Except for a small number of physical complaints such as injuries or acute infections, there is an increasing array of health complaints being labeled as having a "stress-related" or emotional component.
By current estimate, almost 90% of present health issues have emotional stress as a partial cause of disease. How can we, as health consumers, know if a disease derives from emotional or physical causes or from a combination of both? To find the answer to this question, it is helpful to look to the past.
A close study of the writings of ancient physicians reveals that they approached health as a unity of body, mind and spirit. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, extolled, "One should not treat the eye without treating the head, and one should not treat the head without treating the entire person." Hippocrates and his successors not only examined and treated the body of the patient, but also looked closely at his or her emotional and spiritual health. To these healers, the psyche was equally as important as the body. This approach changed during the time of Descartes who introduced the concept of separating the mind from the body in the development of the "scientific method." Since that time we have lived in a mechanistic and reductionistic world in which the body has been viewed as a machine operating separately from the mind. In the East, however, particularly in China and India, the unified approach has never been lost, as evidenced by the comprehensive approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.
The Descartian "scientific" model now seems to be on the decline in many branches of the healing arts. It is possible that we have reached the zenith of this approach with the wonderful advances and limitations of technological healing. This is evidenced by the widespread public desire for "alternative healing methods." We are now beginning to examine all the many co-factors involved in well-being such as environmental pollution, nutrition, genetics, and the mental-emotional balance.
Candace Pert, Ph.d., is one of the leading research scientists on neuropeptides, believed to be the biochemical correlates of emotions. In her book Molecules of Emotion, The Science Behind the Mind-Body Medicine, Dr. Pert comments,
"Most psychologists treat the mind as disembodied, a phenomenon with little or no connection to the physical body. Conversely, physicians treat the body with no regard to the mind or the emotions. But the mind and the body are not separate, and we cannot treat one without the other. My research has shown me that the body can and must be healed through the mind, and the mind can and must be healed through the body."
The Greek philosopher Aristotle made a similar statement some 2000 years ago when he declared, "The philosopher should end with medicine, and the physician commences with philosophy."
The chiropractic field has long held the concept of the oneness of mind and body. B.J. Palmer, son of the founder and developer of modern chiropractic, operated the Clearview and Forest Park Sanitariums in Iowa from the 1920's through the 1960's. Both facilities were devoted to mental health through the ministrations of chiropractic science. Conditions treated ranged from schizophrenia to depression.
Holistic theory says that the mind lives in the body, and the body resides in the mind. The mind does not end at the neck, but expresses itself throughout the entire organism. Early chiropractic pioneers Helen Sanders, D.C. and John Hurley, D.C., wrote in their volume, Aquarian Age Healing, "It has been accepted that memory resides in the brain only. We here argue that memory resides in each individual muscle cell. This then places the sub-conscious mind, instinct and reflexes in muscle cells and nowhere else." They are saying, in essence, that what is recorded in the brain is recorded in the body, as there is essentially no separation. The body is a manifestation of the subconscious mind. To touch the body is to touch the mind. Similarly, stimulation of the mind through psychotherapy or philosophy has an effect on the body.
It is now evident that somatic or body therapies assist psychological growth, and that psychology can aid physical healing. It has been a finding of many chiropractors that, once the patient has successfully completed a course of psychotherapy for an emotional trauma, the body then relaxes and the patient heals. It has also been a chiropractic finding that, while the patient may have healed emotionally, the body still holds the strain and tension that occurred at the time of the emotionally stressful event. Literally, the nervous system is still holding tensions, particularly "flight or fight." Even though the mind may have let go, the body continues to hold on.
Chiropractic methods seek to re-establish the natural balance of the involuntary nervous system and "update" the body in such a way that the body can catch up with the mind and live in present time rather than continuing to react to past events. Dr. Randoph Stone, D.C., D.O., founder of the body therapy called "Polarity Therapy," expressed this aptly when he stated, "It is my opinion that, when the function of the three nervous systems are balanced, the mental and emotional blocks have a chance to exhaust themselves in action. Running water clears itself." What Dr. Stone is saying is that the body-mind will heal itself when the cerebro-spinal, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems have been balanced.
The time is ripe for the integration of all the healing arts &endash; psychology, chiropractic, acupuncture, and traditional medicine &endash; for the benefit of all humanity. The mind-body paradigm has arrived, and it should be employed to its fullest extent to serve the patient. When this occurs, the art of healing becomes one of finding the artful combination of body-mind modalities that creates a harmonious balance for each of us. Then water runs clear and healing occurs.
For more information about the ways that Body-Mind issues can affect health, see the following articles in this website: "A Philosophy of Health" and "The Healing Crisis as a Welcome Sign"
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