Emotions and Illness

Last Updated: Sunday 25th May 2008

©Dr Martin R Innes

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We live in an unforgiving world and one that seems constantly to be at war with itself. This unfortunately also extends to our attitude to our health where we continue to use the language of aggression
“I will fight this and never give in “
“I won’t lie down to it “
“I will do this for myself, and don’t need help because I am better and tougher
than that”
“I see myself as a strong person and I have to be strong for everyone else”

But when we get an illness, particularly a chronic one such as diabetes, it has become a part of us and to fight it is to indulge in a civil war. We may think that we are winning but it will be a pyrrhic victory and thus the cost will be high.

I speak to my patients about accepting their illness, and working with it and the predominant first response is fighting talk and horror at what I am suggesting.
However if we consider that most , if not all complementary therapies aim to help the body get back into balance , or at least optimise its performance , then fighting is the last thing we should be doing .

Moreover, to accept the illness also means to recognise that we are not perfect. That change has occurred and that we do not have control of our bodies after all. That we cannot continue to do things the way we always have, particularly when that means being so busy that we are heading for burnout. Since society seems to run at 100mph (or km/h depending on your country) we think we should be able to do so –work, family, social commitments, even when our bodies are screaming at us to stop.

And we don’t like accepting change, especially when we feel it is foisted on us,
We frequently acknowledge that we are as one with nature, and intrinsically connected to it and would never dream of to control it , yet we try to control ourselves all the time .
We may be using energy medicine much more readily, in all its vast array of forms , from acupuncture to zero point balancing but doing inner change is a somewhat bigger challenge . We can get so caught up with seeking the therapy that resonates best with our systems that we neglect to address the emotional changes that are required and how to find peace within.
Healing, after all, does not necessarily mean cure.
We can all do verbal acceptance, but true emotional acceptance will be written all over us and will be obvious

To deal with our emotional past, is to neutralise and dissolve the energy that contaminates our systems. It may mean having to learn to forgive ourselves, for things we have not done – but it is usually the adult voice maintaining “I did nothing wrong “, rather than the inner child crying “but I still feel bad and must have done something wrong”

We spend weeks, months, and even years, persuading ourselves that we have done nothing wrong and that it is so unfair that we have disease that our false sense of what constitutes strength, kicks in and fights. How do we get ourselves into the present when we haven’t accepted our emotional past?
So to accept an illness one needs to change emotionally. But, what if this is difficult because of previous trauma. People who have experienced trauma particularly physical or verbal at the hands of another person may say “but why do I need to change since I did nothing wrong “but every incident creates an emotional reaction, whether it was our fault or not and that is the aspect that we need to deal with.

So if we cant change the illness, we can at least change our emotional response to it and our ability to deal with it, then who knows what might happen in our favour.
Of course if we say “I can’t forgive myself “or “I can never forgive he /she /it “then what kind of emotional car crash does that cause.

I sometimes say “is your need to be right greater than your need to be healthy?”
It is scientifically proven that our emotions affect our health, either for good or bad. So if we say “I will take my anger to my grave”, are we hastening its arrival?

Our reaction to an illness may expose our view of ourselves, and this becomes a learning experience because one thing we can change is our view of ourselves
To get beyond the view that as long as everyone else is okay , then we are okay , and to re learn to love ourselves and to develop self compassion not just have compassion for others . That it is okay to receive (help) as well as to give it, to complete the circle rather than have one way traffic. To take the advice we so readily give to others “you need help”

I read somewhere that the 12 step programme used by AA for alcohol problems could be applied to all chronic illnesses.
• That the illness is bigger than myself
• That I will accept myself
• That I will take each day as it comes – without delving into the past and what might have been or should have been , and keeping out of the future and what will happen next and how will I cope , and what can go wrong
• Staying in the present moment and accepting ourselves
Knowing that we are on a journey and that it is not always in our command to decide what happens next. That within acceptance of ourselves, with all our weaknesses and flaws, our strengths and the recognition of our own true intrinsic loving nature, lies the path of hope
Healing, in whatever shape it comes, starts within

Dr Martin R Innes

My name is Dr Martin R Innes and I am a full time GP in Renfrewshire, Scotland . I have been a GP for 18yrs and qualified as a doctor for 25yrs. I am interested in all things complementary but pursue an integrated approach, combining conventional and complementary. I am trained in homeopathy and am a member of the medical faculty of homeopaths. I am also trained in hypnosis and spiritual healing, although time restraints limit use. My main interest is in emotional health and how it affects our physical health and in promoting the importance of the mind/body link
My email address is martin.innes@live.co.uk