Considering the psychosomatic

It’s worth considering how much of our ailments may come from feelings of dis-ease… how much of how we feel from day to day stems from the amount of stress or resistance that begins to affect our sense of wellness, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

When someone talks about lice, many of us start to feel the itch in our scalp.

When someone at the office gets sick, it seems some seem totally immune from catching it while others are prone to picking them up upon mention.

The sky turns gray and some get depressed. And when the sun comes out, many can feel their entire being light up like the sky, and the strength and energy returns like it never left.

The right phone call suddenly shifts our energy and we are happy, and the future looks bright. The wrong phone call has us believing our entire world is falling apart and we are suddenly tired and coming down with something.

Then there are chronic states of fear, worry, anxiety, and exhaustion, and it’s curious what that might do to our bodies when a simple, rolling-on-the-floor type laughter can have such a physical and emotional impact on us that we shake uncontrollably with tears, and our heart rate and antibodies increase.

Harvard Health, in an article called The power of the placebo effect, which begins with, “[y]our mind can be a powerful healing tool when given the chance,” wrote about a study taken with migraine patients. One of the 3 control groups was given placebo pills that were actually labeled “placebo” on the bottle. It was 50% as effective, even though they knew it was a placebo!

An article by Marcia Angell called The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why? describes an FDA review of the 42 placebo-controlled clinical trials for the initial approval of the 6 most widely used anti-depressant drugs between 1987 and 1999 (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Serzone, and Effexor). It reveals that placebos are 82% as effective as the drugs. The placebo group did not know theirs was placebo. [June, 2011]

“People associate the ritual of taking medicine as a positive healing effect,” says Professor Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Even if they know it’s not medicine, the action itself can stimulate the brain into thinking the body is being healed.” This article suggests “Engaging in the ritual of healthy living — eating right, exercising, yoga, quality social time, meditating…”  as ways to give ourselves a placebo. And, “[w]hile these activities are positive interventions in their own right, the level of attention you give can enhance their benefits.” [Power of the placebo effect, August 9, 2019, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School]

My point isn’t to question the efficacy of medications so much as to look at how much our minds may be at play with our healing.

“…for us to consider a psychological cause for serious illness, it is vital that we believe such a thing is possible. Maybe if we understood better the way our own bodies lose control, triggered only by a feeling inside, then more extreme reactions might not seem so unacceptable. Think about laughter: it is a physical display of emotion whose mechanism is ill understood; it is not always under our control, it affects our whole body, it stops our breathing and speeds up our heart; it releases tension and communicates feelings. If we can collapse with laughter, is it not just as possible that the body can do even more extraordinary things when faced with even more extraordinary triggers?” –Suzanne O’Sullivan, “You Think I’m Mad? The truth about psychosomatic illness”.

This isn’t to suggest that any health issue we might experience is our fault by any means, because this is not a blame thing. What I am curious about is the power of the mind to do what it needs to do to protect itself in some way, perhaps sometimes through illness or dis-ease, and on the flip side, to begin healing itself when these protective mechanisms no longer serve us.

I am curious to uncover, with myself, what can happen when I am able to bring my internal affairs to the surface and find a more compassionate and neutral way of managing them, and what seems to happen when I don’t.

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