Practice MattersProfessional Development

Quantum physics and collegial relationships


I did not want to write this article, truly I did not. However, so many people have asked (actually half-asked and half-complained) how they can get someone else to practice the kind of focused attention and intention I have written about in previous columns. To answer this question briefly and frankly: you cannot. That is, you cannot make anyone else do anything as intensely interior as focusing their attention or intention. Period. Full stop. My best advice is to stop worrying about what anyone else—colleague, instructor, superior, or subordinate—is doing in this area. Just concentrate on doing it yourself.

The term quantum mysticism has been used to refer to a set of metaphysical beliefs and associated practices that seek to relate consciousness, intelligence, or mystical world views to the ideas of quantum mechanics and its interpretations. Because so little is understood about the nature of consciousness, the range for speculation is larger here than in quantum mechanics.

A renewed interest in mystical interpretations and the psychological aspects of the new physics arose in the 1970s with such physicists as Fritjof Capra, whose book The Tao of Physics explored parallels between quantum physics and principles of Eastern mysticism. The 1980 book Wholeness and the Implicate Order by David Bohm also excited interest because Bohm portrayed reality as a unity and defined human consciousness as intentionally directed energy. Moreover, when Deepak Chopra wrote Quantum Healing in 1988, he explained a theory of psychosomatic healing using quantum concepts.

Because human beings remember with neurons (the cells of nerve tissue), we are disposed to see more of what we’ve already seen, hear anew what we’ve heard most often, and think just what we’ve always thought. The limbic (emotional) brain contains its emotional attractors, encoded early in life. Primal bias then forms an integral part of the neural systems that view the emotional world and conduct relationships. Limbic attractors exert a distorting force not only within the brain that produces them, but also on the limbic networks of others—calling forth compatible memories, emotional states, and styles of relatedness in them. Through the limbic transmission of an attractor’s influence, one person can lure others into his or her emotional reality. All of us, when we engage in relatedness, fall under the gravitational influence of another’s emotional mind.

The limbic transmission of attractors renders personal identity partially malleable; the specific people to whom we are attached provoke a portion of our everyday neural activity. Ongoing exposure to one person’s attractors does not merely activate neural patterns in another; it also strengthens them. In a relationship, one mind influences another; one heart changes its partner. This astounding legacy of our combined status as mammals and neural beings is limbic revision: the power to remodel the emotional parts of others as our attractors activates certain limbic pathways, and the brain’s inexorable memory mechanism reinforces them.

So, we can influence others if and when we are thoroughly convinced—so much so that we actually do what we believe. If we also develop truly collegial relationships with our coworkers, we can and will influence their thinking. In short, we can change others only by being truly and authentically ourselves. So don’t worry about what others do. Don’t try to change anyone. Be who you are. By focusing your attention on others with the intent of helping (healing, curing, teaching), you move from being a competent nurse to being an excellent one, and from being a coworker to being a role model. Let the limbic system do the rest. An emerging body of science supports this premise.

Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h), FAAN
Executive Editor, Professional Outreach
American Nurse Today

Selected references

Bohm D. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; 1980. Reissue ed. London and New York: Routledge; 2002.

Capra F. The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. 5th ed. Berkeley, CA: Sham-bhala Publications; 2010.

Chopra D. Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. New York, NY: Bantam; 1990.

Lewis T, Amini F, Lannon R. A General Theory of Love. Vintage; 2001.

Stenger VJ. Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books; 2003.

Dr. Leah Curtin, RN, ScD (h), FAAN, is Executive Editor, Professional Outreach, American Nurse Today. An internationally recognized nurse leader, ethicist, speaker, and consultant, she is a strong
advocate for both the nursing profession and high-quality patient care. Currently she is Clinical Professor of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and Health. Dr. Curtin can be reached at


  • While I never heard of the science behind it before, I do know that ohers do affect us, that role models do influence others, that some teachers (and speakers) are more effective than others, and that you cannot make people do anything by preaching at them (but you may influence them if you literally walk your talk). Please than Dr. Curtin for sharing some of the science behind these things!

  • “All of us, when we engage in relatedness, fall under the gravitational influence of another’s emotional mind.”
    I do not have a thorough understanding of quantum theory however, it is undeniable that we are affected by the energy of others. Certainly we have all FELT the toxic effects of negate people, and had our hearts warmed by a kind act. “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Certainly not nonsense.

  • Apparently bhengeveld has a closed view of her profession and the people who populate it as well as those for whom she provides care and influence. I would strongly recommend she open her mind. Leah Curtin’s understanding of people and relationships is both interesting and thought provoking.

  • While I respect your right to hold different opinions, I think that to dismiss both quantum physics and neural coupling as ‘a screaming heap of nonsense’ and ‘quantum woo’ dismisses the research of a string of nobel laureates. At least try to consider something that seems different to you.

  • (addendum to previous post) ‘A screaming heap OF nonsense’ , that is.

  • What a screaming heap nonsense. This could function as a textbook definition of ‘quantum woo’. I’m flabbergasted and ashamed as a nurse.

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