When you imagine yourself, do you see your mind and your body as separate parts of yourself?
If so, your body may not agree with you.
The belief that our mind lives in a secluded area of our body has caused health and emotional hazards since it became the dominating dogma of the 20th century. Our medical experts become absolute masters of a particular organ and become blind in their specialization. Why would an oncologist worry about their patients repressed emotions during their diagnosis of a malignant tumor?
In “How the Body Says No,” Dr. Gabor Maté demonstrates that an intimate relationship exists between our brains and our immune system. In addition, he links our emotional makeup as a possible contributor of diseases.
Nearly 42% of participants in a 2001 breast cancer study believed that their malignancy was caused by stress. Although this fact is still subjective, if we pair it with the insights that some hormones (such as estrogen) encourage tumor growth and that hormone production is intimately affected by psychological stress, then it starts to make sense. This leads Dr. Maté to deduce that “an intimate relationship exists between the brain and the immune system and that an individual’s emotional makeup and their response to continued stress may indeed be causative of many diseases”.
Instead of seeing our bodies as separate operating systems (i.e., the endocrine, immune, and nervous), Maté, and several like-minded experts, propose that these systems are a part of a super system, in which the purpose is development and preservation of the body. This super system, also known as the psychoneuroimmunoendocrine (PNI) system, regulates the functions of the organs and glands that determine our psychological and physiological balance.
The subsystems interconnect to recognize threats and alert us to the danger. They allow the body to react with the appropriate coordinated behavioral and biochemical responses. The information network of our supersystem is our nervous system. Our endocrine glands generate the appropriate hormones based on the information delivered through our nervous system. Then there’s our emotional well being. Here is how it comes into play:
Our brain is the center where sensorial information is interpreted. In other words, it’s the place where our emotions are formed. One of its main functions is to help us reach homeostasis on a regular basis. Repressing emotions could be a healthy response for a short period time, however, long periods of repression throw our nervous system off balance. Because our brain is a vital part of our nervous system, key unprocessed psychological stressors creates a negative effect that can end with a somatic (physical) manifestation of a disease and psychological condition. An example of this is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is why we can’t sacrifice our emotional well-being. We think it’s unrelated but its an integral part of our body. Our emotional intelligence and our capacity to reach homeostasis (our natural balanced state), ultimately defines our PNI’s ability to thrive and meet life’s challenges.
– by Gui Mansilla