The mind and the body are not two separate entities although they are often treated that way. Physical health and emotional health are intimately intertwined in what’s known as the mind-body connection.
In ancient Greece, patient management had a collaborative link between different disciplines that was eventually replaced by the Western approach; an approach that was dominated by medicalization and by the separation of mind and body. The people who “invented” medicine had therefore understood that such connection existed, creating practices inspired by this basic assumption.
Many are familiar with the term “Psychosomatic,” which derives from Greek for psykhē (mind) and sōma (body), coined by Dr Adler in 1938 to describe physical disorders with psychological causes, aggravated by mental factors, such as internal conflict or trauma.
There is growing evidence that the ancient Greeks were right: our thoughts, feelings and attitudes influence biological functioning, and what we do with our bodies can influence our mental state. In fact, until about 300 years ago, most systems of medicine treated the mind and body as a whole. This continued until the 17th century when western cultures began to see the body and mind as distinct entities. In fact, our modern western counterparts – surgeons, doctors and psychologists/psychotherapists – rarely speak to each other.
Any condition can be considered psychosomatic. Examples include eczema, psoriasis, high blood pressure, ulcers and heart disease. At the same time, the term, ‘psychosomatic disorder,’ is used when mental factors cause physical symptoms, but there is no physical disease. A chest pain, for example, might be caused by stress and not by physical illness. While a stroke or heart attack, which is purely considered a physical ailment due to the total or partial obstruction of an artery, can merely be caused by psychological and social factors, including the presence of mood alterations (such as depression) and various types of relationship difficulties which can provoke the stroke.
Another interesting example of how emotional factors can influence people’s physical health concerns studies that have been conducted since 1950 on children with breathing difficulties. This research highlighted that symptoms improved when the young patients were hospitalized. This improvement was not due to the different hygienic conditions of the environment but to the distance from conflicts and family tensions. In fact, in the hospital, the children did not experience crisis even when they were exposed to the same allergen.
The role of personality traits in influencing physical well being was also taken into consideration. For example, people who are often sad/negative and predisposed towards anger repression and aggressive behaviour may experience changes in the immune system, diminishing the body’s defences and, therefore, facilitating the onset of diseases.
In the presence of a disease, therefore, it is important to consider that biological, social and psychological factors interact with each other and influence each other. Introducing changes in some of these aspects can help bring about an overall improvement that is reflected in the other factors and overall health.
When you have physical symptoms that seem to have no organic cause or that seem to worsen with stress, anxiety or melancholy, it can be useful to contact a compassionate coach to help identify and even heal the root cause.
All symptoms have a deep meaning for each of us: they transmit a precious message that comes from our deepest self, from the unconscious intelligence that knows what is the absolute best for us. If ignored they will move you away from your evolutionary purpose.
By Elena P. Hansen – My Coaching Lab