S01E09 – The Healing Power of Words with Andrea Gardner

Author and clinical hypnotherapist Andrea Gardner uses affirmative internal communication to interrupt unsupportive narratives and create the conditions for wellbeing.

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Transcript

Announcer:
Welcome to Heart-Based Medicine’s Heart of Healthcare podcast, featuring Andrea Gardner, clinical hypnotherapist and author and director of communications at Heart-Based Medicine. The Healing Power of Words.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Welcome, everybody, to another episode of Heart-Based Medicine Insights. And today I’m very pleased to introduce you to Andrea Gardner. Andrea Gardner is a communication specialist and a Hay House book author, and she is also part of the core team of Heart-Based Medicine. Now, Andrea, apart from us working together, you are really involved in writing a book right now about the healing power of words. Tell us how you come to write this book.

Andrea Gardner:
Okay. Thank you for having me on your podcast. The Healing Power of Words came about because of, from my first book, which was called Change Your Words, Change Your World. And as a result of people reading that and coming to me for coaching and also based on my own experiences, I discovered that the way people use words and the way they use narratives particularly to tell themselves stories can particularly impact health.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
The way that we tell ourselves narratives. What do you mean by that?

Andrea Gardner:
Okay. Whether you admit to it or not, we’re constantly telling ourselves stories. I know I certainly do. I don’t know about you.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
I do. I thought I’m the only one doing that.

Andrea Gardner:
No.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Okay.

Andrea Gardner:
We’re all doing it all the time. So what amazes me is that we have up to 60,000 thoughts every day. If you’re a genius, then I think you have up to 90,000, but I’ll stick with the 60,000. And what’s perhaps more alarming is the fact that 98% of those thoughts that we’re having are the same thoughts we had yesterday.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Really?

Andrea Gardner:
Yeah.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
There’s some days where I can relate. It certainly feels like 60,000 thoughts a day. But it seems to me like every day is a new day. And my life working in clinics, with patients, is very busy, and every patient is another patient. Every situation is fresh. So it seems to me like whatever is on my screen, what fills my screen of experience is new, and it’s fresh. So what you’re telling me is this is only like 2%…

Andrea Gardner:
A very small percent.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
… of what’s actually going on in my brain. Is that right?

Andrea Gardner:
Yes, exactly.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Wow!

Andrea Gardner:
Because we’re relying on our unconscious to feed us those memories and experiences from the past, which allow us to build new experiences. So we think we’re in control of this process, but actually a lot of it is going on underneath the surface.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Wow! So that whatever I experience as a new moment is really just a fraction of that, is a new input, while the rest is already there.

Andrea Gardner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
So that explains in… Could this explain… Let me put this as a question. Could this explain that I’m kind of building the sense of self, that my new experience and the idea of it’s me experiencing this is based on a memory projection into the here and now?

Andrea Gardner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. Largely. Yes. A very unconscious process guided by feelings and images more than words. So by the time we put it into words, we’ve actually processed it a little bit into a narrative that makes sense for us or makes sense of our experiences. So we’re actually a little lagging behind the unconscious mind, which automatically assimilates and then brings it forward into the conscious mind to be processed.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
I see. Okay. So you’re telling me I’m basically unconscious. I can relate to that. And that means… So how can I find out… In what way can I become aware of what part is the superficial experience of the now, and how can I become aware of that 98% that is going on and I don’t even know about it?

Andrea Gardner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Good question. There are two ways to do that. The first is to really tune in to how you’re feeling, and take the time every day to do that. We’ll talk about that in a minute. But the other way is to look for evidence in your life of patterns. So if you’re finding that you are getting to a place where something is happening again and again, you can be pretty sure there’s a narrative running if it hasn’t changed.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
I see. So I’m designing the recurrence of events. If I’m feeling, “Oh, God, this has happened again.”

Andrea Gardner:
Here we go again.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Why did I do this again? This always happens to me. You know?

Andrea Gardner:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
These are thought forms that actually… So I’m kind of creating these situations?

Andrea Gardner:
Yes, yes. We don’t create everything, I don’t believe, in our lives, but we certainly create our responses to what’s happening.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
I see. So when we get to healing and health and how this relates to health, does it mean that what I’m thinking is part of creating a balance or imbalance in my state of health?

Andrea Gardner:
It certainly can. Yes. I think it was Deepak Chopra who said, “Every cell of your body is eavesdropping on your inner conversation,” which blows my mind. Yes. I mean, if you’re telling yourself a story that, for instance, “Oh, I get a cold every winter, or heart disease runs in my family. My father had heart disease. Therefore, I’m going to have heart disease,” you are preconditioning your environment for that to take hold. So yes, I do believe that you have quite a responsibility there to take charge of that narrative wherever you can.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
That’s interesting. So for example, in my family, heart disease… On one side of the family, heart disease is an issue.

Andrea Gardner:
Okay.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
So does it mean that if I now have a heart attack tomorrow or the day after, that basically I screwed up because I thought it, I created this? Is it my fault?

Andrea Gardner:
Not at all. No.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Okay.

Andrea Gardner:
But if your thoughts are going in that direction all the time, then you’re making it much more likely that you’re creating the conditions for the disease, because you’re not at ease with yourself because you’re telling yourself a negative story.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
That resonates. That I can relate to. Yes. The idea of heart disease in my family does not create ease here.

Andrea Gardner:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
So let’s say I become aware of this pattern, okay? So now you told me, so at least now there’s a bit of awareness here.
Andrea Gardner:
Sure.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
So what does it mean? Should I now ignore my family history, or what should I do about it?

Andrea Gardner:
Ah, well, as much as you can, yes. Create a new thought around it rather than recycling an old thought, which is fear based. Create a new thought from love that you are perfectly healthy.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Ah, okay. So it’s not about not wanting to see. It’s not about rejecting a thought.

Andrea Gardner:
Nope. Mm-mm (negative).

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
But it would be about replacing a negative thought with a positive thought.

Andrea Gardner:
An affirming thought, yeah.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
An affirming thought.

Andrea Gardner:
Something that supports you in your health.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
And in your book, would you argue that having a negative thought is part of creating disease, and in the contrary, exchanging, replacing these negative thoughts with positive thoughts is part of creating wellness and well-being?

Andrea Gardner:
It’s part of it. It’s not everything. Obviously, there are other lifestyle factors to take into account. And I think you can use visualization alongside affirmations to create the right conditions. A lot of this is about kindness. It’s about being kind to yourself and speaking to yourself in a way that you would perhaps speak to a sick child. So if a sick child climbed onto your lap and said, “Oh, Daddy, I’m hurting, or I really don’t feel very well,” hopefully you wouldn’t say, “Oh, I haven’t got time for you right now. Go, go. Take a pill. Get on with it.” You would stop and focus and bring your loving attention to your child and speak to them in a way that would reassure them. It will help them to feel better about themselves. And be present with them.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Okay. So replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts has to do with self-care, with a kind attitude towards myself.

Andrea Gardner:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Beautiful. I mean, this is so much what heart-based medicine is about.

Andrea Gardner:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Unless we’re really at home and unless we’re well inside, how can we invite others to step into this space of wellness and well-being?

Andrea Gardner:
Exactly.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
So what could I do? So you said there is a way for me to become aware of this 98% of unconscious rambling and self-conditioning.

Andrea Gardner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
So right now, assuming that about 98% of my inner storyline, the story that I’m telling myself, as you put it, is unconscious, are there ways for me to find out and to kind of develop a sensitivity for this? And can I figure out how much of this is actually positive or negative? Now, I’m really curious. I wonder to what degree do I actually negatively influence myself, and I could feel so much better if I replaced those thoughts?

Andrea Gardner:
Sure. One of the ways is to listen to yourself. If you meditate, that’s easy. But you can also do something practical, like record yourself and leave a recorder on somewhere, on your phone perhaps, when you’re speaking to other people. And it gives you a real insight into how you are… what your inner landscape is like by what you’re saying to others. That’s a great technique to find out what’s going on in your unconscious.

Andrea Gardner:
Another technique is to do a body scan in the morning, a mindful body scan. So you’re really tuning in at the beginning of every day to what’s going on inside. How often do we take the time just to sit with our bodies and really tune in and ask what’s happening on a cellular level? Unless you make it part of your practice, it’s not something you would naturally do every day. So it does need to be time that’s set aside just to be with yourself so that you can ask those questions and go deep inside into your body, find out where you’re hurting or where you’re storing tension or fear or anger, any of the primary emotions. Where are they based? And it might surprise you to find that they’re in different parts of your body than you would assume.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
So what can I learn from this? So let’s say… I can relate to both exercises. One is listening to myself from recordings and learning from this. Look at what is my voice like? What do I talk about? So seeing what others see.

Andrea Gardner:
Yep.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
And that’s certainly surprising many times. Yeah. And the other is to scan, so to turn the camera inside and see what does my body feel like inside. And you’re saying do this at the cellular level.

Andrea Gardner:
Yes.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
What do you mean by cellular level?

Andrea Gardner:
Really go deep into this practice if you can and ask your body, just ask the question, “How are you today? How are you feeling today? What’s going on with you today?” any of those questions that feel natural to you, and then see where it takes you, because you’re often… Your attention will often be drawn to an area that needs your attention, well, needs your love actually.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
So I could scan my body, just literally bring my awareness to different parts of the body. Say like, “Hello, hands. How do you feel? What does my hand feel like now? What does my foot feel like now? What does my tummy feel like now?” And just kind of go through the body.

Andrea Gardner:
Yep.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Is there a specific sequence I should follow or…

Andrea Gardner:
Usually, with mindful practice, you’ll just start at the top of your head and work all the way down to your toes. But if you’re lying down and you want to do that from your toes up to the top of your head, that’s absolutely fine.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
But kind of go in sequence. That’s easier than just kind of [crosstalk 00:13:44].

Andrea Gardner:
It’s easier. Yeah, although you may again be drawn to an area that requires your attention urgently. So be prepared to be taken off into your liver, for example.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
And that’s fine?

Andrea Gardner:
That’s fine. Yeah.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
And that’s fine. Okay.

Andrea Gardner:
That’s fine.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Okay. And then when I feel something about my liver… Let’s say there’s this tingling in my liver, or something is going on. What do you want me to do with it? Anything I need to do about it?

Andrea Gardner:
Yeah. Absolutely. Be present with it. Be kind to it. Sit with it. Imagine you’re sitting within your liver, if you can. Yeah. It’s freaky. But it helps for you to be able to resonate with the organ or the area of your body that maybe it’s slightly out of balance. So you’ll ask what’s wrong. What can I do? Imagine speaking to your child again. You want to help. Perhaps it’s just being present with the feeling and allowing it to bubble to the surface and then be released.

Andrea Gardner:
Often we feel… Emotions, I think, play a large part in our imbalances because we are not processing emotions very quickly as we get older. Children process them immediately. Adults not so much. And we hold them back, and they can cause havoc in the body if they’re not released. So it can come across as a feeling of vibration or a soreness or a tingling, sometimes a color, sometimes a word, but it’s being present with that and allowing it to be whatever it is so that you can release it with love.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Beautiful. Thank you. So that’s certainly… As you speak about it, I can feel the impact of giving myself loving attention. So that’s immediately tangible. And in your work, you do this. When you work with clients, that’s something that you… That’s a practice that you would use. And you give different areas attention, and they give different areas attention.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
So as you were talking, this is already… I can feel the impact of this, and I can feel the impact of loving attention to myself and kind of self-care. And it relaxes me. I feel better. I feel immediately more complete and whole. I wonder when we look at real disease and suffering, maybe specific complaints, or even diagnoses, medical diagnoses, is there any literature, is there anything out there that would tell us that the healing time is shorter or you need less pills or you don’t need to have that operation? Is there any way to quantify or scientifically validate such practice?

Andrea Gardner:
Yes. There’s some work being done by Peggy Huddleston. She has produced a series of meditations that take you through surgery, about healing faster after surgery. And they used these techniques with Harvard’s teaching hospital, and some studies have been done on the efficacy and the results, and patients need between 23 and 50% less pain medication as a result of using these techniques prior to and after surgery.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Amazing. So to what degree… So this is… It sounds a little bit like a kind of research that is evolving quite rapidly in the medical hypnosis field.

Andrea Gardner:
Yes, it certainly is.
Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
To what degree is what you’re describing here medical hypnosis? Is that what it is?

Andrea Gardner:
Yes, it could be described as medical hypnosis. I’m a trained clinical hypnotherapist, so yes, a lot of my work is about reframing the stories that we’re telling ourselves. So yes, medical hypnosis I guess it is.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Interesting. So when we give loving attention to a certain area of our body, then what would you… Do you have an idea of what is it that is at work here actually?

Andrea Gardner:
For me, it’s an energy, but it’s an intelligence. There’s an intelligence there within our bodies that is operating whether we know it or not. It’s keeping us alive. It’s keeping us detoxified. It’s keeping us healthy. And it’s about aligning with that intelligence to keep our bodies working.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Amazing. So it will be really interesting to see in the years to come as medicine is moving into this direction, and it will have to, there will be more evidence accruing, and there will be ways to substantiate what so many people around the planet in the healthcare profession already know and experience every day and so many patients benefit from every day.

Andrea Gardner:
I hope so.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Wow! This is amazing. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the book? Any secrets you would like to reveal? Any peeks into any chapters that you’ll allow?

Andrea Gardner:
Ooh, yes, there are a few words that can create imbalance within your body, and I think it’s important to know what they are so that you can choose differently. And I like to call them the SMOG words because it’s should, must, ought to, got to. When you’re putting those words into your narrative, you’re putting tremendous pressure on your body because they are causing stress hormones to cascade. So you can make other choices. You can choose to do something rather than feeling that you have to do it. You can say I could, rather than I must. These are all words that are much more kind and supportive and help you to achieve more because you’re not getting that cascade of stress hormones. You’re operating in a very fluid way.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
It’s exchanging an uber-ich to a positive creation, to a vision, to a positive outlook, to motivation.

Andrea Gardner:
Exactly.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Okay.

Andrea Gardner:
Yeah.

Dr. Jan Bonhoeffer:
Wow! It feels liberating.

Andrea Gardner:
Yeah. It’s freeing.

Announcer:
This has been a Heart-Based Medicine production. Thanks for listening.