together with other excruciatingly painful acts, is believed to purify themselves and take on the sins of the entire community.

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival

You’ll notice I used the phrase “excruciatingly painful acts” however, the Mah Song feel no pain and lose very little blood in the process because, they believe they are possessed by the spirits of the Nine Emperor Gods, who they trust will protect them from harm. And it’s pretty much true I suppose, as the ritualistic self-torture is repeated annually.

And so I wonder, is the unwavering belief all it takes to control your mind, your pain threshold and consequently your entire body to such an extent? Well, in essence, belief is like an internal command to the brain and, as pain is in the brain, this begins to make a bit more sense.

Science has looked into the phenomenon of the Mah Song self-mutilation, noting that the devotees enter into a hypnotic trance before inserting a foreign body into their… body thus, controlling the pain and as well as blood flow. Aha! Now I get it!

Hypnosis, aka hypnotic trance, has been used for hundreds of years by surgeons, dentists, doctors and more recently anaesthetists, in many hospitals around the world. The world’s first deep brain surgery using hypnosis instead of anaesthetic was performed in Germany in 2017.

Hypnotherapy for pain focuses on training the brain to release its

natural painkillers – known as endorphins, to produce light anaesthesia (the blockage of pain) or analgesia (the relief of pain).

Endorphins act on the opiate receptors in our brains, and while they reduce pain, they’re also responsible for boosting our pleasure zones. Most people, but not all, of course, tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain, however, that’s not always the case as seen with the Mah Song and in activities such as intense exercise, endurance running, having tattoos and piercings and even BDSM, but let’s not go there today.

Suffice to say, we’re a complex lot and we have much more to learn regarding mind over matter and how to use it to our advantage.

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