He steps up to the podium, sweaty palms with beads of perspiration on his forehead and temple; she flushes red with embarrassment at the dinner party when her friends remind her of a high school crush; he turns in the final exam with knots in his stomach; she feels butterflies on her first date. We can easily connect these feelings initiated in the mind that cause a reaction in the body as we all have experienced a similar scenario in our lives. But as we delve deeper into emotions, suppressed and even repressed emotions, the connection becomes less obvious and more challenging and controversial.
The connection between the Mind and Body is important because it recognizes that our mental and physical well-being are directly linked to one another: mental and physical health are not separate domains. But it goes far beyond blushing cheeks or a fluttery feeling as emotions in both our conscious and unconscious mind can cause illness and disease. In fact, according to the American Medical Association, stress is the number one proxy killer disease today. Proxy because stress is the underlying cause of the presenting illness, leaving the real cause to go unnoticed. Stress is a silent killer that has been attributed to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and mental illnesses In fact, it is estimated to be responsible for 85% of all illnesses and disease.
The majority of us, and the medical community, have finally embraced the concept that stress can physically harm us. Stress triggers are everywhere in modern day society and easy for us to understand and accept as it stems from the notion that stress is external, caused by events “out there” that are inflicting harm upon you. We are aware of these stressors, as some are blatantly obvious like money or relationship issues, so they exist in our conscious mind.
But if we turn inward to investigate our unconscious mind, a new phenomenon has been discovered that is much harder to fathom. As we observe how we interpret, process, and respond to stress, we discover the correlation that psychological disorders cause physical symptoms. These typically originate from repressed and/or deeply suppressed emotions in the unconscious and manifest as pain in the body. Put another way, the buried emotions that we don’t want to deal with or know how to cope with get stuffed down into our bodies and creates physical pain to distract us from the emotional pain. Our Mind makes the calculation that it’s easier to deal with a tangible pain in the body versus the distraught feelings swirling in our minds. Our initial reaction typically finds us in disbelief, perhaps offended – even insulted – by the suggestion that the cause for pain could be psychosomatic as there continues to be a stigma attached to disorders relating to psychology. The reality is if a doctor told you your very real chronic pain is “all in your mind”, you probably would be running for the exit door thinking he is a quack. Ironically, we will hastily accept the verdict of surgery and/or prescription drugs for life rather than contemplate the extraordinary power of the mind. But, all too often, this only treats the symptom(s) and not the root cause.
But there have been tremendous advances in exploring the Mind Body Connection. It is still in its infancy, but we are witnessing millions of success stories in healing chronic pain and illness by observing the unconscious mind. It all starts with awareness. The next time you involuntarily break out in a sweat due to nervousness, be mindful of the link between Mind and Body. And if you can accept this correlation, you have only scratched the surface of the infinite power of the Mind Body Connection.