"Today you panicked," she said. "You know your mind and bindu-nervature perhaps better than I do, but you've much yet to learn about your body's prana-musculature. The body does things of itself sometimes, Paul, and I can teach you about this. You must learn to control every muscle, every fiber of your body. You need review of the hands. We'll start with finger muscles, palm tendons, and tip sensitivity." She turned away. "Come, into the tent, now."
Most physiological processes in our body function below the level of consciousness. We may be able to control some systems to a certain extent, like our respiratory rate or micturition, but we usually aren't able to regulate our blood pressure, heart rate, pupil diameter, hormone production, digestion, reflexes, etc by conscious thought alone.
But this guy can.
It can be due to extensive training
, to Bio-Augmentation
or just be a Superpower
. As explained in the other wiki
and in Real Life
below, this can also be Truth in Television
. Stronger fictional wielders of this ability can exhibit abilities such as Feel No Pain
, Super Senses
, Super Strength
, Healing Factor
, Voluntary Shapeshifting
and/or even Immortality
. At the greatest extremes
, they may even be able to alter specific molecules in their bodies or meddle with their own cellular pathways. More often though, their capabilities merely
extend to conscious control of normally autonomic and subconscious physiological processes.
Often Hand Waved
by 90% of Your Brain
and other cases of Art Major Biology
. The title is decidedly not a Seinfeld
This trope should not be mistaken for Domain Holder
which is the trope of someone being the owner and thus controller of the physics of an location, often an extradimensional space.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Batman has done this tons of times, usually in the form of slowing his heart to fake death or conserve oxygen.
- Superman has done it too, slowing down his heartbeat to fake death and escape imprisonment as Clark Kent.
- Issue #10 of Warren Ellis' Global Frequency is a 20-page fight between two guys who can do this. It is predictably messy.
- Also by Warren Ellis, Axel Brass (an Expy of Doc Savage) in Planetary has these powers.
Brass: I eliminated my need for food and sleep in 1942, stopped aging in '43, and learned to close wounds with the power of my mind in '44.
- In Stormwatch: Team Achilles (#23 or so), Baron Chaos fools The Authority's appallingly high-tech scanners into thinking he's in a coma.
- Apocalypse, the X-Men villain, has this down to the molecular level.
- Most mid-to-high-level Marvel Comics martial artists have been shown to have this ability, mostly for healing and faking death. Daredevil can speed up his healing via meditation as can Elektra, Danny Rand and Shang Chi.
- Noh-Varr, of the Grant Morrison comic Marvel Boy, has a technique for rerouting pain signals to his auditory cortex thus literally turning pain into music. There is also the White Run technique from issue #4.
- The mutant villain known as Courier had the power of 'endopathy' which lets him communicate with his own body's cells. Among other things, he can change gender, tune his body to evade mutant-gene scans and regenerate from injuries (albeit he is subject to conservation of mass.)
- An Old Master during the "Forever" story arc in Powers could do this.
- The Ayakami ninja clan in Empowered know a special technique that allows them to suppress pain. It's effective enough that fighting them is pretty much like fighting zombie ninja.
- Thanks to his "scientific" upbringing, Tom Strong has this as a Charles Atlas Superpower.
Tom: The burns and bruises I sustained earlier begin to hurt. I visualize the pale blue triangle that triggers my endorphin system, limiting the pain.
- Raizo from Ninja Assassin survives hideous injuries by using this technique to heal himself. So does the Big Bad. So do the mooks.
- The ability to consciously slow down one's own heartbeat to fake death is used to escape imprisonment by James Bond in Die Another Day.
- Our Man Flint: Derek Flint could use meditation to put himself into a state of suspended animation that was indistinguishable from death (no pulse or breathing).
- The 2008 The Incredible Hulk movie has Banner learning to suppress his transformations with ujjayi breathing and meditation. It was also used later to trigger a controlled transformation.
- Dieter Tautz, a yoga master in the film Scanners is said to be capable of controlling his heart rate and several other usually uncontrollable body functions.
- The Bride from Kill Bill can do some neat tricks thanks to her kung fu training: she can slow her heartbeat to make it seem like she's in a coma, and estimate the passage of time from the changes in the lines of her palms.
- In the third Riddick movie, the desert dogs pursue the wounded Riddick, and he hides underwater in a pool of poisonous water. He slows down his own heartbeat to calm down and go unnoticed.
- Storm Shadow did this in G.I. Joe: Retaliation to fake a flat-lining heartbeat and escape captivity.
- The Bene Gesserit of Dune have such utter self-mastery that they can create and negate poisons inside their bodies, stop their hearts at will and choose to let themselves age (albeit slowly) only because a cult of eternally-young women would be socially destabilizing.
- The Dunyain from the Prince Of Nothing books by R. Scott Bakker are essentially unisex Bene Gesserit-lite with a few Mentat skills for good measure.
- The Envoys from Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs series are all capable of manipulating their bodily functions. The main reason being that Envoys Body Surf more often than most people, both as a means of interstellar travel and coming back from the dead, and the techniques help them acclimatize to new sleeves and ensure they're ready to kick ass regardless of their body's condition. In Broken Angels, Takeshi Kovacs has a neural inhibitor remote attached to his skull programmed to kill or sedate him if he experienced any strong emotion. Willing himself completely calm, he rips it out of his head without triggering its responses.
- Cory Doctorow's story "0wnz0r3d" features computer hackers that figured out how to hack their own bodies. Among other things, they spawn custom T-cells that infect HIV-positive people and cure them.
- Almost every book by Poul Anderson features biofeedback. The Boat of a Million Years has Hanno the immortal who learned to accelerate his own already enhanced healing (he was an immortal after all).
- The Monastics from The Acts of Caine books have their Control Disciplines.
- The Spine Assassins of the Deepgate Codex books are "Tempered" into emotionless killing machines who can suppress pain responses and accelerate their metabolisms for brief bursts of super speed.
- Used in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. From putting yourself into a trance that allows you to seem dead, to Vergere's 'Art of the Small' which she used to alter her own bodily chemistry until her tears could inflict or cure diseases if she wished, it's all over the place.
- In the Symphony of Ages books by Elizabeth Hayden, Achmed the Snake can change his heartbeat to match the rhythm of anyone possessed by a demon or from the island of Serendair in order to track them across long distances.
- Anne McCaffrey's Dinosaur Planet books feature "Discipline": a full-featured body-control/pain-control/emotion-control/adrenal-control technique that many of the characters practice.
- Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness has the dothé discipline which enables practitioners to deliberately unleash hysterical strength
- In Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey: the Road to High Saffron, Jane Grey can consciously control the size of her pupils, which means that unlike everyone else in the novel's dystopian setting, she can see in the dark.
- The Red Monks from Tim Lebbon's Dusk and Dawn have this talent alongside focused berserker rage/hate.
- The protagonist from Ben Bova's Orion has complete awareness and control of every synapse in his nervous system.
- Justin Gilead from obscure 80s spies-chess-and-The Shangri-La novel Grandmaster by Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran had this in addition to a larger suite of Charles Atlas Superpowers.
- This appears in many of Vonda N McIntyre's books, including both Dreamsnake and the Starfarers quartet. In each of them, some biofeedback ability, including the ability to render oneself temporarily sterile by altering the temperature of one's genitalia, is standard for most adults.
- Harry Dresden learns a few techniques from his interactions with Lash: mostly pain suppression but also uses yogic contortionist techniques to escape the thorn manacles in Proven Guilty.
- The protagonist of the Iron Druid Chronicles is able to draw energy from the earth to heal injuries, purge toxins and negate pain.
- Remo Williams of The Destroyer uses the principles of Sinanju and its total body awareness to do everything from regulate his body temperature to expel poisons from his body.
- Danica of The Cleric Quintet uses this among her various monk abilities. At one point, she consciously reverse blood flow in her body to force poison out.
- The character of Emma Anyanwu and her descendants in Octavia Butler's Patternist series can control their bodies at a cellular level. Anyanwu can alter her own DNA and appearance at will, while her descendants are able to heal or injure the bodies of themselves and others. However, it takes time and practice to learn to do this properly, and every change they make in a body has to be understood and visualized.
- Onyesonwu, the protagonist of Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death is a shape-shifting sorceress who has this as a secondary power.
- The protagonist of Ayize Jama-Barrett's The Liminal People can do nearly anything to the cells of his own body or others.
- The eponymous protagonist of The Confessions Of Peter Crossman had this ability in the one of the earlier stories.
Live Action TV
- The Bionic Woman (1970s) episode "Biofeedback", which had a guest character who could use biofeedback to control his own bodily functions.
- In the Star Trek episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before," the newly psychic Gary Mitchell can control his heart rate.
- In one episode of The Incredible Hulk (1970s TV show), the main guest character was a cop who was also involved in martial arts, who could turn his pulse off during meditation. He and his sensei tried to help David to use meditation to suppress the change.
- In The Invisible Man series pilot, Darien is having trouble consciously controlling his Quicksilver gland, which is activated by adrenaline. This is hilariously shown when he tries to spy on a soldier and a nurse getting it on and reappears at an inopportune moment (which the soldier did not appreciate). His brother teaches him some basic yoga techniques to allow him to not only appear and disappear at will but to also selectively make parts of his body invisible. He also learns to secrete Quicksilver on small objects, making them temporarily invisible as well.
- This is brought up in a later episode where his brother's RNA is injected into the gland, allowing him to temporarily take control of Darien's body (don't ask). He also has trouble controlling the gland at first.
- Stanton Parrish from Alphas has this to the point that he hasn't aged since the American Civil War.
- A villain in an episode of Elementary uses a technique of this nature to slow his vital signs and mimic the effect of being under general anesthesia.
- Metabolism Control in GURPS allows the character to control all autonomic biological functions.
- There's also the older skill Breath Control, which is classed as Mental/Very Hard and is "not normally taught outside Oriental cultures." It triples the time you can spend underwater, among other benefits.
- Dungeons & Dragons had the Suspend Animation psionic ability that allowed the practitioner to feign death.
- Almost entire Psychometabolism discipline consists of things from bursts of strength to rapid healing to sweating acid.
- Paranoia: the mutant abilities of Adrenaline Control (increase Strength and Endurance), Chameleon (skin pigments) and Suspended Animation.
- Traveller Classic. The psionic ability of Awareness allowed Suspended Animation, the Regeneration of injuries and enhanced Strength and Endurance.
- Pops up a few times in New World of Darkness as a low-level power in physical-based power sets, such as the Life Arcanum in Mage: The Awakening or the Corporeum Transmutation in Promethean: The Created.
- The Star Wars d20 RPG allows trained Jedi to enter a hibernation trance that drastically reduces their need for air, water and food.
- There is a psychic discipline of Soma in the Fading Suns setting, which is described as a Psychic Powers-based extension of yoga and other body control skills. (For that matter, Super Senses-related powers in this game are a domain of extrasensory perception, which is a separate discipline.)
- Franz Raynor of Dr Mcninja has such precise control over his body that he is immune to Nerve Attacks, having literally rearranged his own nervous system to relocate weak spots to other parts of his body. Only an expert in anatomy like Doc can tell where he's vulnerable. He's since underwent various mutilations, and managed to move his weak point to a limb before it was amputated, leaving what's left of him basically invulnerable.
- The ASH Universe has Aaron Zander aka Contact, a superhero whose power set includes a physics-violating version of this.
- It also has a Daredevil-inspired vigilante called Warden whose power is essentially "mind-over-everyone's-body" — including his own.
- Fiona hin'Connaill of the podcast web serial Metamor City is an 'egoist' i.e. a psychic whose power is the ability to control and/or enhance any of her physical traits at will.
- Skinslip of Worm has dermokinesis, meaning he can control any skin connected to him. His usual upgrade method is to flay people alive and staple their skin to his.
- In one episode of the Justice League, the Flash feigns death by making his heart beat so fast that it looks like he's flat-lining.
- In King of the Hill, when Cotton is hospitalized, he screws with everybody by making it look like he's flat-lining several times.
- "Biofeedback" is a method of body function control through the use of biometric equipment for, well, feedback i.e. compensating for limited self-awareness with electronics and learning to handle whatever it measures on your own.
- Thích Quảng Đức, a Buddhist monk in Vietnam, set himself on fire as a means of protest against the policies of the Diem regime. He then sat down on the road and quietly burned to death without screaming in pain or otherwise reacting in any way to the fact that he had just set himself on fucking fire!
- Auto-hypnosis is another technique for autonomic self-control. Also there is the trick of "thinking your hands warm" to deal with migraines.
- In one recorded incident involving hypnosis, the subject relived a heart attack. Their heart stopped for 22 seconds (they were hooked up to a EKG). Sometimes the line between fiction and reality is farther out than we think.
- Some women are said to be capable of 'thinking-off'. In other words, will herself to orgasm without any physical stimulation.
- This is, in fact, possible for anyone with the aid of hypnosis—but it's generally easier for women.