Precisely why we get sick will always remain a mystery. That is because there are so many factors that contribute to our overall health and well-being.
I can think of seven factors right off the bat that could come into play. One obvious one would be accidentally coming into contact with a strong toxin or virus. Then there is stress, shown in study after study to weaken our immune system. Poor nutrition is another factor. If we are not well nourished, we are prone to getting every cold and virus that comes down the pike.
Today, too, we hear about over work. After awhile, our system shuts down because of over stimulation and excessive demands.
Over the years, I have also seen what sorrow and depression can do to people. When we give up on life, for whatever reason, it becomes tougher to fight the sicknesses that come our way.
And let us not forget heredity. In some families, for example, all the men have had heart attacks in their early forties, no matter what their personality or lifestyle might be.
A final reason that we get sick is because of our inner story, the working out of our own deeper issues that may be bringing sickness our way. More on this later.
It should be noted that the first six reasons listed (except for depression in some cases) have little to do with our inner journey. This needs to be said – loudly and clearly- because I notice a trend today to make every illness a metaphor of something bigger. As my doctor said to me once, “Tom, sometimes we get sick just because it is going around.” Let us not, then, read into every illness and be in a big hurry to play armchair psychologist and tell people what the deeper meaning of their illness is.
That caveat having been given, however, let us take a deeper look at times when our illnesses and our issues may be interconnected. As Karl Robinson, M.D. puts it, “In cases in which we try to find a cause for an illness, it’s after an unresolved psychological situation. It might be undischarged grief, suppressed anger, severe fright, bad news. People have illnesses that are unique to them, yet all illnesses boil down to similar basic emotional categories that manifest in different ways in individuals.”
In my life, I have found that whenever I get sick, there is almost always some emotional or lifestyle component to the situation. Over the years, I have had to deal with lower back pain, headaches, digestive disorders, arthritis, skin problems and a ruptured Achilles tendon. For me personally, I am convinced that all of these conditions were trying to communicate something to me. When I would eventually get the message, the disorder would subside.
In some ways, our unconscious always knows what the deeper issue is. The illness allows us to “somatize”, to displace the illness into something other than what the real issue is. When we eventually summon the courage (usually when the pain is too great), to deal with what is really going on deeper within us, healing happens. Our illnesses, then, often come to us as messages in a bottle from some foreign land (our unconscious). They represent an opportunity to self-correct, to deal with the real issues instead of the symptoms.
Next posting: Taking Good Care of Ourselves
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