Do you see your symptoms as obstacles to be removed? Or would you dare to consider that the your illness is a means for your body to offer signals for deeper repair?
Typically we view health (or our lack of health) as being mostly a result of lifestyle choices, biology and environment. We are shocked and dismayed if someone has a catastrophic illness, despite not drinking alcohol, being fit or eating well. Indeed when these things happen there is a real sense that things aren’t fair.
In conventional medicine we seek to rank and classify illness according to a prescribed taxonomy - where underlying feelings, emotions or trauma are not necessarily considered. Indeed unless a scientific and evidence based proof of concept can be discovered, there is weight given to unquantified factors.
But what if our symptoms and sickness are also an indicator of underling suffering of the pscyhe and soul?
This is the premise of psychosomatic medicine. Originally coined in 1818 by Johann Christian August Heinroth, within this premise there is not only a direct relationship between mind and body but the understanding that there is actually no disease - only sick people.. Given we cannot prove ‘suffering’ this framework certainly opens up many questions and variables, because pain, loss, grief, upset are all relative. They exist in grey matter, they are not black and white, so the question begs, are they real?
As a Naturopath, when assessing your physiology and case history, I surely do take into account potential triggering factors that could be impacting your body. For instance, did you know that the ‘skin and central nervous system share an embryological relationship, as well as several hormones, neurotransmitters and receptors’? This connection explains why many of my clients experience skin outbreaks (acne or eczema) during stressful times in their lives. In my observations over the years, anxiety (coupled with hormone imbalance) and skin irritations are surely linked. The successful employment of psychotherapeutic interventions like hypnotherapy and counselling for many skin conditions has also been documented in studies. This literature suggests that skin disorders are related to immune response and that writing or talking about our emotional response allows us to move beyond it and let it go, as well as positively affecting blood markers in our immune function.
The link between how we think and how we feel is equally given much value in Buddhist teachings,. For instance it is taught that if our heart or mind is polluted or defiled then these impure energies are likely to be followed by an external contamination manifested on the body. This is why a pure spiritual life is always the aim for a Buddhist.
Personally, as one who has noticed the impact of my own emotional state on my body, and enjoyed almost 20 years of clinical insights as to how client’s health correlates with their inner sense of well-being (and vice versa) I believe there are many ways by which the body can be healed. And perhaps, equally, there are a great range of factors that can contribute to us becoming unwell.
Therefore, only healing the body in physical terms is somewhat limiting. If we continue to have unhealthy thoughts and feelings, these may influence our recovery, or lack thereof. Surely the psychological and spiritual reasons we feel play a part in the ultimate resolution of our pain too. This is why I work with counsellors, psychologists, kinesiologists and any other health practitioner you may enlist for your whole health. And as my client, I ask you always to consider the bigger picture, while we focus on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of your disease.
For more on this topic stay tuned for my upcoming book Your Body Is Your Teacher
Dr M Mars, ‘The Suffering of the soul in medicine: Psychosomatic medicine, depression, anxiety, anger and the skin in Journal of The Australian Traditional Medicine Society, volume 24, Number 1, Autumn 2018, p8-11.