In Sickness & in Health – When The Body Says No
“When we have been prevented from learning how to say no, our bodies may end up saying it for us.”
– Gabor Maté
If you haven’t read Gabor Maté’s book, When the Body Says No; The Cost of Hidden Stress, I highly recommend it. I borrowed a copy from a friend a year ago and read it in small chunks, here and there, as there was an awful lot of content – and supporting case studies – to consider, in terms of the role we play in our own health. It is not a particularly comfortable read but it is extremely enlightening.
“It is a sensitive matter to raise the possibility that the way people have been conditioned to live their lives may contribute to their illness.”
– Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No
Drawing on scientific research and the author’s decades of experience as a practicing physician, When the Body Says No examines the effect of the mind-body connection on illness and health and the role that stress and one’s individual emotional makeup play in conditions and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis.
Here are a just a few highlights from the book:
“People have always understood intuitively that mind and body are not separable. Modernity has brought with it an unfortunate dissociation, a split between what we know with our whole being and what our thinking mind accepts as truth.”
“Our immune system does not exist in isolation from daily experience.”
“Many of us live, if not alone, then in emotionally inadequate relationships that do not recognize or honour our deepest needs.”
“When emotions are repressed, this inhibition disarms the body’s defences against illness.”
“Repression – dissociating emotions from awareness and relegating them to the unconscious realm – disorganizes and confuses our physiological defences so that in some people these defences go awry, becoming the destroyers of health rather than its protectors.”
“The blurring of psychological boundaries during childhood becomes a significant source of future physiological stress in the adult. There are ongoing negative effects on the body’s hormonal and immune systems, since people with indistinct personal boundaries live with stress; it is a permanent part of their daily experience to be encroached on by others. However, that is a reality they have learned to exclude from their direct awareness.”
“The research literature has identified three factors that universally lead to stress: uncertainty, the lack of information and the loss of control. All three are present in the lives of individuals with chronic illness.”
“Repression of anger increases the risk for cancer for the very practical reason that it magnifies exposure to physiological stress. If people are not able to recognize intrusion, or are unable to assert themselves, even when they do see a violation, they are likely to experience repeatedly the damage brought on by stress.”
“Physiological stress is the link between personality traits and disease. Certain traits – otherwise known as coping styles – magnify the risk for illness by increasing the likelihood of chronic stress. Common to them all is a diminished capacity for emotional communication.”
“The gut, or intestinal tract, is much more than an organ of digestion. It is a sensory apparatus with a nervous system of its own, intimately connected to the brain’s emotional centres.”
“Gut feelings, pleasant or unpleasant, are part of the body’s normal response to the world – they help us interpret what is happening around us and inform us whether we are safe or in danger.”
“The repression of negative emotion is a chronic and significant source of damaging stress.”
“Characteristics of many persons with rheumatoid diseases is a stoicism carried to an extreme degree, a deeply ingrained reticence about seeking help.”
“Repressed anger will lead to disordered immunity. The inability to process and express feelings effectively, and the tendency to serve the needs of others before even considering one’s own, are common patterns in people who develop chronic illness.”
“The less powerful partner in any relationship will absorb a disproportionate amount of the shared anxiety – which is the reason that so many more women than men are treated for, say, anxiety or depression. (The issue here is not strength but power: that is, who is serving whose needs?)
“Healthy anger leaves the individual, not the unbridled emotion, in charge.”
“Health rests on three pillars: the body, the psyche and the spiritual connection. To ignore any one of them is to invite imbalance and dis-ease.”
For further information about the book and author, here is the link.
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Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.