The psychology of illness and trauma

A new perspective

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Western medicine and ancient masters have finally agreed that the mind influences all aspects of health and well being. Nevertheless, many individuals with severe illnesses are finding that mere positive thinking is insufficient. Just hearing words such as cancer, MS, chronic fatigue, etc., spark our worst fears. Therefore, an understanding and application of the principals of mind training are needed to provide real relief. Our most powerful fears, however, are stashed in the subconscious where conflicting and imprisoning beliefs reside. We must bring these to light if we are to change the destructive mind-set and reap positive effects on the body, mind and spirit.

When you consider how bitterly we complain and ruthlessly drive our body, is it any wonder that our immune system is troubled?

Science has concluded that all the cells of our bodies are listening to every thought that we have. This revolutionary statement can be expanded by one given me by an advanced teacher. He stated that it is impossible to have a neutral, ineffective thought. Rather, every single thought we have is directly creating either more ease and peace or more pain, difficulty and chaos. Because, we create our entire reality with thought.

The mind is a great magnifying glass

It is tragic that in all our schooling we are not taught to watch our minds and consciously choose which thoughts to think and which to avoid like the plague. In fact, no one told us that the mind is a great magnifying glass, and more importantly, what it looks upon"grows." Neither did they add, “and be very careful, children, not to think about lack in any form because if you do, lack’s presence in your life will increase.”

A 180-degree shift starts with the word "sin"

We often hear the statement that we create our own reality. How does this idea relate to a sudden trauma or a diagnosis of serious illness? In my personal experience with stage two cancer, I initially uncovered enormous guilt and ceaseless suspicions that cancer had come as punishment. Today’s single most destructive thought form is the belief that we have done something so bad that it is unforgivable (sin) and punishment will inevitably follow. This single idea has been insidiously sewn into tiny minds for thousands of years, and has spawned two highly destructive twins — guilt and punishment.

Guilt and punishment

In ancient Greece, sin had a far more sympathetic meaning. Sin, or hamartia was an archery term meaning missing the mark. Metaphorically speaking, this can be thought of as a union with God, union with self, forgiving oneself, finding truth or peace of mind. However, to accomplish this, the archer must miss the mark thousands of times. In fact, in this interpretation, the archer can only learn by missing or sinning. It is easy to see profound ramifications of this change in perspective. As an unforgivable sin turns into a necessary mistake the entire world view shifts. This new/old meaning of sin eliminates the unbearable weight of both guilt and punishment.

Shifting the world view

After penetrating the illusory guilt layer, I clearly saw that illness had profound and essential messages for me. Furthermore, based on my experience with clients, I found that the uncovering can happen naturally once the meaning of certain other critical words, like lazy, are re-evaluated. When the highly pejorative nature of this word is transformed, it becomes obvious that it is essential for any ill person to practice intense stillness. In this manner, the mystery surrounding the illness’s meaning can more readily be penetrated and energy regained.

Selfishness is another word with far-reaching negative connotations. However, we need to practice holy selfishness to start regaining energy. This means reducing stress, giving only what we genuinely feel compelled to give, avoiding stressful people and putting ourselves first — a most radical concept.

Into the "now"

A major purpose of illness is to invite us more deeply into the "now."

When a sudden health diagnosis, trauma or death of a loved one occurs, it is normal to enter a nowhere stage. One feels thick and foggy and thoughts become jumbled. One also feels tired, unable to accomplish anything and utterly lost. However, if we separate the letters,"now" and "here," we find a new meaning entirely. Because our fantasy future collapses with a sudden trauma, we have the opportunity to enter a highly prized state called the present moment. It is possible that a major purpose of illness is to invite us into the "now." It is within this calm, nonjudgmental, more surrendered state that we are more likely to access the answers as to why our soul is in tumult. Isn’t it reasonable to assume we need a dire wake-up call to get us to stop, look and listen a lot more carefully?

The gifts of trauma

Whatever the cause, the new therapy becomes a means of clearing guilt, watching negative thoughts and choosing positive ones. Consequently, it then becomes easier to take positive (rather than fear-based) action. Energy wants, above all else, to move and express. The new therapy begins the fundamental inquiry into where any stagnation might be limiting the flow of energy in the body and/or mind. Finding the gifts and the all-important message of the trauma is critical for our continued evolution. It becomes the primary goal of therapy. Perhaps we need to clear subconscious guilt or find our life’s purpose. Maybe we are holding back too much of who we really are, or are self-critical and judgmental of others.

Achieving harmony

Instead of numbing ourselves with drugs and distractions we need to listen and dialogue daily with our symptoms. In this manner we become kinder to the body by asking it what it needs to be happier and more balanced. We dare to contact our illusory guilt because we have realized that guilt is a pure lie. We face our conflicts directly and are determined to deal with them. Overall, we aim for increased authenticity and joy.

Thought becomes a bridge

Illness and trauma ask us to change. With every thought, we are given the opportunity to make different choices. Yet, it is essential to realize that based on each thought, different worlds arise. One world is filled with pain and suffering and the other with peace beauty and ease. As we strive to use our minds correctly in every moment, thought becomes the bridge between these worlds.

The body is an effect of the mind

My teacher used to say that the body is entirely an effect of the mind, and, if the body is sick it is 100 percent attributable to “dis-ease” in the mind. He never said that occasionally a strong virus can take over. He said that in truth, nothing is more powerful than we are.

Wendy Wagner Ph.D. is a therapist specializing in cancer and severe illness support. She also facilitates smoking cessation, hypnotherapy, and healthy pregnancy. Wagner practices in Taos and Santa Fe, with groups, youth and adults. She also consults online internationally. For more information, see her website, wendyewagner.com or call (575) 613-9557 to schedule a free consultation.

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