Consciousness-changing therapies

Consciousness refers to awareness of thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations, and surroundings. This awareness is personal and unique to every individual. If one can describe feeling in words, it’s a part of Consciousness. For thousands of years, philosophers were primarily responsible for studying human Consciousness. Rene Descartes, a French philosopher, popularised the concept of mind-body dualism, which holds that while the mind and body are distinct, they do interact. The study of conscious experience was one of the first topics studied by early psychologists after psychology was established as a separate discipline from philosophy and biology. Structuralists analyzed and reported conscious sensations, thoughts, and experiences through a process known as introspection. Trained observers would examine the contents of their minds with great care. It was a highly subjective process, but it sparked further interest in the scientific study of Consciousness.

Type of Consciousness

A variety of factors can cause changes or alterations in Consciousness. Some of these occur naturally, while others result from factors such as drugs or brain damage. Changes in Consciousness can lead to shifts in perception, thinking, understanding, and interpretation of the world.

Some different stages of Consciousness include dreams, hallucination, hypnosis, dream, sleep and state induced by psychoactive drugs.

Consciousness changing Therapies:

Consciousness can be changed through an internal and external process. 

Internal Process: In addition to sleep and dreaming, changes in internal processes can be used to alter an individual’s level of Consciousness, and the following procedures come under this: Hypnosis is a technique in which a hypnotist induces a relaxed, highly suggestible state in a subject next is meditation, a person narrows their attention span to produce feelings of relaxation. And In biofeedback, a meditation-related procedure, a person uses techniques to measure bodily processes—for example, heart rate, skin temperature, or brain waves—and learns to modify them, usually in a relaxing manner1(Procedures for Changing Consciousness, n.d.).

2. External Process: External factors, particularly chemicals such as drugs, may impact consciousness levels. Chemical effects can be influenced by environmental factors such as poor ventilation. Chemical substances (drugs) are frequently used in medical procedures and everyday life, primarily to alter levels of Consciousness.

Altered Consciousness without drugs

Although psychoactive drugs can quickly and profoundly alter our experience of Consciousness, we can also – and often more safely – alter our Consciousness without drugs. These altered states of Consciousness can occur due to safe and straightforward activities such as sleeping, watching television, exercising, or working on an exciting task.

Psychoanalytic therapy

Psychoanalytic therapy is a type of talk therapy based on Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories. The method investigates how the subconscious mind influences thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It specifically examines how your past experiences (often from childhood) may be affecting your current actions. Psychoanalytic therapy can patients treat various psychological issues, including Anxiety, Depression, Emotional difficulties, or trauma Identity issues. (KNIGHT, 1941) 

Meditation and Cancer

Meditation is a technique for connecting with a natural, spacious, and clear state of mind. It is not about eliminating thoughts but rather about recognizing when our minds are busy or racing. Meditation can help you connect with your breath and calm your mind(Biegler et al., 2009).

Anxiety and stress can be reduced through meditation. It may also help in the management of issues such as pain, Sleeping problems, tiredness, feeling ill

Types of meditation :

1.Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness entails being aware and present in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced while sitting. When you notice yourself daydreaming or distracted, you gently bring your attention and awareness back to the present moment.

One method is to bring awareness to the sensation of breathing and use it as an anchor for the mind to return 

2.Focused Meditation

During focused meditation, you use an object, such as a flower or candle flame, to bring your attention back to the present moment. This can help the mind focus more effectively, which is an essential part of meditation. 

3.Visualisation and guided meditation

Visualization involves imagining specific images in your mind. You use your imagination to create pictures or pictures for a particular purpose, such as relieving cancer symptoms or helping yourself relax.

During guided imagery, a voice directs our attention in a specific way to relax us (or guided visualisation). This could be someone present or a sound recording4.

According to brain imaging studies, meditation relaxes and induces an altered consciousness (Figure 6.15). Cahn and Polich (2006) discovered that experienced meditators had more prominent alpha and theta waves while in a meditative state. Other studies have shown decreased heart rate, skin conductance, oxygen consumption, and carbon dioxide elimination while meditating. These findings indicate that during meditation, the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is suppressed, resulting in a more relaxed physiological state as the meditator progresses into deeper states of relaxation and Consciousness.

4.Prayerful meditation

The goal of prayerful meditation is to grow spiritually. Its meaning will differ depending on your religion or political beliefs.

The goal of some traditions is to open you up to God or a higher power. The purpose of prayerful meditation is to grow spiritually. Its meaning will differ depending on your religion or political beliefs. In others, the objective is to develop positive qualities such as compassion and wisdom.

Music Therapy

According to cross-cultural beliefs, music has long been thought to have a healing effect on the mind and body, thus cross-cultural ideas. Music can help people relax and distract them from the pain associated with a variety of illnesses. It can also relieve anxiety and distress. As increased effectiveness became clearer, music therapy emerged as a formal discipline in the United States in the 1940s. Other forms of treatment may be used to reduce stress before procedures or help patients transition out of sedation.  Operational conditions are used for rehabilitation, enrichment, and simply having fun. Patients can listen to, play, and even write their music with the help of a professionally trained music therapist. This process frequently evolves to give meaning and voice to complex emotions that patients may struggle to articulate otherwise. It can also improve and strengthen communication and support from loved ones. Among the factors that may influence therapy are the patient’s state, physical surroundings, instrument selection; music therapy is now available as part of the supportive care programmes at most NCI-designated cancer centres. Furthermore, music therapy is recommended by cancer guidelines for anxiety, stress reduction, mood disorders and depression. Music therapists also work with people who have special needs and those in mental health care(Rykov, 2008).

Music therapy can help patients with cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia improve their social, emotional, and quality of life. It improves depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue, and perceived pain in hospitalised children, patients undergoing complex treatment, and those with terminal illnesses. It has been demonstrated in trials to reduce blood pressure. In listeners and improve coordination, mobility, and endurance in patients suffering from stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. It may also be beneficial to the nervous system and immune function. These effects are caused by a variety of mechanisms. The right music can provide meaning and pleasure while inducing either calmness or stimulation. It can provide a welcome distraction or shift perception, release feel-good chemicals in the brain, elicit positive associations and memories, or assist patients in processing and communicating difficult emotions. Music’s rhythm can help guide and improve movement coordination. Music can also create a calming environment, which can help loved ones and caregivers cope with stress(Music Therapy, n.d.).

Music therapy in various forms is also used in rehabilitation. Singing therapy, for example, can help with breathing and lung function. Furthermore, because music makes exercise more enjoyable, it can improve adherence to exercise regimens.

Purported uses

1.Anxiety

Several clinical trials have demonstrated that music therapy can help reduce anxiety, including anxiety associated with surgery and other procedures. Stress should be treated with music therapy, according to current cancer guidelines.

2.Depression

Different studies have found that music can help people cope with depression. Current cancer guidelines recommend music therapy for depression and mood disorders.

3.Pain

Music therapy has been shown in several clinical trials to help reduce pain or pain perception. More research, however, is required.

4.Cancer signs and symptoms

Cancer guidelines and several studies support music therapy for cancer patients to reduce anxiety, depression, and mood disturbances.

5.Better pain control: While some of the studies mentioned showed a reduction in pain, the effect of music on pain was specifically studied among people undergoing lung cancer surgery. These patients not only had less pain than those who did not receive music therapy, but they also required fewer pain medications. Because pain medications can have serious side effects

Music therapy research in cancer patients

Music therapy has been shown in studies to help people who have had cancer feel less anxious, more relaxed, and in less pain. During one music therapy session in a very preliminary 2001 British study of 29 cancer patients, participants reported a higher sense of well-being and less tension. Researchers measured improvements in immune function as well as decreases in the stress hormone cortisol levels.

In 2001, a study of 20 patients awaiting breast biopsy discovered that when some patients received, Their anxiety and respiratory rates were significantly lower than those of the patients who did not receive music therapy after a 20-minute session in the pre-operative waiting room. In a small study conducted in Utah in 1991, 15 cancer patients taking pain relievers were randomly assigned to different types of music therapy for six days to see if music could help further reduce their pain. The pain was relieved in 47 percent of the patients, according to the findings5.

Hypnosis and Cancer

Hypnosis is a trancelike state of Consciousness typically induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction, which includes heightened suggestibility, deep relaxation, and intense focus. Hypnosis can be defined in a variety of ways. A variety of mechanisms causes these effectsHypnosis produces a shift in Consciousness, awareness, or perception. A hypnotic state is a deeply relaxed state in which the patient’s mind (conscious and subconscious) is focused and open to therapeutic suggestions entails learning to utilize one’s mind and thoughts to manage emotional suffering (e.g., worry, tension), unpleasant physical sensations (e.g., pain, nausea), or to assist in the modification of specific habits or behaviors (e.g., smoking). While hypnosis sessions may vary depending on a patient’s needs, a clinical hypnosis session typically comprises two primary phases: induction. During this phase, the therapist aids the patient to relax and may ask the patient to imagine a peaceful scene that allows them to become more focused and concentrate on what is to be accomplished during the session.

Application. During this phase, the patient receives suggestions. Hypnotic suggestions, the critical ingredient of hypnosis, are particular statements designed to suggest relief from troubling symptoms.

 When a cancer patient is diagnosed, they will experience specific symptoms. Stress, anxiety, depression, fear, and loss of control are some examples. These symptoms can be alleviated with hypnosis. Patients who are about to begin radiation or chemotherapy may find that hypnotherapy can significantly eliminate side effects such as nausea, tiredness, and so on. Patients can benefit from hypnotherapy by relaxing and better coping with treatment and pain. A variety of mechanisms causes these effects also reduce their pain further rough no research studies on the use of hypnosis to cure cancer have been conducted; there are numerous anecdotal tales of people whose cancer went into remission after receiving hypnotherapy or guided imagery (a type of relaxation that uses hypnotic techniques to assist the patient in relaxing)engage their cancer with their mind actively).

In the palliative care of cancer patients, hypnosis has been specifically used to alleviate the symptoms of radiation and chemotherapy, such as nausea, pain, exhaustion, hot flashes, and sleep problems duration of hypnotic treatment is determined by the nature and severity of the problem. Multiple sessions may follow a single session of clinical hypnosis for cancer patients.

Altering Consciousness with Psychoactive drugs

A psychoactive drug is a substance that alters our states of Consciousness, specifically our perceptions and moods. These drugs are commonly found in foods and beverages such as chocolate, coffee, and soft drinks and alcohol and over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, Tylenol, and cold and cough medication. Psychoactive drugs alter Consciousness by influencing how neurotransmitters function at central nervous system synapses (CNS). Some psychoactive drugs are agonists, which mimic the action of a neurotransmitter; others are antagonists, which block the action of a neurotransmitter; and still, others work by inhibiting neurotransmitter reuptake at the synapse.

A stimulant is a psychoactive drug that inhibits dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin reuptake in CNS synapses. Because more of these neurotransmitters stay active in the brain, the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system becomes more active (ANS).

1.Caffeine is a bitter psychoactive drug found in plants’ beans, leaves, and fruits, where it functions as a natural pesticide. It can be found in various products such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, candy, and desserts. More than 80% of adults in North America consume caffeine on a daily basis (Lovett, 2005). Caffeine improves mood and provides energy.

2.Nicotine is a psychoactive drug found in tobacco and other nightshade plants, where it acts as a natural pesticide. Nicotine is the primary cause of tobacco use’s addictive properties, and tobacco use is a significant daily health risk. Nicotine addiction is both psychological and physical, and it is one of the most challenging addictions to overcome.

3.Hallucinogens: Cannabis, Mescaline, and LSD

Hallucinogens are psychoactive medications that affect perception and experience. May cause hallucinations are the drugs that cause the most extreme alteration of Consciousness. Hallucinogens are frequently referred to as “psychedelics.”The hallucinogens’ chemical compositions are similar to those of the neurotransmitters serotonin and epinephrine, and they primarily function as agonists by imitating the action of serotonin at synapses. Hallucinogens can cause noticeable changes in perception through one or more of the senses. The most commonly used hallucinogen is cannabis (marijuana). Marijuana is also a stimulant, causing giggling, laughter, and mild intoxication. It improves the perception of sights, sounds, and smells and may cause a sense of time slowing down.  Cannabis has recently been prescribed for the treatment of pain and nausea, particularly in cancer patients, as well as a wide range of other medical and psychological ailments.7

Psilocybin in Cancer patients

Cancer patients frequently develop chronic, clinically significant depression and anxiety symptoms. Previous research suggests that psilocybin may help cancer patients with depression and anxiety. In patients with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis, a single dose of psilocybin produced significant and long-lasting decreases in depressed mood and anxiety, as well as increases in quality of life and reductions in death anxiety, when administered under psychologically supportive, double-blind conditions. Patients’, clinicians’, and community observers’ ratings suggested that these effects lasted at least six months. At six months, the overall clinical response rate on clinician-rated depression and anxiety was 78 percent and 83 percent, respectively. To determine the applicability and safety of psilocybin for the treatment of psychological suffering associated with life-threatening cancer, a multisite study in a more extensive and more diverse patient population should be conducted2. One of the main reasons people with cancer practice meditation is to feel better(Stangor & Walinga, 2014)

Conclusion :

Consciousness can be altered without drugs or mind-body therapies. It is helpful for cancer patients to get relief from cancer pain, anxiety, depression. Meditation, yoga, psychoanalytic therapy, and medicines we can work through the application of medication drugs. It is an increasingly growing area of interest. Still, a lot of research is needed in the field.