Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is the ultimate mind/body disease, and provides a very clear illustration as to how the mind and body interact, creating either health (balance) or disease (imbalance). In CFS and other functional illnesses like Fibromyalgia, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the functioning of the HPA-AXIS is disrupted, causing overwork of the Hypothalamus,which in turns signals the sympathetic and immune systems to go into ‘overdrive’, causing debilitating symptoms.
There are no medical tests that can diagnose CFS, and although people with CFS are very ill and very debilitated, there is no conclusive medical evidence for disease. There is no way to medically quantify these functional illnesses. We can then think of these symptoms as messages from the mind/body/emotional centers of the brain, telling us that something is not right.
What is interesting is that other diseases, such as cancer, involve disruption of this same HPA-AXIS pathway…causing immune system dysfunction, and allowing cancer cells to develop and take over healthy cells.
But what causes your HPA-AXIS to go into “overdrive” and what causes immune system dysfunction? Stress, but not the kind of stress that we encounter everyday, or situational stress. It’s the deep unconscious stress that we are not aware of. This is the stress caused by emotions that we’ve become dissociated from. Remember, emotions are physical and hormonal in nature.They are biochemical. Emotions, when repressed, or denied, wreak havoc with our bodies.
Emotions are messages, transmitted by the biochemical and hormonal centers of our emotional brain. Emotions are meant to be felt and responded to, either internally or externally. When an emotion is repressed or denied, the emotional brain goes into overdrive, constantly trying to message us that something is wrong. You can think of symptoms of disease as a knock at your door, that needs to be answered, or even a fire alarm going off in your body. So a physical symptom, an illness is a message from your body. Remember, your body is your subconscious. Your body is wise, and your body is a temple, an oracle even. It tells you everything you need to know, if only you learn how to listen to it. Illnesses, then, are always a message, and behind the message is an emotion, trying to break free.
In the past year or so much has been made of the new ACES study. ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. ACES have been found to have a direct link to health throughout the lifespan. For me, the significance of the ACES study is that it proves that emotions play a large role in our health and well-being. Emotionally traumatic events in childhood affect the development of the emotional centers in the brain, and the development of the stress response…it often becomes overdeveloped in children who have experienced traumatic life events. As I poured over the ACES study, I came to realize that ACES are life…life is traumatic. And ACE’S pretty much affect all of us. Over 70% of the population has experienced at least one ACE.
So what can we do about the inevitable trauma that is life? One thing the ACES study reported was that children who were loved and supported at the time and aftermath of their trauma healed. But think of all the traumas, large and small, that tend to go unnoticed in childhood. Many children have no words for their trauma, and in some cases, hide their trauma out of shame or out of protecting their families. These are the “hidden” traumas that cause illness and dis-ease…Again, love heals. That body you have, that temple, loves you, and loves you so much it will throw an illness up to you, in an attempt to heal something that is deeply hidden from you. What is revealed, then, can be healed.
Speaking of hidden, have you ever known a family that seems to be “cursed”, plagued by a certain illness, or emotional issue, that runs for generations through the family? There is often a family “secret”, a secret shame, a secret trauma, that expresses itself through the family line..either physically or emotionally or behaviorally. Once the hidden trauma or shame is acknowledged or revealed, that illness or issue heals, not only for future, but even past generations. Wholeness returns to the family…this is called epigenetics, and again, leads us to conclude that emotions have a greater role in health and healing than we ever knew.
One final thought about emotions and health. Studies show that people who experience more anger and rage are more likely to die of heart attacks, than those who have high cholesterol and who smoke. People who feel lonely are at as high a risk of having severe health issues as though who smoke 15 cigarettes per day. This tells us so much! And it tells us that the most important aspect of our health is our emotions. When emotions are acknowledged, felt, and appropriately responded to, our bodies will naturally heal.