Health - Its All in the Mind


Do you ever listen to other people's conversations? I mean when you're standing at a bus stop, or having a drink in a café after a hard morning's shopping. You know, those people whose voices are just a little too loud and you can't really help listening; after all you are on your own, and other people's lives are quite interesting.

What do they talk about? Their problems I'll bet, with health issues being high on the list. And have you ever noticed how it's a bit like a game of ping-pong. One party will bat a little titbit "my back's been playing up something awful", and the other will respond with something 'better' and before you know where you are, you know all about all the cancers, and the hip operations, and the chronic chest infections, that their family and friends have had in the past ten years.

Sound familiar?

So illness seems important. If it isn't, why do we spend so much time talking about it?

Have you ever noticed how you suffer with a bad cold, or dose of 'flu, or possibly something more serious, when life itself is becoming tedious, work is getting you down, or your husband seems to have lost interest in you. Have you ever noticed how, when you are happy and life is full of joy and excitement, you rarely experience illness? It has been known for a long time that 'stress' has a depressant effect on the ability of your body's immune system to fight infection. Illness is the body's way of saying 'you're not looking after you', and usually the way you are failing to look after yourself is in your mind - your emotional well-being is generally the part which is being neglected when you start to experience illness.

Now, the scientists say that disease organisms, viruses, bacteria, genes, and even your age, cause illness. They may be right. But if they are then those same 'experts' are your only hope for defeating illness. Yet with all the drugs and all the scientific advances over that last fifty years - shouldn't the hospitals be emptying out by now. How easy is it to get an appointment with your doctor? How full was the waiting room last time you visited? All that science seems to be accomplishing is to change the nature of illness without actually removing it.

If illness is a necessary warning system to let you know that you need to slow down, or look at how you are living your life then this is exactly what we would expect to see with scientific advances; a change in the style of illness, but no change in the quantity or quality. Smallpox and bubonic plague have been eradicated, but doesn't AIDS do pretty much the same sort of job.

So, how can this awareness help you?

Well it can help you if you want to feel better and be less ill. Because the first step to freeing yourself from this pattern of stress/illness is to recognise that the illness is helpful. Now, I know pain isn't much fun, and I'm not suggesting that life-threatening problems should be ignored. In fact I'm not even suggesting that you stop visiting your doctor for treatment. I would actually strongly advise that you take all the help you can get if you have a health problem.

What I am suggesting is that if you want to be free of illness, you need to start by looking at what illness gives you, and welcome those gifts. You might get a few days off work, early retirement, forced retirement from a job you hate; illness may be the only occasion when anyone looks after you or gives you affection, if you are lonely then illness at least brings you into close contact with people (doctors and nurses) who touch you and treat you gently; if you are trying to cram too many things in your life then illness gives you break and gives your body a much needed rest.

It would be beneficial then to see what changes you could make to your life so that this 'benefit' was no longer needed because you already had it. If you don't like your job then consider the possibility of doing something you enjoy instead; if you are alone then open your mind to the possibility of this being different. If you are simply too busy then build relaxation into your schedule and see it as just as important a part of life as the 'busy'ness.

But whatever you do, don't neglect illness, it is your mind's way of telling you it's time for change.

Michael J. Hadfield MBSCH is a registered clinical hypnotherapist.


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