Mind Body Connections
Now that is a mouthful! Let us break it down, as it is a beautifully simple theory.
Immunology-A branch of biomedicine concerned with the structure and function of the immune system.
This is such an exciting area in biology, medicine, and psychology! I have been amazed at the rapid success psychoneuroimmunological techniques produce! So what is this all about? Well, let's explain the theory by going back to the inception of the field. It is a relatively modern study, but the technological advances that have revolutionized brain and body healing professions have led to a substantial increase in the popularity and practice of psychoneuroimmunology. It seems that what many scientists and doctors hypothesized was true, can now be measured, mapped, seen, heard, etc., through the miracle of modern technology.
The term “psychoneuroimmunology” was coined by Dr. Robert Ader in the mid-1970s. Dr. Ader believed that connections existed between the psyche (our state of mind) the ability to heal, protect and maintain a healthy state in our body (soma). Dr. Ader tested his theory by conducting studies that showed subjects were able to classically condition, or train, the immune system. One study consisted of feeding mice with saccharin while injecting a drug that caused an upset stomach. By way of classical conditioning, the mice learned through association. While the mice learned to avoid the saccharin, a more impressive side effect of the drug that was used in the study was that it suppressed the immune system. When the experiment was repeated without the drug to re-train or reverse the aversion Dr. Ader found a high proportion of the mice that had been injected died when receiving saccharin only. So, Dr. Ader hypothesized that the conditioning had been strong enough that saccharin alone suppressed the immune system and thus eventually, killed the mice.
To extrapolate to humans, let us imagine a person suffering from chronic stress and anxiety, this state can be interpreted by the body to produce symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, sleep disruptions, cortisol abnormalities, etc. Conversely, if the body is diagnosed with a dis-ease such as cancer, a negative mental state, such as anxiety or depression may manifest.
This conditioning or learning can be thought of as a form of cellular communication. The connection between the psyche and the soma is a powerful discovery and can be used to promote equally powerful healing through the communication of the mind and the cells and organs of the entire body.
Psychoneuroimmunology is the scientific study of the bi-directional communication among the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. These communication pathways have major implications for mental and physical health and healing.
The mind-body or soma psyche connection can be seen in medical practices that date back to ancient times in both eastern and western medical cultures. In traditional Chinese medicine, the belief is that certain organs of the body represent specific mental and emotional conditions. Practitioners use energy meridian lines and acupuncture acupressure to redirect or unblock the energy flow.
In western medicine, Hans Selye used animal studies to show that under different physical and mental adverse conditions, the body adapts in order to heal and recover. He called this phenomenon the “general adaptation syndrome”. Selye also noticed during adaptation the thymus and other organs of the immune system actually shrank in size and were suppressed in function, concluding that environmental stress impacted the immune system adversely, and the animal subject would be overwhelmed and die.
Over the last twenty years, Psychoneuroimmunology emerged on the heels of amazing brain research technological advances. The neurosciences of the central nervous systems, the neuroendocrine system, and the immune system were now actually seen with amazing precision and could be studied in great detail.
Scientists now know that our very thoughts, emotions, ideas, perceptions, dreams, or beliefs have neurochemical consequences and bodily impact. These chemical messengers are called neuropeptides and are not only in the brain but are found throughout the body. These amazing chemicals affect our thinking and mood as well as our health and physiology. Neuropeptide expert Candice Pert believes that peptides are likely to hold the key to every medical problem, providing the body with information and immediate physical feedback.
Recent research has focused on the importance of expressing emotions both verbally and physically because feelings of fear, anger, or rage that are not expressed in a healthy way, negatively impact the sympathetic nervous system. The suppression of these stressful emotions produces an excess of the chemical epinephrine, which then causes a chemical breakdown and a weakening of the immune system. This then proves that leaving emotional baggage lying around in your brain will make you sick. Holistic Psychotherapy takes all of the recent research on the mind-body communication system and gives the client tools to create the positive communication that the body-mind needs to heal and become a vibrant radiant system. You will feel better, think better, sleep better, laugh and love, and glow in a way you may not have imagined possible. This field has truly revolutionized our thinking of mental and physical well-being.
Books of Interest on this topic :
The Emergence of Somatic Psychology and Bodymind Therapy By Barnaby Barratt
Love, Medicine, and Miracles By Bernie Seigel
Peace, Love, and Healing by Bernie Seigel
Hands Of Light by Barbara Brennan
Tapping The Healers Within by Carol Kahn
The Healing Brain by Robert Ornstein