Is your illness all in the mind?

Is your illness all in the mind?

The Western view of illness and healing has been slow to embrace the significance of non-physical factors in contributing to sickness and health. This is at odds with Eastern thinking where physical problems are generally viewed as the body-mind-spirit being ill-at-ease, or in a state of dis-ease. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) regards that a state of dis-ease is produced when the body’s energy, or chi, is disrupted in flowing freely throughout the body.  With a focus on the body-mind-spirit as one energy system, TCM suggests that physical symptoms may arise when the energy flow has become obstructed, possibly as a result of psychological emotional or spiritual tensions.

The relationship between mind and body in illness, particularly when physical disorders have psychological causes or influences, are often known as being psychosomatic. Medically and linguistically the term is apt (with Greek origin: psyche = of the mind, and soma = of the body), however it seems that the term has come to be more popularly dismissive of a person’s physical symptoms with the problems being viewed as “all in the mind.” If this were really the case, i.e. people’s illnesses were all in the mind, then most people should be able to heal themselves simply by changing the thoughts in their mind. I imagine that people do not really want to live with their physical and psychological challenges that impact on their ability to function as well as they would like, and that they have already tried to talk themselves out of their challenges! In the absence of being healed then, it is clear that viewing illness as “all in the mind” is not a notion that promotes healing. Also, if we focus on the original meaning of psychosomatic as stated above, we would have to admit that all physical disorders are psychosomatic as I’m certain it is impossible to have a significant physical illness without psychological influences.

If we wish to promote healing for individuals, we have to look further than viewing illness as either physical or “all in the mind.” The missing element in each of these positions is the energy interaction in the whole body. People who work within the Eastern framework of Medicine, i.e. a belief in the body’s energy system, will have witnessed many patients whose physical symptoms have improved once the energy flows more freely with the healing of psychological, emotional or spiritual factors. Speaking from personal experience, I have seen many ‘miracles’ occur when people’s acute or chronic pain conditions either reduced in intensity or disappeared completely when emotional tensions were reconciled and painful memories were healed.

Viewing our dis-ease as either physical or mental is missing the whole-person perspective of health and ignores the vital energy, or chi, that connects every part of us, but more importantly, causes us to miss out on considerable healing opportunities.

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