Let’s face it, being ill certainly isn’t something we would ever consciously will upon ourselves – or is it?  A growing body of scientific evidence compiled from emerging fields of intuitive and behavioral medicine suggests that virtually every illness that affects the physical body from AIDS to aches; heart disease to headaches, and cancer to the common cold may have some sort of psychological roots. As a matter of fact, many of these studies indicate that at least 90% of all illnesses are either significantly impacted by our thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and beliefs or are created as a result of them. But how can this be? If we think about illness and how it affects the quality of our lives, why would we allow ourselves to hold on to thoughts and emotions that are, indeed, undermining the health and wellbeing of our physical body? The answer to this question is three-fold.

  1. We didn’t fully understand the connection between thoughts and emotions, and the body. We didn’t know the significant impact they have on the functioning of the immune system.
  2. Allopathic medicine continues to separate the mind from the body, and the mind and body from the soul. Its perspective doesn’t acknowledge that when this separation occurs the physical body loses its vitality. Therefore, leaving it susceptible to disease and illness.
  3. The healing of the body can’t occur without changing the hidden psychological contributors that inhibit the body’s ability to heal. 

If we were to look back in history to the physicians and metaphysicians of the past, we would be reminded of an old adage they would adhere to in approaching the healing of body “as a person thinketh, so shall they be.” These wise ancient healers understood that illness didn’t just happen to us. Instead, it happened because of us, meaning that it was the quality of a person’s thoughts and emotions that affected bodily functioning, and that ultimately would lead to the breakdown of the physical body. They understood that the mind and the body imitate and imprint each other, and what affects one affects the other. Consequently, they would seek to treat all contributors. 

University Medical Center professor of psychiatry, Donna Renshaw couldn’t agree more. She maintains that “thoughts and emotions have to be expressed somehow, somewhere, and if they’re suppressed, and there’s conflict about controlling them, then they often show themselves through physical ailments of the body.” Her research and that of Psychoneuroimmunology, which studies the connection between thoughts and emotions and how they impact the immune system, shows strong evidence that the susceptibility to illness increases when these psychological factors are present.

  • Inability to express feelings and emotional needs, and frustration when feelings aren’t valued.  
  • Social isolation and rejection causing loneliness and despair.  
  • Chronic and uncontrollable stress due to unresolved issues, and emotional distress.
  • Lack of physical needs being met causing feelings of helplessness, and creating victim behavior.
  • Presence of strong negative emotions such as fear, anger, resentment, cynicism, worry, sadness, grief, and guilt. 
  • Unstable and emotionally volatile relationships leading to feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, and self-loathing. 

Take a moment and think about what it’s like to be ill. How does it make you feel?  Does it feel restrictive and confining? Does it make you frustrated or angry? Do you find it serves a purpose because it gives you the permission needed to justify slowing down from the hectic pace of your life? Does being ill elicit the nurturing and attention from other people you emotionally crave and need? When ill does your perception of the world shrink, so all you see is your life through the condition of your physical body? Do you attach to the illness in a way that it becomes your identity? For example. Do you refer to it as “my cancer,” “my cholesterol problem” or “my heart disease”? 

How you answered these questions reveals the kind of relationship you might develop with an illness should one occur. Your answers also reveal the psychological roots, meaning the hidden thoughts and emotions that could ultimately increase your susceptibility to illnesses, and to specific types of illness. 

The Psychological Roots of Illness 

Here are three examples of the more common illnesses and their psychological roots. 

  • Autoimmune Disorders – Autoimmune disorders are caused when the mechanisms of the immune system become compromised and the immune system reacts to normal body tissues as though it’s allergic to them. Basically, rather than healing the body it attacks it. The root contributors of autoimmune disorders whether it’s chronic fatigue, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or AIDS tends to share the psychological patterns of unrealistic self-expectations and self-directed anger. This kind of anger can cause a person to feel allergic to themselves. It can cause them to turn against themselves, and to feel like they’ve let themselves down much like illnesses that cause the immune system to turn against itself. People who tend to have a propensity for developing autoimmune disorders are those who are immobilized by self-doubt, and who are relentless in their self-criticism. They rarely seem to find the personal satisfaction and gratification they seek and crave. They have trouble trusting themselves and live with the fear of failure. They feel like life has robbed them of happiness, and people are always letting them down. They don’t take the time to self-nurture or know how.   
  • Heart Disease – If ever there was an illness where personality plays an important role its creation, it would be heart disease. People who are most prone to heart disease are those who display Type A behavior. Their pattern is to live in a persistent state of prolonged stress. They’re resentful, angry, cynical, judgmental, and argumentative. They’re aggressive, volatile, and must be right. Heart disease stems from the psychological perception that life is hard, and that it’s just one problem after another. They see achieving their goals as a constant struggle, and an uphill battle. When asked about their life, people with heart disease commonly express a deep sadness and emptiness inside. They feel like life has passed them by. They feel obligated to carry the burden of taking care of those they love and care about, and are resentful when not appreciated. They live with the constant fear of losing what they’ve worked hard to acquire. People who had a heart attack don’t complain about having too little to do. They complain about having too much to do. They feel tired, burnout, and overworked. They’re afraid of being out of control, so they tend to be overly controlling. They need to control their environment, people, and time. This need to control makes it hard for them to have healthy relationships. Their attitude toward life is that it’s hard. The key word is hard as in plaque buildup that causes hardening of the arteries, and Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), the hardening of the heart muscle. 
  • Type 2 Diabetes – Physically diabetes has reached epidemic proportions as more people are feeling the sweetness of life is slipping away because the burdens of life are overriding their ability to enjoy it. When life loses its sweetness there’s a tendency to look to other things to feed the deep sorrow, grief, and loss that’s being felt. Food in many cases fills that need. Yet, the foods they crave psychologically aren’t necessarily the foods that support good health in the body. The psychological roots underlying diabetes are associated with strong feelings of lack. The lack of love. The lack of happiness and joy. The lack of abundance and hope. The lack of passion, creativity, and purpose. The lack of enjoyment making it difficult to find contentment in life. They express a deep dissatisfaction with life, and feel like it’s let them down. They crave love, and yet, are afraid of being loved. They believe they don’t deserve to have their needs met, and they see themselves as not being worthy of the pleasures of life. They struggle with guilt, grief, dread, and despair. They’re worriers. They long to belong. Yet, are intensely protective emotionally.   

It’s important to remember that these descriptions are general in nature and aren’t intended to be interpreted as psychological or medical diagnoses. If you have any of these illnesses or display the psychological patterns associated with the illnesses, it’s recommended you seek the services of a medical or psychological professional or a holistic practitioner who is trained in their treatment.

Healing Happens with Your Help

The body is an exquisite healing machine. It inherently knows how to heal. It’s designed to repair, regenerate, restore, and revitalize itself. It’s constantly adapting to what it’s experiencing externally and internally. However, what the body can’t do is override the messages from the mind. That’s why it’s so important to manage those messages by changing limiting thoughts and releasing destructive emotional patterns that are negatively affecting your outlook on life, and your body.   

Be mindful that an agitated mind creates an agitated nervous system. An angry mind creates an overactive immune system. Resentment mentally eats at you, and eats at your gut. The key factor to maintaining good health is to create thought forms that support the natural healing qualities of the body. That begins by paying attention to how you emotionally react to your experiences, and by tuning into how you talk to yourself. If what you say to yourself is destructive and hurtful, then it will be destructive and hurtful to your body.   

©Copyright 2021 Carol Ritberger PhD and Ritberger Media Group