One day, trying to establish a link between a person’s mental condition and the possibility they could get a serious illness – such as cancer, for instance – I told my doctor: “the brain generates our behavior, right? And the brain controls all bodily functions….”. But he interjected: “does the government control everything that happens within the country it governs?”
Not the best analogy – the brain has much more control than this – but still, even if the brain is not the sole source of behavior, of decision making, we could extend it to the periphery and call it ‘the mind’, instead. The ‘mind’ is our entire decision making mechanism, which generates our behavior (it’s mostly the brain, though).
And this is how my argument continues: there is external behavior – the one that can be easily observed by other people – and there is internal behavior: how the mind modulates bodily functions, which it does, of course.
So, if our mind is capable of generating insane external behavior (insane meaning: counter productive to ones own goals, even though one possesses the knowledge and the intelligence to avoid it, to act sanely) why shouldn’t it also be capable of generating insane ‘internal behavior’? And insane internal behavior would, most likely, cause disease.
In the case of cancer, if I understand it correctly, there is a mechanism that prevents cancer cells – that appear naturally in the body, as a result of encountering carcinogenic agents, or whatever causes cells to become malignant – from proliferating, by killing them as soon as they appear in any part of the body (if I am mistaken about this detail, please accept it as an example of cognitive dissonance, to which all of us are susceptible, or simply of the natural human tendency to make up facts when they don’t have actual data; also, even if I’m wrong about this detail, my argument still holds true, and my example is correct in essence).
All oncologists I’ve spoken to also admit that, while they know how cancer progresses, how it works, they do not know what causes it, what makes some people get it while others do not, and they do not know what makes one person respond to treatment and another to not respond. What makes it come back, in certain cases, or stay in remission indefinitely, in others.
So, assuming there is a mechanism that is constantly preventing cancer in healthy people, I propose that, in the case of psychosomatic illnesses (and I believe most chronic diseases belong in this category) the patient’s mind somehow ‘gives a command’ that disrupts the operation of this mechanism, just as it can give a command, to a mental patient, to say or do something that would harm their own interests, their chances at procreating and surviving, even though they posses the intelligence needed to understand that what they are doing is harming them. Chronic conditions seem to confirm this notion, since it seems there is something that keeps generating them, inside of us. In the case of allergies, there even seems to be something within us that learns, but this ‘learning’ is negative: each time we encounter the allergen our response to it is more severe that in the previous encounters.
In another one of my articles (A Simplified Model of the Mind) I discussed impulses. I basically posited that the brain is an stimuli-driven mechanism; that it processes stimuli it receives from the environment automatically; that each such stimulus that has any significance (that requires a reaction) creates an impulse; that this impulse activates a reaction chain, and that, if that reaction chain is not carried out fully, if the ‘reaction’ to the impulse is not carried out, then the tension resulting from the brain demanding us to complete the reaction chain – to react to the external stimulus – remains in our system until we release it.
Of course, in the long term, this also involves the mechanism of trauma, but I’ll leave discussion of it out of this article to keep it a little easier to digest. In a general sense, we can view incidents of trauma as uncompleted impulse-reaction chains. Actions we needed to take in the past, but couldn’t, pain we needed to express, but had no way of doing so – all these things accumulate in our mind and create pressure (traumatic incidents also create the behavioral patterns that determine how we will react to this pressure and to stress, in general, and whether the insanity resulting from it will be internal or external). This pressure is the whip of the subconscious mind, forcing us to invoke those old traumatic patterns that cause our irrationality.
So, there are many different ways in which we can ‘lose it’, go insane. We can do it by becoming crazy or by becoming sick. Of course, nothing prevents a person from doing both, but if you release the pressure one way, as behavior, for instance, there is less need to express it as a psychosomatic illness.
Not a happy though, but, then again, I’m not a happy person.
Dr. Arthur Janov, in his book The New Primal Scream, describes the case of a woman who had been suffering from psychosis. She was hospitalized. While at the hospital, she expressed he illness, he internal pressure, by ranting and screaming. She was eventually put on medications that made her quiet, prevented her from expressing whatever she had been expressing. 4 months on the meds, she was diagnosed with cancer.
Not expressing your pain can get really unhealthy. Not following your urges….