[Apologies for the lack of graphics. I am on dial up and so can’t access them. It looks like I’ll be on dial up for another two weeks. Sigh. Evan]

A few years ago John Harrison wrote a book called, “Love Your Disease: It’s Keeping You Healthy”.

The author tells the story of a young man who had acne. He realising that the acne was keeping him safe – not having to negotiate the difficult terrain of adolescent sexuality: afer all the acne meant he was unattractive. Upon realising this the acne began to clear up.

I think many of us have experiences like this. A simple example is the elation we feel after solving a problem or finding out how to do something we wanted to do. We have put out just as much energy and it is even a little later, so after solving the problem why don’t we feel more tired? Why are we feeling better after we know how to do what we want to do? The amount of physical energy we have expended is the same. But we feel different. We have more energy – if it was important enough we might even be dancing around.

This is a small example of our thoughts affecting our physiology. A bigger example is falling in love. This is most striking when it happens between people who have previously known each other. The two people are the same as the day before and yet their experience has changed: it is more intense, alive and sexual.

The most remarkable example I know of our thoughts affecting our physiology happened to a friend of mine. He was in a psychotherapy group. Another group member had a baby face – he was the foreman of a building site and people would walk past him because they thought he was an apprentice. This man’s mother had died during his adolescence. As he said goodbye to her in the therapy group his face aged. He went from having a baby face to a mature man’s face.

It is obvious that our thoughts influence our experience.

This leads to the idea that if we think in a particular way we can experience whatever we want to. I doubt this. The most unsavoury consequence of this way of thinking is that we wanted (in some way) any misfortune that befalls us. This is usually referred to (disapprovingly) as ‘blaming the victim’. It certainly means that we have no need to help others (after all they brought it on themselves by their bad thinking.)

I don’t think our thoughts can influence our experience that much. I think there is a real world which ‘resists’ our thoughts. And I think that often our thoughts need to be enacted to influence this real world.

Having said this I think we are usually more influential in our experience than we realise. Finding out how much we can change can be a lifelong experiment. We don’t know in advance. (There is a lot of room for experiment between everything and nothing.)

What does this have to do with loving our disease? That it is worth finding out how much we influence ‘the disease’. Even with something that we believe is completely beyond our control we have some choice about our response. A good friend of mine got cancer. Being confronted with the ‘you are responsible for getting cancer’ line, they decided this was incorrect. They did discover though that the diagnosis was a relief – it meant that they didn’t have to do some things that they didn’t want to do. They were quite shocked when they discovered this. This is the kind of thing I mean by finding out.

Then there are ‘diseases’ are descriptions of behaviour. This is especially the case with relationship and emotional problems. I’m not saying that these things don’t have a physiological base. What I’m asking is for an investigation. Here’s an example of what I mean. A man I knew was diagnosed with manic-depression (called bi-polar these days). His wife was extremely supportive and he had good support from friends to. They found that if they caught it early enough the time he spent manic (and subsequently depressed) could be reduced from weeks to hours. (It started with stuff happening in his shoulders. If he got a massage at this point it reduced the duration of the episode.) This is only one person and may have nothing to do with anyone else. I tell the story to make the point that it is worth finding out.

For me, the perspective of ‘love your disease’ is an invitation to investigate and experiment. Not a guilt trip.

Have you found that a problem you had contained benefits for you? Have you had the experience of a troublesome ‘disease’ or condition leaving when you understood it? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments.

Tags: ,

11 Comments to “Love Your Disease?”

  1. i just read about a study about something related, here: http://www.spring.org.uk/2008/.....iating.php

    and as you say, it’s not straightforward. there’s a reason why we say, “if wishing only made it so …”. i like your idea of the world “resisting” our toughts. that’s an image that works for me!

  2. Robin says:

    Hi Evan – one of the ways I deal with illnesses is to see what my “payoff” is – what am I experiencing that I wouldn’t experience otherwise? It’s rarely hard to find a meaningful answer. Then – I try to find healthier ways to experience it – so I don’t have to stay/get sick!

  3. Evan says:

    Thanks Robin,

    Insightful and well put, thanks.

  4. Evan,
    In my 20’s I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – basically it means I was wiped out all the time – sleeping 18 hours a day sometimes! I had a perpetual flu, migraines and severe allergies to people, food, and chemicals. I was lucky that my doctor said nothing was wrong with me. It forced me to find alternative health care, and in my search for wellness, a deep spiritual understanding of my health process ensued. I spent 10 years healing and learning about how my illness presented to the world, why it manifested and how I grew from it. I didn’t play victim or believe I caused my illness, but I did allow myself to go deeply in to the cause and effect. The result is my spiritual journey. Big Huge Benefit. I also spent 15 years in the alternative health care industry, wrote a book about my experience, and I continue to speak about marketing to health care providers. None of that would have happened without my illness.
    P.S. Dial up? Augh. I guess be grateful you have internet at all.

  5. Evan says:

    Thanks Michelle.

    I really like what you say about not being a victime of or cause of your illness. I really like that you see what you did leads to benefit for you.

    I spent some years learning acupunture. I still value acupuncture, but think it needs to integrate the western understanding of emotion.

    Thanks for a great comment.

  6. Many Traditional Systems of Medicine believe that most diseases of the Body start in the Mind.
    Though I wouldn’t know how far this is true, it could explain how the Mind can control certain dieases!

  7. Evan says:

    Hi Dr Joshi,

    I guess I think that some problems are mostly physical and some are mostly of the mind (I think it is only in a few cases that it is entirely one or the other).

    Here’s an example of a ‘cure’ that is maybe more mental. When I was courting my first wife, we had been apart for a weekend. She had bad menstrual pain, when she got home and gave me a hug as soon as her belly touched mine the pain disappeared. I don’t mean that this happens all the time or is maybe even normal. I do think it opens up lots of interesting possibilities.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  8. Mena says:

    Didn?t know the forum rules allowed such billriant posts.

  9. john says:

    Is there way to reach out to him?

    I have his book

  10. Evan says:

    Not that I know of John.

  11. Jane Mitchell says:

    John Harrison is a violent rapist who sexually assaulted me in Adelaide when I was 17yrs old (I remember his acned face & still have nightmares about this ‘medical consultation’ I am now 62yrs old & a natural therapist – this man is a disgrace to the profession & the human race.

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>