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Have you ever reflected on what was happening emotionally in your life when you "caught" an acute illness or perhaps developed a chronic illness over a number of years? Have you listened to your self-talk and how it seems to reflect your health? Maybe you feel that a person at your place of work is a pain in the neck, and coincidently you frequently suffer with a pain in the neck? Your emotions may be manifesting as physical symptoms you may even have handed over control of your life. Ever wondered why you always get two colds every year, or why whenever you do not have time to get sick, you do? I believe that our bodies to a large degree are a reflection of our lives, and the physical complaints our bodies develop gives us what we need to look at our lives at a particular point in time. Now sometimes that is not what we consciously think we need or want, but we get it anyway. Our belief systems and the subconscious patterns which we have created mould our lives. Our needs and supply for emotional contact with people can decide the fate of our physical health and presence or lack of illnesses. This month’s article will explore more about how the mind can affect the body.
It is possible that even a single period of intense stress lasting months such as occurs with a divorce, death of a family member, loss of job, a bankruptcy or other life-changing event may eventually lead to serious damage to the tissues which could trigger the development of a chronic disease such as cancer. Decades of habitual emotional distress can have a similar effect like living long term in an unhappy relationship or working for a boss who is awful to you. I have seen this happen in several cancer cases, and you may even relate to this with regards to a friend or a family member yourself. Such a trigger mechanism could happen in several ways, but one of these three appears to be the most plausible: stress hormones might themselves stimulate latent cancer cells into reproduction; hormones might transform a normal cell to a cancer cell, or the damage to the tissues by the stress mechanisms may eventually lead to failure of normal cancer-control mechanisms. In this way, a diagnosis of cancer may be encountered a year or two after such an event (it often takes that long for the cancer to develop enough to yield evident symptoms or a diagnosable lump).
You may even know somebody who has had an experience like the following, for example a lady who developed thyroid cancer only a few months after her sister committed suicide, a (non-drinking) man who developed pancreatic cancer about a year after his traumatic divorce, and my wife’s grandmother who died of cancer at 77 years of age only two weeks after great-grandma died of old age. She probably held the cancer at bay looking after her very elderly mother of 97, but when her mum passed away she had no desire to live much further and simply “let go” of life, the cancer just took over.
Margaret is a 52 year old mum of 4. Her family has been running a large and highly successful company for almost 30 years, with her husband and son as well as daughter all being involved. Margaret’s two other daughters have had quite stressful marriage breakups in the past few years involving several young children. Margaret has also been very busy supporting her husband as well as helping out with voluntary organizations for the past 7 years. This lady has tried to stay fit and eat well, but enjoys a glass of wine with meals and has drunk moderately for many years. I have seen Margaret for several years and mentioned over the years that it would be prudent for her to “slow down”, and to focus more of relaxation. When Margaret told me that she had a breast lump last month and was having a lumpectomy and several lymph nodes removed, it came as no surprise to her at all. What Margaret told me was most interesting: “Eric, this has been my wake-up call , I knew that I might “come down” one day with something, but I never expected it to be grade 3 breast cancer, the diagnosis was literally like a whack to the back of my head with a lump of two by four”. There was no history of breast cancer in her family, and Margaret was doing everything right, going to the gym, eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water – but was living a very stressful life and was simply doing far too much. And haven’t things changed lately in her household, Margaret stopped all alcohol, coffee and chocolate. Her husband now takes two days off per week and plays more golf. Her son has reduced his wine intake and Margaret has cancelled her involvement with the voluntary organisation. Unfortunately it had to take a high grade cancer to force those changes. Examine your life right now. What will it take for you to change; do you need the two by four before you become enlightened?
Chris is a Kiwi trucker who drives a truck long haul and works very long hours, in fact 90 hours or more weekly. “Eric, I needed to work long and hard in order to give my wife and three kids the kind of lifestyle they were used to”. But after 10 or more years, Shannon started to get annoyed at her husband’s continual absence and fatigue once he came home. Without telling Chris, she packed her bags and moved out one day, taking the kids with her to live far away. I asked Chris how he felt: “It broke my heart, I loved my kids so much and when Shannon was gone I thought what’s the point of it all”. Chris was diagnosed about 3 months after the separation with a condition known as cardio-myopathy, which is essentially an enlarged heart. His specialist told him that his heart worked at only about 15% capacity and that he “should avoid stress at all costs”. He was placed on medication, including 3 drugs for his heart, and anti-depressant as well as a sleeping tablet. I had a long chat with Chris and told him that he needed to get things sorted with Shannon, or he may well face more serious heart problems within a year. I believe that Chris needed that whack to the back of the head like Margaret, and I certainly gave him that wake up call. Chris needed to examine his lifestyle and occupation and make some real choices and is totally aware of that now. Chris made up his mind to quit his job after our first visit, and moved closer to his wife and kids, and they are having relationship counseling as well. It will probably save his life, because those drugs certainly won’t. You will be interested to note that Chris’s cardiologist never even inquired into his family life or stress, but when I enquired into his family life he wept. Each internal organ has an emotion strongly attached to it, and the heart is about the “shen” as the Chinese put it, the joy or love that each person holds inside. Why do you think the heart has always symbolic of love? So it is now easy to see that when somebody has a "broken heart”, it can literally spell a heart condition and impending death. Do you have a heart complaint under similar circumstances; has your heart ever ached after a separation of death of a loved one? Maybe you need to get to the heart of the matter once and for all.
Your real journey of personal healing finally starts when you find that there's something wrong with you that can’t be resolved with drugs or repeated surgeries, or you have some health problem which just “won't go away”. Healing your life by really looking at how your emotional or behavioural state can affect your body may well take you through an exciting and gentle journey of rediscovering your own life and resuming your place in it. You may not like some of the demons locked inside which you may confront on this sometimes perilous journey, and there may well be some there. But don’t worry, they won’t bite. Please remember, you already have all the resources you require to heal your life, and true healing can only happen when you stop relying on chemicals and instead tackle the fundamental causes of ill health. If you do take medicines take only natural medicines that work with, and not against, your body. Do you love your disease? Do you need to hold onto it because it serves a purpose? Life can heal you if you let it. Life and ill health can be your greatest teacher if you are a willing student, and in the game of life you are never too old to learn.
DISCLAIMER: GrownUps is not a Health Professional and we are not making a recommendation to you. GrownUps accepts no responsibility for decisions made as a result of using the information provided by the author.