5Q :: The ins and outs of 'energy psychology'

Self-healing is as old as mankind, and energy psychology is just the latest development. But that doesn't mean we understand it. So, to make sense of it all, we leaned on Michael Mayer, a licensed psychologist, hypnotherapist and qigong/tai chi t...

"Energy Psychology"
Michael Mayer's latest book, "Energy Psychology: Self Healing Practices for Bodymind Health," was published by Random House. Submitted art

Self-healing is as old as mankind, and energy psychology is just the latest development.

But that doesn't mean we understand it.

So, to make sense of it all, we leaned on Michael Mayer, a licensed psychologist, hypnotherapist and qigong/tai chi teacher whose latest book, "Energy Psychology," was recently released by Random House and has already received endorsements from top leaders in mind-body medicine.

Budgeteer: What is "energy psychology"?

Mayer: Energy psychology (EP) is a leading-edge psychological method.


The chief medical officer of Kosovo and the founder of Green Cross said EP was the most effective method they've seen for healing the effects of severe trauma.

Research on EP has also been shown to be effective for many of the common issues of our everyday lives. EP is most often associated with tapping certain acu-points on the body while stating new constructive beliefs.

My new book, "Energy Psychology," broadens and deepens the field of EP by integrating qigong and other cross-cultural healing traditions with well-established psychological methods.

Qigong, of which Tai chi is the most well known method, is [an ancient] method of cultivating the energy of life by synchronizing breath and movement. Qigong, one of the five branches of Chinese medicine, also has time-tested stress reduction methods, such as breathing techniques, that simultaneously relax and energize while one is remaining still. On my Web site, , there are links to solid research on the field of energy psychology.

When did you first hear about and start studying self-healing powers?

In my new book, in the section on "the 6-year-old energy psychologist in each of us," I tell how, when in bed going to sleep, I used various natural postures to heal my anxiety -- and so do most of us, whether we are a 6-year-old child or a qigong master finding natural postures for self healing.

According to research on cross-cultural traditions, one of the oldest human activities of postural initiation was to assume various postures for survival purposes, and shamans of various tribes would use postural stances for healing purposes.

I brought my experience from my childhood sleeping postures, and my 30 years of training in qigong to my psychotherapy patients. In my clinical research I found that at moments of "felt shift" in psychotherapy, many patients had naturally arising movements that occurred that were the same as qigong/tai chi movements.


I taught my patients how to "anchor" these postures for their self-healing. I have also taught these self-healing methods at various universities, and to many health professionals.

In "Energy Psychology," I bring these self-healing movements to the larger popular audience. Try, for example, putting your attention on your naturally occurring long out-breath and on the pause after the exhalation. This is a simple qigong method for "sinking your chi," useful for grounding yourself when the stresses of life get you "up in your head."

Who is this book for -- what kind of people would you recommend it to?

In this era where we all need to be self-reliant about our health care, anyone who is interested in developing self-healing methods can benefit from this book. Before reaching for medications -- and in consultation with your medical health professionals -- people can use these methods for hypertension, stress reduction, depression, insomnia, chronic pain and many other common disorders of modern life.

Are the practices detailed in your book utilized in medical centers around the nation, or is it such an untapped field of study that only a few select people know how to implement it?

Leading-edge medical centers such as the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco have qigong classes.

Leading doctors, such as cardiologist Dr. Mehmet Oz from Columbia University, have advocated for qigong. When Oz was on "Oprah," he said, "If you want to be healthy and live to 100, do qigong ... qigong reverses the aging process."

But, unfortunately, the medical system has a long way to go to incorporate these efficacious methods into our hospitals.


In hospitals in China, Western medical approaches exist side by side with qigong and acupuncture. I have presented my integrative approach at many hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area, and at the integrative medical clinic that I co-founded.

My hope is that, with the new Obama administration, we will enter into an era of "integrative medicine," where the best of all healing traditions will be available for consumers without entrenched biases stopping our public from getting the most efficacious treatment.

Finally, on a lighter note, what does the doctor-author behind such a big, important book do to relax?

One of my favorite ways to relax is to go out to the woods near my house and practice qigong/tai chi and play my flute.

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