William Osler, Father of American Medicine.
If you’ve ever felt butterflies after hearing “I love you” or become nauseated during a breakup, you know emotions hold tremendous power over your physical being. Now, science is backing up that idea, as study after study confirms that the feelings generated by social and romantic relationships directly influence your short- and long-term health.
“What you feel has a big effect on your immune system,” says Dr. John Arden, Director of Training for Mental Health in Northern California for Kaiser Permanente and author of, The Brain Bible: How to Stay Vital, Productive and Happy for Life.
Dr. Candace Pert, Ph.D., author of Molecules of Emotion, stated, “emotions are not just in the brain but are also in the body and appear to run the immune system, the glands and the intestines. So your whole body is a single-unit integrated circuit, running on biochemicals.” Once this is fully understood, it may provide the medical profession with totally new ways to treat illnesses such as allergies, cancer, obesity, etc.
Our emotions are also influenced by a greater, spiritual energy field that encompasses and influences the entire physical body and nervous system. Our reactions to life are recorded not only in the biochemical patterns of memory storage in the brain, but also in the life energy centers of the body that help to nourish our cells and organs. We are energetic beings whose ills may be healed not only by surgical procedures and drugs but also by different forms and frequencies of energy.
Most psychologists treat the emotions as disembodied, a phenomenon with little or no connection to the physical body. Conversely, some physicians treat the body with no regard to the mind or the emotions. But the body and emotions are not separate, and we cannot treat one without the other.
The concept of a network, stressing the interconnectedness of all systems has been referred to as “the power of the mind over the body”. But that phrase does not explain what is happening. Mind doesn’t dominate body, it ‘becomes’ body – body and mind are one. I see the process of communication as the flow of information throughout the whole organism, as evidence that the body is the actual outward manifestation, in physical space, of the mind.
‘Body-mind”, a term first proposed by Diane Connelly, PhD, (Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements) reflects the understanding, derived from Chinese medicine, that the body is inseparable from the mind. And when we explore the role that emotions play in the body, as expressed through the neuropeptide molecules, it will become clear how emotions can be a key to understanding disease.
We know that the immune system, like the central nervous system, has memory and the capacity to learn. Thus, it could be said that intelligence is located not only in the brain but in cells that are distributed throughout the body, and that the traditional separation of mental processes, including emotions, from the body is no longer valid.
If we accept the idea that peptides and other substances that give the body information are the biochemicals of emotion, their distribution in the body’s nerves has all kinds of significance. As Sigmund Freud said, the body is the unconscious mind! Repressed traumas caused by overwhelming emotion can be stored in a part of the body, sometimes even affecting our ability to feel that part or even move it.
How can we experience the fact that an emotion is not only stored in the brain? One way is to notice, as we release emotions from the body, that we feel physical relief first, and later experience mental relief. By releasing the harmful effects of guilt, fear, anger and depression, we begin to feel better in many ways.
For example, if we call up a painful experience; perhaps viewing the casket of a dead parent or spouse, we will experience deep feelings, maybe a pain in the chest, or an ache or funny feeling in the pit of your stomach. Maybe tears will well up in our eyes. If we ask ourselves to consider the experience a week later, two months later, or even twenty years later, we might still have those feelings, though probably with less intensity. They will always be there, because the image, sound and feeling have been recorded.
Therefore, the question is: how can emotions transform the body, either creating disease or healing it, maintaining health or undermining it?
Every change in the physical state is accompanied by an appropriate change in the mental/emotional state, conscious or unconscious. Conversely, every change in the mental/emotional state, conscious or unconscious, is accompanied by an appropriate change in the physical state.
The work done by Candace Pert, PhD. and discussed in Molecules of Emotion, confirmed the existence of a chemical mechanism through which the immune system could communicate not only with the endocrine system but with the nervous system and the brain, as well. Previous work showed the brain communicated with many other bodily systems. But the immune system has always been considered separate from the other systems. Now we know, this is not the case.
Neuropeptides and their receptors in the brain, glands, and immune system join in a network of communication between brain and body, felt as a state of emotion. Immune cells don’t just have receptors on their surfaces for the various neuropeptides. Immune cells also make, store, and secrete the neuropeptides themselves. In other words, the immune cells make the same chemicals that we know controls mood in the brain. So, immune cells not only control the tissue integrity of the body, they also manufacture information chemicals that can regulate mood or emotion.
This is yet another instance of the two-way communication between brain and body.
What we are now seeing is astounding and very revolutionary. The immune system is capable of both sending information to the brain via immuneopeptides and receiving information from the brain via neuropeptides.
Visualize the following: If the cell is the engine that drives all life, then the receptors are the buttons on the control panel of that engine, and the specific peptide is the finger that pushes that button and gets things started. Did the endocrine system communicate with the immune system? Yes. Did the immune system, via these peptide messengers, communicate with the nervous system or the brain? Yes.
So, the next question is: Does the brain communicate with the immune system? The evidence has become very clear that the answer is yes! There is definitely mind/body connection, making us aware that our thoughts, emotions and attitude affect our state of health!
Author, Norman Cousins in Anatomy of an Illness suggested from his experience of using laughter to heal, that his state of mind, thoughts and feelings, played a major role in his recovery. He postulated that the laughter triggered a release of endorphins, which, by elevating his mood somehow brought about a total remission of his disease. He led a personal crusade aimed at changing negative states of mind. He championed the effects of positive thoughts and feelings in several books, including Anatomy of an Illness in which he documents his own conscious decision to fight the prognosis of a life-threatening collagen disease and subsequent heart attack.
Many other factors determine who gets sick and who doesn’t. Beliefs, moods, thoughts, and emotions affect the mind/body in many ways. When doctors tell patients, “You will die in six months to a year,” they risk giving them a death sentence. A terminal prognosis is a death sentence. When patients receive this kind of ‘programming’ how can doctors expect them to live any longer? Health professionals should take into account a person’s ‘fighting’ spirit, commitment and will to overcome – to re-create his or her own reality!
As a holistic practitioner I have found a vast majority of health issues consisting of an emotional component. I have also, experienced that once the emotion is released, usually the pain or problem is gone.
I will be devoting more time to this subject because I feel the topic, ”How Emotions Affect the Immune System”, is very important to understand. It is not necessary to understand the science or biology of it; but to know and comprehend how thoughts create your emotions, and that negative thoughts can lower your defense to illness and disease.
I will then offer some techniques you can utilize to release or clear emotions so your Immune system can take over its ‘job’ of healing your body.
Gerber, M.D. Richard. Vibrational Medicine for the 21st Century.
Pert, Ph.D., Candace. Molecules of Emotion.