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Do Emotions Impact Our Health?


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When discussing health and healing, it’s easy to focus on things like diet and exercise. But we aren’t just physical beings—we are spiritual and emotional beings as well. In today’s podcast, I discuss how our emotions can affect our health and why focusing on emotional well-being may be a key part of the healing process.

Revolution Health Radio podcast, Chris Kresser

In this episode we discuss:

  • An ancient concept backed by modern research
  • How do we define emotion?
  • Can early trauma affect health later in life?
  • Is there a separation between mind and body?
  • My personal experience with emotions and healing

Chris Kresser: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Revolution Health Radio. I’m Chris Kresser. Today, we’re going to answer a question from Pam. Let’s give it a listen.

Pam: I had a question after listening to your recent podcast on chronic fatigue and the underlying symptoms. What are your thoughts on emotional baggage, for lack of a better term, and its impact on attracting disease or allowing disease. I have a practitioner that I see that feels like your childhood scars and emotional issues that you’ve carried forward up to this point in life, and sometimes energetic ancestral imprints that have been left on you from previous relatives, can have an impact on your health. I was wondering if you had a thought about that, and if so, how you suggest going about rectifying those types of things.

Chris Kresser: Thanks so much for that question, Pam. It’s a really interesting topic, and the more I do this work, the more I feel that lifestyle, behavior, emotions, psychological, and even spiritual factors play a crucial role and sometimes maybe even a more important role than commonly recognized factors like diet, exercise, and sleep in determining our health.

Diet, exercise, and sleep are, of course, still very important and often the most important factors, but they are more obvious and they’re more likely to be scrutinized. In some ways, they’re easier to change. Maybe sleep is a little bit of an exception, but most people are able to make changes in their diet and even their physical activity routine without making significant changes to who they are as a person and making changes in other areas like social support, how we relate to ourselves and the world around us, or how we relate to other people. These can really require pretty deep investigation, they require a lot of awareness, and they’re not the kind of changes that can be easily made overnight. I think there’s a lot more focus on diet and exercise because they are certainly very important but also because they are areas where it’s a little bit easier for people to make quick changes.

What if the mind and body aren’t really separate?

An Ancient Concept Backed by Modern Research

But the idea that emotions play a role in health and disease is very old. In traditional Chinese medicine, for example, they have organ systems and each of the organ systems is associated with a particular emotion. The kidneys are associated with fear, the liver system is associated with anger, the lungs are associated with anxiety, and the spleen is associated with pensiveness or over thinking. The idea is that too much of any of these emotions damages the respective organ system that is associated with that emotion. For example, you hear about students developing what’s called spleen qi deficiency in traditional Chinese medicine because they’re overusing their cognitive faculty, or perhaps someone that has a lot of unresolved anger develops a condition called liver qi stagnation.

Regardless of what you think about this traditional Chinese view, modern research has also uncovered a link between emotions and disease. This is primarily expressed in the scientific literature in terms of stress. But stress is a really general term that could include, of course, emotions like grief, anger, anxiety, frustration, and worry. Most people, if you just stop them on the street and you ask them if emotions contribute to health and disease, they would say “yes” without even thinking about it.

Most of us have had some personal experience that backs this up, whether we became ill after a particularly traumatic emotional event in our life or perhaps after taking care of an aging parent, a sick child, or something like that. Most of us have experienced this to some degree or another. If we think about the more modern scientific research, we know that, for example, caregivers tend to be a population that is extremely affected by stress, and when researchers want to study the impact of stress on human physiology, they will often study caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients because it is known that this population is just under extreme stress and the long-term effects of all of the emotional stress involved in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is extreme and severe.

How Do We Define Emotion?

But how does emotion really contribute to disease? To me, that’s one of the most interesting questions, and I think in order to answer it, we need to define what emotion really is. If you look in a dictionary, emotion is defined as a natural instinct of the mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. That’s kind of a technical definition, but we can say unequivocally that emotions are associated with sensations in our body. Again, everybody knows this. It’s not something we need research to show, but there is plenty of research that does show it. In some cases, the emotion may precede the sensation that we feel in our body. For example, if you see a snake, you then feel fear and then you experience a whole bunch of sensations that are related to that fear—your heartbeat increases, your muscles tense so that you can run away or deal with the threat. Not surprisingly, some recent research has shown that we all have the same bodily sensations associated with particular feelings regardless of culture or language, and that makes sense because these emotions or sensations primarily evolved as survival mechanisms.

But in some cases, the sensation may actually precede the emotion and the thought. An example here might be that we show up at the office and a co-worker is wearing a strong scent or perfume that makes you feel ill, and you then initially feel that sensation of being unwell in the body, then you experience an emotion of anger, then a whole bunch of thoughts about how inconsiderate the co-worker is, and then more sensations and more emotions, etc. The reality is that the connection between sensations, emotions, and thought isn’t really linear in most cases, but the key point is that emotions can and do produce real psychological changes. If an emotion is chronic, for example, chronic sadness, fear, anxiety, or anger, then the sensations and thus the physiological effects of those emotions will also be experienced chronically in the body, and it’s really not difficult to understand how that could contribute to disease.

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Can Early Trauma Affect Health Later in Life?

So, what about the idea that we store emotions and that they cause symptoms and illness later in our life? This definitely falls outside of our conventional understanding of the body, but that doesn’t mean we can rule it out. Based on what we just talked about so far, it’s at least plausible that strong emotions could produce a lasting response in the body, and there is some support for this in the literature. For example, we know that traumatic events that happen in utero or in early childhood can permanently downregulate the HPA axis and effect the production of hormones like cortisol for the rest of that child’s life. Something that happened when a baby was in the womb actually impacts hormone production for the rest of that baby’s life. You can talk about that in different ways, but the language that modern science uses to explain that doesn’t involve using terms like storing emotion or trauma in the body, but you could certainly look at it that way, as essentially an emotionally traumatic event that had lifelong impacts.

I think there may very well be other cases where somebody experiences a severe trauma early on, and that trauma affects the body in other ways that modern science doesn’t currently understand. Maybe that person develops a cancer later in life, maybe they develop an autoimmune disease, or maybe they develop some other condition, but it’s not clear to them or certainly to their doctor that the emotionally traumatic event that happened earlier in their life was a predisposing factor to them developing that condition.

Now, I should say at this point, I’m a little bit wary of any explanation that tries to oversimplify things. In the examples that I just used where people had an emotionally traumatic event that then manifested as a disease or a condition later in life, for every person that did have something like that, there could be people that had a traumatic event and didn’t manifest a disease like that later in life. We are very, very complex beings. There are multiple factors that affect our susceptibility to disease, including genetics, epigenetic expression, environmental factors like diet, physical activity, sleep, stress, and of course, emotions among many, many others that are both understood currently and have a lot of research behind them and others that are perhaps not as well understood.

Even if it is true that emotional experiences manifest in our body both in real time currently as we’re experiencing them and then possibly later on in life, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we’ll always have the ability to identify those emotional traumas and release them unless we escape the influence of them through some kind of work, whatever that work may be. I’m not saying it’s not possible, it very well may be. I’m just a little bit of wary of explanations that make this too simple. Because in my experience, there are so many factors that affect these processes of health and disease, and some of those factors we have control over and some of them we don’t.

Is There a Separation between Mind and Body?

Okay, there’s another interesting part of this to me, which is the relationship between modern science and our understanding of the body and emotions. I’m a big believer of modern sciences. Anyone who has been listening to this podcast and follows my work knows, but I hope I’ve also made it clear that I believe that modern science can’t explain everything, and in fact, it’s changing all the time.

Our current medical model is based on a philosophical underpinning of Cartesian dualism, which is the mechanistic view of the body as a sum of its individual parts, and it’s really not holistic in any way. However, modern physics has taught us that the parts that we perceived to be separate are in fact part of an interconnected whole of atoms and even subatomic particles. Even more strangely, these particles can exist simultaneously as both particles and waste. We could really go off on a tangent here and I love physics and quantum physics and I’m kind of a geek about this stuff. I like to read about in my spare time. But without going too deep on this, for those of us who are not aficionados of this topic, my point is that a medical model that is based not on Cartesian dualism but on a more current understanding of quantum physics would likely see no separation between thoughts, emotions, and the physical body because they’re all made of the same stuff.

We have this phrase that you see all the time, the “mind-body connection.” To a certain extent, I appreciate that we’re seeing more about this because it indicates at least an increasing awareness of the importance of what is meant by saying “mind-body connection” but even to use the term “mind-body connection” is misleading because it creates the idea that there’s a separate mind and a separate body that are then connected. I think that’s inaccurate and even kind of a dangerous way of looking at it. The traditional Chinese medical physicians knew this and they didn’t have an idea of the mind as being separate from the body. I mentioned earlier that they have different emotions and thought states that are associated with each organ system, so within that structure is a view of the mind, body, and emotions essentially being one, not separate and not even connected. To say that they’re connected really misses the point.

I think as our understanding of the nature of reality really is what we’re talking about here, which includes as the human body has changed and evolved, eventually our conception of medicine, health, and disease will change and evolve along with it. Unfortunately, that process turned out to take decades if not hundreds of years based on what we’ve seen historically. It could be a while, and it may not happen in our lifetime, but we can now look at all of what we understand about physics and matter including the matter that’s in our bodies, our thoughts and emotions, and see that there is a lot less distinction between these things than we might have previously thought.

All of this suggests that even though with our current conventional medical paradigm, we may not understand the mechanisms behind how emotion could contribute to disease. There is already, even within that paradigm, quite a lot of research that supports that connection. As our understanding of both the nature of reality and human nature evolves, I think medicine is going to look very different in a hundred years than it does today. It’s best to keep an open mind. I will say also anecdotally as a clinician, I have seen big transformations in patients when working with emotions in whatever modality they are working on them with, whether it’s a psychotherapist, in some cases, people using ethnobotany or plant medicine, and other methods to get in touch with emotions that they may not normally have access to. I’ve seen very big shifts and transformations in people that are taking the time to explore these aspects of health.

My Personal Experience with Emotions and Healing

Many of you may also know that this was also a big part of my own healing process. When I got sick, I spent the first few years really deeply exploring diet, herbs, supplements and all of the typical things that we think of when we become sick. But after doing that really extensively, leaving no stone unturned, as is my way, and not making the kind of progress that I was hoping to make, I began to consider other possibilities or other avenues of exploration. I actually ended up moving to Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and living there for two years.

For those of you who are not aware of Esalen and its history, it’s a retreat center that’s focused on increasing awareness, spiritual and personal growth, and it’s got a very interesting and colorful history going back to the ’70s. There are a couple of books about it. It’s kind of a fascinating place, but I moved with there with the intention of really exploring the emotional and psychospiritual aspects of my illness, seeing if through doing that, I could make progress that I hadn’t made with just looking exclusively at the physical realm. Looking back on it now, I think all of that was important for me. Diet was a huge key as, of course, you know. A Paleo-type of diet was one of the big keys for me, but that emotional and psychospiritual work that I did at Esalen was also a very big key to my recovery, and my understanding of what was contributing to illness. The more I do the work that I do with patients, the more that I see that as an important part of the process for anybody that’s dealing with a chronic illness or anyone who wants to optimize their health.

Pam, thank you so much for asking this question. I think it’s really important to turn our attention to these aspects of health because they don’t get as much air time as they should especially for people who have already explored the finer points of diet and they’ve got their physical activity and their sleep dialed in, and they’re still experiencing illness. I think it’s really worth exploring the emotions, psychology, and even the spiritual roots of illness in an effort to expand our horizons and make progress that we may not be able to make purely by looking at the more commonly explored factors.

I hope this has been helpful and I would love to continue the discussion, so if you have any thoughts or ideas about this, head over to the website chriskresser.com and leave a comment on the blog post because it’s a really interesting topic and I would love to explore it further with you.

Okay. That’s it for now. Thanks everybody for listening. Please keep sending your questions in to chriskresser.com/podcastquestion and I will talk to you soon.

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Join the conversation

  1. Folks who are interested in diving deeper into this subject are invited to join the Vagus Study Group on Facebook. I started the group about a year ago out of my interest in the role of the vagus in inflammatory disease, and it has grown to include an international network of experts in the field, including everyone from a leading HRV scientist, a biofeedback device inventor, a vagus therapy app developer, movement professionals, somatic experiencing professionals, trauma experts, etc. There are also a lot of members who are not professionals in the field who are looking for ideas to help them heal.

    If I had it to do over again, knowing what I do now, I’d come up with a name for the group that’s broader, suggesting the multi-modal causality nature of this (as Chris describes – non-dual, non-Cartesian). It’s about the physiology of stress and trauma, what those are in real life (not always acute, for example), about Polyvagal theory, about the role of nutrition and our environment, about modern lifestyles and epigenetics. I bring in a spiritual thread as well, and love to share Matt Licata’s work. He’s a well-rounded spiritual teacher with a background in psychotherapy and the neurobiology of stress.

    And, of course, I’m the poster child for how all of this can play out: though I’ve eaten an anti-inflammatory diet for over a decade, do my emotional healing work, have a wonderful life, sleep well, etc., the long-term effects of childhood trauma have resulted in a very serious aortic dissection (16 months ago). The docs still have no idea why it happened, even after genetic testing. I’m also a professional athlete, so I’ve got the exercise piece covered. I’m the healthiest sick person you’ll ever meet 😉 !

    Thanks for addressing this subject in such a balanced, grounded way, Chris! I’m training to be a psychotherapist (for my mid-life career switch away from acrobatics and coaching), and hope to be a change-agent who helps move the culture of health and well-being towards a wholistic model.

  2. Dr. Thomas Cowan has written a book, “Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, wherein he reveals that true cause of most heart attacks are due to imbalance in autonomic nervous system due to chronic stress. It’s definitely worth a read for new insights into how to treat heart disease as well. https://www.humanheartcosmicheart.com/

  3. I agree with Chris regarding the effect of emotions on disease. Having been diagnosed a condition with a spiking of both Hyperthroidism and Hypothroidism, my Specialist confirmed that only this type of problem was attritutable to stress. Emotion, quoted by Chris: is defined as a natural instinct of the mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.
    That’s an important statement “or relationships with others” and one recognized by Chris that other factors over self care (diet/sleep/exercise) are just as important. As I have found through soulful searching/meditating. The ‘deriving from others’ is akin to what we read – associate with those you wish to be (not stick around and have your attributes supressed and wasted by negativity, aggression etc.
    A Past Life experience also has confirmed to me that what happened in a prior life is repeating in this life. What was ‘stolen’ in my past life has been repeatedly ‘stolen’ in this life (and obviously previous lives). Knowledge is power! You can reverse the situation!
    I wonder though, if as Chris says that some people manifest a trauma which causes a disease or condition – but others don’t. Maybe those who show up as ‘don’t’ may well still live sadly/unable to have satisfactory relationships etc rather than it elect a disease. Maybe it does in a later life. (Read Brian Weis “Many Lives, Many Masters”. Riviting reading on Past Lives.
    A great podcast for reflective thought.

    • Re your last question about trauma manifesting for some individuals but not others – consider this important distinction:
      It is not the trauma itself that can manifest an illness but one’s response to that trauma. In the same family the death of a pet may evoke a deep emotional reaction in one sibling but not in another. So in one a sense of loss is felt but not in another. Now here’s the thing – if that loss can be expressed in grief, then its energy is released. But family circumstances or position or gender in the family may cause the individual to bury, repress that expression. This is the bit that comes out later, in some kind of distress, whether disease or over- reactive behaviour.

  4. Thanks Chris… great how you touched on the physics and nature of reality topics… very well rounded talk…

  5. I listened to your podcast for the first time ever because of the title and that it just so happens that tomorrow will be the 30th anniversary of my father being murdered on active duty in San Francisco. My mom has had MS for 34 years, and by some roll of the dice, my family has had a terrible random collection of traumatic events, with co-occurring auto immunity and inflammation issues. Do emotions effect our health? When I care for my mom, I feel without a doubt that they do, and as helpless as I have felt to help her, I have tried to do what I can to have a better outcome. I have read a lot on diet and supplementation, and I have read a lot on trauma, but it’s only been recently that the two have really come together for me, mostly because of reading Peter Levine, Bessel Van Der Kolk, Colin Ross, and Porge’s polyvagal theory. I used to feel a bit like I was just screwed, but honestly, now I feel like there is a ton to be proactive about. Yoga, meditation, EMDR, neurofeedback, hypnosis- there are a lot of very powerful tools out there. I do think that the more trauma a person has had, the more helpless they can feel, and the more nudges they may need, so I just love that you had this discussion.

    For myself, I think the connection for me between emotional stuff- which I think of as trauma- and health, stemmed from disassociation. Since I had some really big overwhelming things happen as a child, and had no tools to deal with the sensations, I learned really well to just shut them out. So later on, when my digestion wasn’t great, or I felt anxious, or my back hurt, or when I had a loved one scream at me when they got frustrated, instead of noticing those things early on and changing course or setting a boundary I would just shut things out. Consequently, I wouldn’t recognize that there was something wrong until my back hurt so terribly bad I couldn’t move, or until I felt so completely overwhelmed that I felt like I might break. Learning to notice subtle sensations before they overwhelmed me has been really big for me, and truly allowed me to feel like I’m alive again, and hopefully will pay off in better health.

    • Essential oils are unregulated, there is no knowing what is in each batch without viewing the analytical data that is not provided by the seller. Perhaps the only exception is Florihana in France. If you know of any other sellers who offer data to verify their oils I would be grateful to know.

      • Actually, therapeutic essential oils exist and are regulated. I wonder where you get this misconception about them…aromatherapist know where to get the proper oils, and when you start using them, you shouldn’t do it without the assistance of a proper professional (who will tell you where to get them). There are plenty of reputable suppliers in France (from which I supply my students), and also plenty in the States. I see there is still a lot to do for the public in the country! 🙂 One of my favorite brands are Pranarom, Swiss aromatics and Huiles-et-sens.com. All available on line in the States.

        • I do not currently use essential oils as I’m so reactive to so much, but I have to say that if a whiff of a pesticide can send one into tragedy then why not essential oils do the same only 180 degree difference send into a good place. Makes perfect sense to me.

        • My ideas of regulation and those of a corrupt bureaucratic EU differ entirely. No single company selling EO is required by law to supply batch specific information with that oil.

          For example when did you last get a GC, high performance liquid chromatography or mass spectrometry or nuclear
          magnetic resonance spectroscopy result for the oils you use?
          If you have please tell me the company.

          A company that has it’s own distillery may be the safest bet if they supply batch specific data otherwise it is buyer beware.

          Common adulterants in use
          Bergamot: Other citrus oils or their residues,
          rectified or acetylated ho oil, synthetic
          linalool, limonene or linalyl acetate.

          Grapefruit: Orange terpenes, purified limonene.

          Jasmine absolute
          Indole, a-amyl cinnamic aldehyde,
          ylang-ylang fractions, artificial jasmine
          bases, synthetic jasmones, etc

          Lavender: Lavandin oil, spike lavender oil, Spanish
          sage oil, white camphor oil fractions,
          rectified or acetylated ho oil, acetylated
          lavandin oil, synthetic linalool or linalyl acetate.

          Lemon: Natural or synthetic citral or limonene,
          orange terpenes, lemon terpenes or byproducts

          Lemongrass: Synthetic citral.

          Patchouli: Gurjun balsam oil, copaiba balsam oil,
          cedarwood oil, patchouli vetiver and
          camphor distillate residues, hercolyn D,
          vegetable oils.

          Peppermint: Cornmint oil.
          Pine Turpentine oil, mixtures of terpenes such
          as a-pinene, camphene and limonene,
          and esters such as (_)-bornyl acetate
          and isobornyl acetate.

          Rose: Ethanol, 2-phenylethanol, fractions of
          geranium oil or rhodinol

          Rosemary: Eucalyptus oil, white camphor oil,
          turpentine oil and fractions thereof.

          Sandalwood: Australian or East African sandalwood
          oils, sandalwood terpenes and fragrance
          chemicals, castor oil, coconut oil,
          polyethylene glycol, DEHP.

          Ylang-ylang Gurjun balsam oil, cananga oil, lower
          grades or tail fractions of ylang-ylang oil,
          reconstituted oils, synthetics such as
          benzyl acetate, benzyl benzoate, benzyl
          cinnamate, methyl benzoate, benzyl
          benzoate and p-cresyl methyl ether.

          With ever imaginary regulation, exists as many adulterants.
          Thanks for the reminder of Panoram, I have a nice nebulising diffuser from the but didn’t tried them for batch specific data.

        • Oh, Cecile, forgive me as I forgot to add that while many companies promote their own therapeutic grade standard for essential oils, there is no universally accepted body that certifies essential oils as therapeutic grade.

          This term is purely subjective and an objective explanation may be that the term therapeutic means, *Has An Effect* and I don’t need to remind you of what an effect is I am sure, as this could also be a carcinogenic effect at its worst.
          After all many chemicals have an *effect*, some completely and totally undesirable and potentially dangerous.

          Last but not least I hope you encourage your students to get access to one of the world’s most respected EO chemists, the like of whom vile pyramid companies like doTerra and young living would love to have exonerate their EO’s, in the name of Robert Pappas of the Essential Oil University, who has analysed thousands of EO’s and suggests that up to 75% are adulterated.

          I would like to know where your data results of the oils you use come from, so that I may independently examine and test their oils and your theory that these oils are regulated; whereas I believe this is bureaucratic nonsense and an understandable response from therapists who understandably wish to believe the theory that they are taught, which is not so dissimilar to a religious indoctrination where instructed belief overpowers analytical reason. I wish you well in 2017. There is much to do for the public concern, at least we can agree on that.

          It is not that I don’t think EO’s have an important place in society, but trust helps you, where analysis is more secure as a starting point for me. This is a massive business, with all its middle men, distillers, suppliers and racketeers that are already prolific and in existence and ripping people off.

          Some international companies I have contacted agree in writing that they may no longer see the wood for the trees.

          I can provide the correspondence in question if you so wish.

  6. Chris, Thank you for another great podcast. While I agree with your reduction of mind and body to one another, I think some philosophical precision might be needed. As honest self-inquiry reveals and the language of modern psychology reflects, there are the meaningful distinctions among the conscious activities of “sensation,” “emotion,” and “thinking.” For instance, there is a difference between looking at a snake (sensation), being afraid of the snake (emotion), and understanding what a snake is (thinking). When you said that these realities are all “one,” I believe your point was simply that these are all organic (bodily, and, at root, physical) realities. You didn’t really mean to say that there is “no distinction” among them. They may all be made of “the same stuff (physical) stuff,” but they are distinct intelligible arrangements of that same stuff, which is indicated by their distinct features. This is the old Greek philosophical distinction between matter and form, and I think it holds up so long as we notice the different characteristics of our own activities of thinking, feeling, and sensation. For example, looking at data [sensation] and understanding what the data means [thinking] may both be organic/physical operations, but a little introspection makes obvious both their distinction and interconnection. The Canadian philosopher Bernard Lonergan is helpful on all of this.

  7. Hi Chris, thanks for a very interesting post and very timely I think, too. I think emotion in general has been massively underplayed as a contributing factor to health and we are only just coming around to seeing how important it is. For example, I have suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Adrenal Fatigue for a few years now and although there may be some physical element to it, I am intuitively convinced that it stems from unresolved childhood trauma. In CFS, the body pushes itself beyond its limits and this is very much an emotional thing for me: I was brought up to cater to my parents and others and always put my needs last. When my body needed rest and my mind needed validation and love, I pushed on regardless because that is what I have been trained to do. Now that I know my patterns, my CFS has gone from 95% strength/pain to about 10%. I truly believe that if more people were open to seeing emotional patterns, a lot of disease would be significantly lessened. It’s not a black and white thing, but emotions are just as important as any other health factor.

  8. Imill since a major floodin the Drs, office whereInworked until Oct 13th and has been ill since then,,,I’ve seen a Neurologist and a Rhumatologist I do have an infection in my body my WBC and ESR and c-reactive protien all still elevated,,now I’m told its probably Giant cell artitis,,,I still think its something I injested during the 6 days or the flood,,Any answers???I’d love to see one who specialized in bacteria,mold,spores and fungi.I am very depressed no sleep muscle aches and headaches,,,,THANKS FOR YOUR TIME READING THIS as I need answers and soon

  9. Thank you Chris for your insightful words on the effect of emotions on chronic illness. I have been a therapist for over ten years now, dealing exclusively with the emotional context of chronic illness, including autoimmune conditions of all kinds. It is my experience that if this context is explored and resolved, then diet, exercise, and even drug therapies where necessary are far mor effective, and also more likely to be continued. As for the question above about our health a hundred years ago, well, just read autobiographies, novels and even medical records, and you will find plenty of evidence of folk being poorly, pale, consumptive, underdeveloped, depressed, suicidal, akward, simple, bed ridden… No, not a new kid on the block at all, and as you rightly point out, Chinese medicine has associated emotions with particular body organs and their connective systems for millenia.
    In my experience, a chonic condition always has an emotional context, and many of those who have appeared to have had a trauma free life can be found to harbour subconcious inner conflict. It’s no big deal, unless it’s not resolved! Of course there are environmental and lifestyle factors as well as genetic predispositions, but our emotional life is a sigificant driver of our thoughts and actions.
    I for one look forward to further discussion on this matter.
    Thanks, John-David Biggs, The Chronic Pain Detective

    • Fantastic! It is enlightening to hear that there is a healthy solution to chronic illness. How do you find a therapist with this expertise? What am I asking for? I have spent the equivalent of 2 years in hospital day programs trying to stop resisting pain, mental anguish and depression. How do you allow the body – mind to let go and accept?

      • Hello Claudia,
        As you have asked me directly about finding a therapist with this expertise, it’s only fair to suggest I might be such a one, so feel free to contact me for a chat. Like many therapists I work online almost exclusively, so geography does not matter. I’m not a salesman and I make no promises. But if I can help I will.
        As for accepting the pain; it’s more a matter of understanding what the pain is telling you – and as Chris mentions in his podcast, it can even mean challenges at the spiritual level.
        All best to you,

  10. If you understand the homeopathic system of medicine (not just the medicines, but the disease process) you’ll know that the entire system is based upon which physical, mental and emotional symptoms the patient shows up with. Some emotional pieces may be acute while some may have (seemingly) been inherited through our forefathers. The view is that ‘disturbances’ can run in families and the collection of physical symptoms AND emotions (sometimes collectively) can lead to a remedy. It’s an enormous body of work, but for me endlessly fascinating!
    Chris, have you studied homeopathy with any enthusiasm?

  11. Makes total sende. I know when truama has happened e.g. I often get physically sick. This can be spontaneous. Symptoms. Such as tummy starti g to hurt within minutes. Of hearing of a trauma..death. I a also interested in the impact of early childhood. Experiences./ trauma. My mother died when I was 14 months old. This impacted greatly on life but also from a new baby being looked after from pillar to post due to my mothers unwellness created issues of attachment. I have wonderful Children and grandchildren but know these early experiences. Impact on me today. My question is Does this become a blue print or response mechanism to how we view life? Interesting stuff. Julie

  12. I think a well person is must more capable of handling “stress” in life. The minute my mom got sick, her temperament went down the drain and we knew she was not right.

    Those old grouchy people are just sick cause sick people are not able to handle frustrations of every day life.

    Not to say that some horrible mental trauma doesn’t affect your body. Look at Debbie Reynolds. The stress sent her body into a stroke and she died.

  13. Doesn’t the saying go: Mind over Matter?
    I think that’s were the “placebo effect” comes in, as well!
    And Science has “lots of studies” confirming that.

  14. Yes.. I also believe that childhood trauma effects us when we get older, emotionally and physically. My mother was a very mentally and physically abusive alcoholic on a daily basis. Now, at 36 years old, I suffer from severe social anxiety, sever generalized anxiety, agoraphobia, on and off depression, and several autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto’s, and Lupus. I truly feel most, if not all, my mental illnesses stem from the abuse growing up. My thoughts being around people and of myself, are very similar to my thoughts when I was younger that were filled with fear and anxiety.

  15. Very interesting, but maybe we are just getting on to something or just flapping our collective “minds”. Let me just say that being chronically ill is traumatizing!! Is it any wonder that those of us who are chronically ill and had wonderful childhoods, no trauma in adult life, happy as larks and suddently get bitten by a tick, or exposed to chemical contamination, a vaccine, the millions of pesticides, chemicals that our bodies try so hard to detox and can’t. Immune systems that are frantically trying to fix these. Did people 100 years ago get “trauma” related illness. It’s the new kid on the block as far as I can see.