Wednesday, October 07, 2009
A wide range of data on mind-body medicine research is helping us understand how thoughts and emotions generate specific patterns of physical illnesses. Disempowering beliefs and repressed emotions disrupt the systems of the body that maintain our well-being. This leads to illness. These patterns of consciousness can even be inherited from ancestors or taken on at the soul level from other incarnations. This concept has been known in many indigenous cultures where shamanic and spiritual healers help people access the deepest levels of their being and release patterns that create illness. There is always the opportunity in the present to heal and resolve these issues. Below are some reports from modern research about how psychological issues lead to physical health challenges. Many of these resources are shared by holistic cancer coaches, who seek to help inspire and empower those facing cancer.
A team of researchers at Stanford University in California found that women who repressed their emotions were more likely to show disruptions in the normal balance of the stress hormone cortisol, compared with those who did not. Earlier studies have shown that the unbalanced cortisol fluctuations can predict early death in women with breast cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.
"People who have repressive styles tend to be more prone to illness, particularly [immune-system related] diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, infections, and cancers. The concept is of unexpressed anger. If one doesn't let it out, that could have adverse consequences." [Dr. George Solomon, professor emeritus of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at University of California Los Angeles]
"Extreme suppression of anger was the most commonly identified characteristic of 160 breast cancer patients who were given a detailed psychological interview and self-administered questionnaire. Repressing anger magnified exposure to physiological stress, thereby increasing the risk of cancer" [Journal of Psychosomatic Research]
"Extremely low anger scores have been noted in numerous studies of patients with cancer. Such low scores suggest suppression, repression, or restraint of anger. There is evidence to show that suppressed anger can be a precursor to the development of cancer, and also a factor in its progression after diagnosis." [Cancer Nursing - International Journal]
A 1979 study comparing long-term survivors of breast cancer with those who did not survive, scientists at John Hopkins University found that long-term survivors expressed much higher levels of anxiety, hostility and other negative emotions. Patients who were able to express their feelings lived longer than those who had difficulty in doing so. [Journal of the American Medical Association]
In a study conducted at the University of Colorado in the US, researchers found that people who repressed their emotions after a traumatic event had lowered immune systems compared to those who shared their feelings. "Our work suggests that emotional disclosure may influence immune responsiveness as well as having general health benefits. We are investigating the effects of emotional expression in women with breast cancer." [University of Auckland Medical & Health Sciences]
German cancer surgeon Dr. Ryke-Geerd Hamer examined thousands of cancer patients with all types of cancer. Dr. Hamer noticed that all his patients seemed to have something in common: there had been some kind of psycho-emotional conflict prior to the onset of their cancer - usually a few years before - a conflict that had never fully resolved. Dr. Hamer started including psychotherapy as an important part of the healing process and found that when the specific conflict was resolved, the cancer immediately stopped growing at a cellular level. Dr. Hamer believes that cancer-prone individuals are unable to adequately share their thoughts, emotions, fears and joys with other people. He calls this "psycho-emotional isolation". These people tend to hide their sadness and grief behind a brave face, appear pleasant, and avoid open conflict. According to Dr. Hamer, some people are not even aware of their emotions, and are therefore not only isolated from other people, but also from themselves.
"Chronic unforgiveness causes stress. Every time people think of their transgressor, their body responds. Decreasing your unforgiveness cuts down your health risk. Now, if you can forgive, that can actually strengthen your immune system". [Dr. Everett Worthington, Jr., Psychology Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University]
"The program's preliminary work suggests that forgiveness lowered the stress hormone cortisol that in turn affects the immune system, but only when the patients forgave the ones they blamed". [University of Maryland - Institute of Human Virology]
"Forgiveness could boost the immune system by reducing the production of the stress hormone cortisol" [Endocrinologist Dr. Bruce McEwen, Rockefeller University - New York]
"When you hold onto the bitterness for years, it stops you from living your life fully. As it turns out, it wears out your immune system and hurts your heart" [Stanford University Center for Research in Disease Prevention]
"Those who received forgiveness training showed improvements in the blood flow to their hearts" [University of Wisconsin - Research Dept.]
Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research found that forgiveness was linked with better self-reported mental and physical health.
A study published in 2003 from Duke University Medical Center demonstrates that those who forgive others experience lower levels of chronic pain and less associated psychological problems like anger and depression than those who have not forgiven. [Dr. James Carson, Dept. of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center]
Researchers at Ohio State University found that the highly stressed women had lower levels of natural killer cells than women who reported less stress. "Natural killer cells have an extremely important function with regard to cancer because they are capable of detecting and killing cancer cells. Psychological interventions, such as forgiveness, have important roles in reducing stress and improving quality of life, but also in extending survival." [Barbara Andersen, Professor of Psychology, Ohio State University]
"I have collected 57 extremely well documented so-called cancer miracles. At a certain particular moment in time they decided that the anger and the depression were probably not the best way to go, since they had such little time left. And so they went from that to being loving, caring, no longer angry, no longer depressed, and able to talk to the people they loved. These 57 people had the same pattern. They gave up, totally, their anger, and they gave up, totally, their depression, by specifically a decision to do so. And at that point the tumors started to shrink." [Yale Medical School - Dr. Bernie Seigel, Clinical Professor of Surgery]
"When I suggest emotional healing to people with cancer, they always misunderstand me. They hear it as emotional support. They think I either just want to comfort them, or show them how to have a more positive attitude. They don’t get that something like forgiveness might be the key to their getting well. I see their eyes glaze over when I go on to say that emotional toxicity is most likely the cause of their cancer, and that forgiveness, if used with appropriate treatments and lifestyle changes that address the physical, is a 'first-line' primary treatment. Their inability to hear this as a strategy for survival, is a measure of how brainwashed we all are into thinking that treatment for cancer must always be harsh, drastic and violent. With our War-on-Cancer mind-set, it's hard to imagine that something so seemingly soft and gentle as forgiveness could be the answer to our problem." [Colin Tipping, Director, Institute of Radical Forgiveness]
Individuals who are extremely closely attached to one another are more likely to experience complicated grief and poor health following the death of a loved one. Sleep and appetite disturbances, alcohol dependence, heightened blood pressure, a greater risk of cardiac problems and an increase in cancer risk can accompany complicated grief. [Yale University - School of Medicine]
"Traumatic grief symptoms seldom diminish after the second half of the first year following loss. Symptoms may actually increase as time goes on. Subjects with traumatic grief are at increased risk of developing cancer and other illnesses. Should grief remain unresolved, this vulnerability becomes part of the individual’s nervous system, hardwired, so to speak, in the neurochemical substrate." [The National Psychologist - Newspaper for Psychologists]
In a landmark study the University of New South Wales studied the effects of bereavement on the immune system by following the lives of surviving spouses during mourning. "At eight weeks, T-cell functions were significantly lower in the bereaved spouses than in age and sex-matched controls." T-cells are important for fighting cancer cells within the body. "The strong link between sleep and the immune system suggests that disrupted sleep following bereavement can indirectly affect health by suppressing the immune system. The relationship between bereavement and sleep has generated great interest among researchers as a factor in increased psychiatric and medical conditions and mortality (death)." [American Psychological Association]
"Grief impairs both the function of white blood cells processed in the thymus gland - and of natural killer (NK) cells which are responsible for attacking viruses and destroying tumor cells. Suppressed grief results in a weakening of the immune system by reducing the function of cells that defend against viral infections and tumors and which helps keep the body healthy. [University of Miami School of Medicine]
"Left untreated, complicated grief is associated with negative health outcomes, which may include clinical depression, suicidal thoughts or actions, substance abuse, cancer and cardiovascular illness. [University of Pittsburgh - School of Medicine]
A study has found that learned helplessness, a key component of complicated grief, is a strong developmental factor of cancer. Researcher Madelon Visintainer took three groups of rats, one receiving mild escapable shock, another group receiving mild in-escapable shock, and the third no shock at all. She then implanted each rat with cancer cells that would normally result in 50% of the rats developing a tumor. Her results were astonishing. Within a month, 50% of the rats not shocked at all had rejected the tumor; this was the normal ratio. As for the rats that mastered shock by pressing a bar to turn it off, 70% had rejected the tumor. But only 27% of the helpless rats, the rats that had experienced in-escapable shock, rejected the tumor. This study demonstrates those who feel there is no way out of their shock / loss are less likely to be able to reject tumors forming within their body, due to high levels of stress weakening the immune system. [Seligman, 1998, p.170]
A study described in the August 2005 issue of the European Journal of Cancer examined longitudinal data regarding psychological factors affecting breast cancer outcomes. Psychological response, including helplessness/hopelessness, fighting spirit, and depression was assessed in early-stage breast cancer patients between 1 and 3 months post-diagnosis, in order to ascertain effect on cancer prognosis. Patients were followed up for a period of 10 years in order to clarify the effect of psychological response on disease outcome. Results indicated that helplessness/hopelessness was a significant variable while the other variables were not. This suggests that those who feel like victims and are unable to experience empowerment when faced with cancer are less likely to recover from the illness than those who feel empowered.
Finally, here is a comment from author Tom Laughlin:
"The secret of healing lies in creating an environment that allows each of us to consciously develop this hidden aspect of the personality, an environment that frees us to live up to our full potential instead of someone else’s expectations..."
The Psychology of Cancer, by Tom Laughlin, Jungian Psychology Researcher