Book Reviews

Fingers of Truth

Finger signals need not be vulgar. Instead of conveying insults, they might communicate subconscious information. Dr. David Cheek, obstetrician and gynecologist, has for more than 50 years helped hypnotized patients use their fingers to tell him the subconscious causes of emotional or physical illness.

The process is called "ideomotor", meaning "thoughts that cause a physical action." Particular fingers are designated (by the doctor or the patient) "yes", "no", and "don't want to answer." When the doctor asks the hypnotized patient questions the relevant finger lifts in response -- even when the patient consciously thinks otherwise, or has no conscious awareness of the answer.

In his new book Hypnosis: The Application of Ideomotor Techniques (a rewrite of the 1968 classic Clinical Hypnotherapy, co-authored with the late Leslie LeCron, the discoverer of ideomotor techniques), Dr Cheek says:

"Because of LeCron's contributions, we now can explore the perceptions of infants during intrauterine development, the perceptions of anesthetized people, and the thoughts and reactions to thoughts when humans are in deep sleep states as well as when normally dreaming. We can discover and correct many sources of resistance that previously had interfered with successful psychotherapy. The entire process of psychotherapy has been accelerated, and the cost of psychotherapy has, therefore, been reduced."

These claims, startling as they may at first appear, are mild compared with Dr Cheek's other assertions in his 300-page book. For instance, he writes convincingly about telepathy between a mother and her fetus, past-life regression, spirit depossession, and a distinctly unusual view of homosexuality.

Dr Cheek gives several examples of adult women using ideomotor techniques to uncover sexual abuse when they were too young to have conscious memories:

"Babies have an active sucking reflex that can stimulate a father, uncle, grandfather, or older male sibling into the idea of putting his erect penis into that mouth. There is no erotic pleasure in this for the infant. The experience can be terrifying because it is hard for the infant to breathe. Its normal sucking reflex may be eliminated by this act. The infant usually senses, and absorbs to itself, the guilt of the person doing this. . . Since conscious memory does not begin until the age of 2 or 3 years, there will be no conscious recollection for this infantile trauma. Some patients will recall that they have had dreams of this being done to them."

He goes on (evidently to doctors) to point out signs in adults that may be evidence of such abuse:

"Be alert to possibility of oral molestation when you learn that your patient was wall-eyed or cross-eyed during childhood. Their dominant eye may have centered in terrified attention on the penis or trying to avoid looking at it. Be alert for oral molestation when your patient has a history of gagging or has had repeated throat infections as a child. Both are examples of hypersensitivity problems conditioned by emotional trauma from molestation or a tonsillectomy. The problem of tonsillitis that leads to tonsillectomy will be remembered but the preceding molestation will be hidden by conscious amnesia."

Dr Cheek believes we are imprinted with particular emotions even while in the womb. He has taught hundreds of women to communicate telepathically with their unborn children.

If a fetus mistakenly interprets a mother's worries as rejection the feeling will be imprinted and permanent, says Cheek, and "subsequent love and nurturing by the mother will not alter the earlier assumption."

Birth trauma is at the root of much adult distress, according to Dr Cheek. He describes how epinephrine -- released at the time of a shock or stress -- "sets" the fear or distress, thus imprinting the trauma. "The primary trauma may be at the time a mother realizes that she is pregnant. It can be reinforced during the pregnancy, at birth, and during the first three years of life. Rehearsals of imprinted traumatic early life sequences during deeper levels of sleep can occur throughout the remainder of a child's life."

And lead to depression, anxiety, phobias and posttraumatic stress disorders. Ordinary psychotherapy is inadequate to the task of dealing with such imprinting because it has affected the primitive and midbrain, not the cerebral hemispheres of conscious memories. (Insomnia and free-floating anxiety may be evidence of such disturbances.) Ideomotor techniques can uncover the pre-conscious causes of distress, and then they can be treated.

Hundreds of his pregnant patients have used hypnosis to allow a breech baby to turn around, and to give birth comfortably.

The now well-known experience of surgical patients hearing conversations in the operating room even while they are deeply anesthetized perhaps has another explanation: telepathy. Dr Cheek has used ideomotor techniques to confirm this to his own satisfaction. "If this assertion can be substantiated by the work of other independent observers," he says, "it will be very important for surgeons and their assistants to keep positive thoughts while they are working with their surgical patient."

On a lighter note, Dr Cheek tells the reader how to use ideomotor techniques with self-hypnosis to locate lost objects.

The book contains many case examples (sometimes repeated) and explicit instructions on how therapists can use finger signalling.

The chapters on gynecology and female urology are highly technical. The author hopes that more women will enter medical schools and more attention will be paid to "the concept of a mind influencing physical behavior and endocrine balance."

The uses of the techniques to deal with infertility are fascinating, and will give hope to couples who may be despairing of ever having their own children.

Dr Cheek is cautiously open-minded about other approaches which can be included along with the finger signalling. These include looking for auras and investigating past lives, although he finds it most productive for patients to simply cut their ties with past lives, leaving open the question of whether they are real or hallucinated. He takes a similar position with spirit depossession, warning physicians to be careful with whom they broach these subjects..

Especially enlightening is the reason given by Dr Cheek about why some people are fearful and/or resistant to hypnosis: "You [the doctor] may be subliminally reminding these patients of someone who treated them badly at a time when they were spontaneously in a trance."

Dr Cheek's compassion for patients, and his wish that they be co-therapists in their own healing is evidenced in his disapproval of a common technique: " The ... concept that repeated abreactions in total age-regression will catharse a trauma is not a viable therapeutic modality. It usually alienates patients or forces them to fabricate traumas that either are not the causal ones or have never happened."

There is much useful guidance on using the ideomotor techniques to help people control pain and to combat the unwanted effects of chemotherapy. Dr. Cheek also writes about the forensic and emergency uses of hypnosis.

This is clearly a book intended for practitioners, but it makes thought-provoking reading for laypersons, too.

Hypnosis: the application of ideomotor techniques

by David B. Cheek, M.D.

Allyn and Bacon.

Dr Bryan Knight, author of several books, including "Health and Happiness with Hypnosis", specializes in helping people conquer phobias, banish panic, lower anxiety and proof themselves against stress.