Ever wondered if it might be possible that the nagging cough and cold you have could be stemming from the emotional conflict you are suffering? Or that the masseur at the spa was right when she said " you have too much stress" when your shoulders started hurting as she massaged the area.
As far back as the end of the 19th century, American philosopher William James had remarked that 'no mental modification ever occurs which is not accompanied or followed by a bodily change'. The stage was set for new research into the effects of the mind on the body in 1975 with Robert Ader's discoveries. Ader, an American psychologist, successfully demonstrated that our body's immune responses could be modified by classical conditioning. Which means, there were connections between the brain and the immune system, and the mind could have a profound effect on the body's functions that were thought to be independent.
The view is supported by various new- age alternative medicine practitioners, who are coming up with different theories.
Louise L. Hay, the author of the best- selling book You Can Heal Your Life , believes that every disease stems from some negative emotion or thought. Often we are not even aware of these. She believes that by correcting these thoughts and emotions, the disease can be checked or reversed. According to her, for example, for spine- related diseases, the corresponding thought could be related to lack of support in life. A balancing thought or feeling of ' I am supported by life' can heal the problem. Similarly, a simple acne could be due to a thought related to ' not accepting oneself ', and a balanced thought like ' I love and approve myself ' could help improve the condition. Hay says that every person needs to be examined and understood to reach the emotional ' diagnoses' of the diseases. What she shares in her books are broad generalised guidelines.
Dr Ryke Geerd Hamer, a controversial medical practitioner and the founder of ' German new medicine', researched almost 15,000 cancer patients and found that the genesis of cancer always happens first on the emotional plane from a personal experience of an extremely brutal shock, a dramatic and acute conflict, experienced in loneliness and sensed by the patient as the most serious he has ever known.
Dr Hamer summed up his research with this sentence: " I searched for cancer in the cell and I have found it in the form of a wrong coding in the brain." Though the Swiss Cancer League describes Dr Hamer's approach as dangerous, as it creates a ' false sense of security', there are many takers for his approach all over Europe.
Psychologist Guang Yue, at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, conducted a curious study which showed that just by focused thinking and trained visualisation, we can The Five Koshas Anandamaya Vigyanmaya Manomaya Pranamaya Annamaya
gain half the muscle strength as any regular gym- goer in the same amount of time.
As a concept, though, the mindbody connection has been around for thousands of years. Ayurveda, one of the most ancient practices of medicine, explains it as a harmony between the three doshas or humours, which are influenced by physical and psychological factors.
Yoga says that we all have five koshas or 'bodies' — annamaya kosha or physical body, pranamaya kosha or vital energy body, manomaya kosha or mental body, vigyanmaya kosha or knowledge body and anandamaya kosha or bliss body. These ' bodies' influence one another and influence our health — mental as well as physical. Other ancient healing modalities like acupuncture, acupressure and traditional Chinese medicine focus on the ' energy body' as the access point of our physical body.
Homoeopathy, too, recognises the psychological plane of diseases.
A renowned maxillofacial surgeon in Calcutta once told us while chatting that the moment he sees a tumour he ' knows' the social background, the mental make- up and domestic conditions of the person. According to him, they follow a pattern. The tumour for him is a window to his patient's mind and soul.
The connection between the mind and body is real. And perhaps it's time we took it seriously. If we really want to take care of our ourselves, we need to take care of our thoughts and emotions, not just our body.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches
Share your problems with them at dr. sangbarta@ gmail. com