Masks

By Ross Bishop

Masks. What are yours? We all wear a few. You probably wear one for social occasions or dinner parties, one for meetings, another for friends, possibly one for your relationship. Or, maybe you just put on one and it never comes down . . . The question is – “Why do you need them?” Why can’t you just be yourself?

The answer is that you believe you have have something to hide. Who you are isn’t “good enough.” There is something you are reluctant for the world to see. Defects. Inadequacies. Holes in your being. . . You’re not lovable. Not deserving.

And so long as you believe that, you must try to conceal your “defects.” You become afraid of being found out and condemned so you retreat into your ego for protection. The truth doesn’t matter. Your behavior is driven by what you believe (especially about yourself). And thus the masks.

Your behavior is not perfect, but your behavior is driven by your beliefs. But that is not who you are. It’s what you do when you fear being exposed. If you knew who you really were, there wouldn’t be an issue. There would be nothing to expose!

Your behavior can be changed, once you resolve the beliefs that drive it. You came to earth to resolve the vulnerability that leads to your beliefs. And those vulnerabilities are exposed in childhood. That gives you the rest of your life to work on them.

That’s the way life works. This is not done to punish or to condemn, but to make you aware, to give you the opportunity to resolve – to heal – your vulnerable places.

You can’t be unlovable, you cannot be unworthy, but so long as you believe you could be, in addition to tearing yourself to pieces, you are capable of doing selfish and unkind things to others.

And there is no room for that in heaven.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Standing On The Curb

by Ross Bishop

There you stand. Things haven’t gone as you had hoped, so you don’t want to turn back, because that just means more of the same. Yet taking that step into the street gives you pause. It means stepping into the traffic where you might get run over. Remaining on the sidewalk is unsatisfactory, but it’s familiar. The cars are very powerful and they don’t care who you are, they’ll run over anyone. You feel a bit lost and alone.

The street is different than the sidewalk, the rules are different, unfamiliar. If you mess up, the consequences could be severe. But there are mosquitos on this side of the road. And they harass and bite you. You could stay where you are, but it’s going to be uncomfortable.

You tried to cross the street when you were a child and were severely rebuffed. You were told that the street was a scary place, filled with cars and potholes and pain. Mom and dad made sure you realized the consequences of going there. They hadn’t crossed the street either. It was too scary for them.

Those memories are with you today. And so you retreat back into your safe and secure sandbox, comforted by its familiar boundaries and harmless play.

And yet, there is this force, this urging, pushing you out of your complacency. After all, the sandbox was fine for a child, but as an adult it is rather confining. And how long can you go on making sand castles, anyway? The voice urges you to leave the comfort of the sandbox and cross the street. How do you know this voice is real? How can you trust it? After all, you cannot “understand” it! You must learn to trust your heart. It knows.

Eventually after interminable delays and a couple of feeble attempts to cross on your own, you raise your gaze and realize that someone has already provided a way across the road. There exists a way, a crossing. All you have to do is push the button and the cars will stop.

But what if you don’t have permission? Other kids crossed with their parents, but you are alone. What if you screw it up? What if you are found to be unworthy?

When you look into it, you find that the signal button doesn’t care who pushes it. It works for everyone. Others use the intersection to cross, why not you? After all, you are as worthy as they are, and that signals a fundamental change in your belief. . .

You must be willing to push the button, but when you do, everything changes. The busy intersection changes into a zone of relative safety where the cars allow people to cross.

Even with the signal in your favor, it still takes courage to step into the street. But reinforced with the knowledge that others do it, still scared, you step boldly into the unknown.

When you get the other side you look back and realize that crossing the road, which seemed so challenging before, really wasn’t such big deal after all. Except that everything has changed . . . And then you realize, it wasn’t about getting across the street, it was the journey.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Am I Worthy?

by Ross Bishop

As I travel I frequently hear things like, “I don’t feel lovable,” “I don’t feel good enough” and the classic, “I don’t feel worthy.”I would imagine you have had similar thoughts. It is part of the human condition.

Life can feel pretty unfair. There is pain and suffering, people get hurt. There are street gangs, political corruption, wars, religious intolerance, drug abuse and corporate crime. We try to live better, we really do, but life can be such a struggle!

I can understand why some people think there isn’t a God. After all, how can a loving God subject his children to so much pain and unhappiness? From the outside at appears that we are here on our own, struggling against life (and not making a lot of headway). . . . Unless, of course, all of this serves some higher purpose. . .

First, let’s straighten out a couple of assumptions: God doesn’t determine the events of your life. You do. Nor does He decide how you will respond to your dilemmas. You do that too. There is pain in life, but you determine your response to it.

God established the basic rules for life, and they are as follows: Live in the God Space (love, compassion) and be at peace. Live out of fear and self-doubt and be in pain. The choice is yours.

But you are driven by forces that overwhelm you, that take you over. It hardly seems like you have free will at all! That’s because your emotions (your fears) are driven by your frightened inner child. You are not in control of things. He or she is. And he or she a powerless and frightened 4 year old, struggling to survive in a scary world of more powerful adults.

The pain in life isn’t there to punish. It is to nudge you to move you out of complacency and in the direction of the God Space. It is so that you won’t settle for less than you deserve. And the more you resist surrendering, the more pain there will be!

Let’s talk about that higher purpose I mentioned. There is a place in you today that can be moved to fear and uncertainty (your inner child). That is because you do not appreciate nor understand the beautiful and special being that you are. She feels unworthy, unlovable and inadequate. Get pushed on and you wilt or move into rigid resistance.

God wants you to be more secure with yourself. He needs you to not retreat into ego and fear when challenged, but to stand in the truth of who you are. He needs you to be able to stand up to the winds of self-doubt and shame and say, “I know who I am, I cannot be unworthy or unlovable.”

Perhaps this is only done for your own good or it may be that you are to serve some higher purpose. Whichever it is, that is the reason you are here. That is why you have come to earth and why you share in this remarkable experience of life.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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No Other Gods

by  Ross Bishop

There are two great competing forces in The Spiritual Universe – God’s love and your fear. Those two cannot exist simultaneously. This is a continuum with pure egotism (fear) at one end and the God Space – love and compassion, at the other. You fall someplace on that scale. At one end you are either with God and feel safe and protected and therefore trust The Universe or live in fear and must control things through efforting. In order to manage the latter process, you created your ego.

In the first commandment given to Moses, probably the most misunderstood of the Ten Commandments, God said, “You shall have no other Gods before me.” He wasn’t talking about other religions. He meant the human ego. I am sometimes asked if there isn’t a good side to the ego. That gets us into a slight-of-hand with language because when you truly hold what we can call ”good ego,” you have already moved to the God Space.

Think of human behavior. You either open your heart to others (the God Space) or distance yourself from them out of fear (ego). You either fully embrace your relationship with your partner (freeing them) or you (try to) control them out of insecurity (ego). You either negotiate with someone out of respect for their ideas (even if you disagree) or you duke it out (a fear-based ego reaction). You either open your heart to God (freeing yourself in the process) or tie yourself up in intellectual beliefs and ideas (expressions of fear).

If you think about earthly events, everything that happens here has at its root the movement to greater compassion. Otherwise it would not be an issue, just part of the landscape. Pick any issue – The Middle East, AIDS, EBOLA, Ferguson, women’s rights, domestic violence, gay rights, Afghanistan – whatever. Setting aside the specifics, all of these issues have at their core the opportunity for us to learn to love one another (or the resistance to that). We get caught up in the specifics and fail to see the larger agenda. But that’s the only reason these issues exist! And if we don’t get it with this set of problems, The Creator has plenty more waiting in the wings!

It’s the same with your life. Got problems? They are here to teach you about holding greater compassion (especially for yourself). You are not being punished. God doesn’t do that! You are being taught in an admittedly painful, but highly effective manner.

What would happen if you would/could approach the problems in your life with more love? Pick an issue. I don’t care what it is – notice that. Now, soften your approach (not your goals). Fill your heart with love for yourself and for the other(s). Odds are if you soften, the other(s) will too.

Besides, you’ll feel a whole lot better.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Belief

by Ross Bishop

Setting aside Universal Truth such as “All people are created equal,” what is it that you believe – good or bad? About minorities? Maybe Muslims? The girl at work you don’t get along with? Your neighbors? Dogs? Your partner? Your kids?

When you go to the dark place inside, what beliefs reside there? In other words, how do you see yourself? As long as you believe you are unworthy, not lovable or not good enough, you will live in the realm of fear. Someone can always expose you as inadequate. So, you’ll need your ego to protect yourself.

Remember there are two states of being in the Universe – either you live in the God Space, a realm where there are no beliefs, just truth; or the realm of ego, fear, insecurity and belief. The latter are all part of a protective system designed to get you through life when you are unable to hold the truth.

God doesn’t see you as you probably see yourself. He looks at you and he sees a beautiful, special being. One who has some things to learn to be sure, but a being capable of remarkable compassion, nonetheless.

When you look in the mirror you probably don’t see the same thing. In addition to your wrinkles, you’ll see the pain, the failures, the places you don’t measure up – what is lacking. God sees those same failures, those battle scars, but He knows something you may not – that you will someday learn from them. He sees the potential, even if you don’t.

You need to understand that God does not judge. If he did, none of us would be here! God knows that humans learn through trial end error – through trying and failing. He knows that you will repeatedly fail. He expects that! He knows the process because He created it!

Now He also hopes that you will learn something from your experiences. He knows that you will run into quicksand. What He hopes is that you will learn to avoid it so that you won’t run into it a fourth or fifth time. He wants you to learn from your encounters, stop being afraid of life and in the process learn to love yourself.

The Creator knows that most of the time you are so wrapped up in the hurt and pain that that’s about all you can take in from your experiences, so He provides you with many other opportunities to learn from. If you don’t get it here, He gives you an opportunity over there. Opportunity after opportunity. You call it life. He calls it the way home.

You focus on the content – on the hurt feelings, the failures, the broken hearts, the disappointments. His focus is on the process. What did you learn when you stubbed your toe? Did you start to walk differently? What did you learn from your failed relationship? Did you learn to love yourself more and chose a different kind partner? Or, are you still making the same, fear based judgements?

Some people don’t believe we’re changing or that things are getting better. I disagree. Although we certainly have a ways to go, I see change all around me. It took 650,000 casualties in The Civil War to decide the issue of slavery. We’ll never do that again.

As intractable as issues like women’s rights, gay rights and Black people’s place in society seem, I can remember the Civil Rights Movement and Selma, The Anti Viet Nam war protests and Kent State. We’ve come a long way in the years since then.

God does not ask for perfection. He knows how difficult that is for us. He does ask for growth.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2015

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When Something Happens

by Ross Bishop

OK, something happens – good or bad – it doesn’t matter. In that moment you have a choice – you either hold compassion for the other or dump all over them. Every situation, every moment, presents you with that choice.

Notice that I am separating out the content of the event from your feelings about it. You don’t have to like what they did, in fact, you probably won’t. But you can have compassion for them, regardless – that is what Mastery is about.

You won’t like it when someone hits your car or speaks badly about you behind your back. Life doesn’t require that you simply take those things lying down, but you can do what you need to do with compassion. And if we all started to do that, think of how the world would change!

What keeps you from moving to compassion are your beliefs. If you approach life believing you are inadequate or that God doesn’t love you – or whatever – then when something happens you feel like the cover to your inadequacy has been exposed. Then you have to protect yourself. And the easiest way to do that is to scratch the offender’s eyes out.

But what does that really accomplish? It only makes the other person defensive and digs you both deeper into a hole. You’ll get a lot further by firmly telling the guy who just hit your car that it’s really unwise to be talking on his cell phone while driving. Reaming him out really doesn’t accomplish anything except expose your own insecurity and as I said, escalate him into confrontation.

Sure you’re going to be inconvenienced by having to deal with insurance, the repair shop, etc., etc. But being angry at him isn’t going to change any of that. You’re still going to have to go through the steps. Sure, you can feel frustrated, but being angry only messes up your life. You’re not likely to have any effect on him anyway.

Let’s look at this whole thing from another perspective:This situation has been created for the express purpose of giving you the opportunity to move to compassion. That’s right – every situation you experience has been specifically designed for you to give you that opportunity. Every situation.

That’s the way life works. That is our learning process. It is how we change. Challenge and response. The next challenge will be based on your previous response. Move to compassion and everything cools down.

Jump to anger and you will be presented with another situation. All you have to do is hang around. It’s like the ocean, there’s always another wave. Only in this case the next wave will be bigger, making clinging to your beliefs even more painful. If you continue to resist eventually things escalate until you have no choice but to surrender. But, there is always – in every situation – the opportunity to move to compassion.

Compassion makes you “transparent” to the events of life. When something happens you don’t take it in as you probably do today. Compassion allows you to step back and look at what the other person is doing instead of having to defend your position. It moves you from “Me” to “We.” And that is a remarkable gift.

Life is presenting you with that opportunity right now. What will you chose?

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2015

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The Ego – Do You Need It?

by Ross Bishop

Remember the training wheels on your bicycle? They helped you get over the rough patches until you learned the skills of bike riding. The ego is like that. Until you get over the rough spots of learning to live from compassion, you need your ego. It gets you through situations that would otherwise be overwhelming. Like the training wheels on your bike, the ego keeps you from running amok.

But ultimately the answer is no, you don’t need the ego. In the enlightened space there is no need for it, in fact, there it is a burden. Think of it this way, “I” is a protected space. Consider the isolating effect of beliefs like, “I am inadequate,” or “I am not good enough.” They isolate you from life, from other people.

And, so long as you feel that you need that protection, that isolation is necessary. Without it you would likely be overwhelmed by forces you are simply not prepared to cope with. You would go into shock. These mental structures separate you from me. And so long as you have fears, you are going need those protective walls.

Now of course there is a price for that isolation. Intimacy is nurturing. It recharges our batteries as it were. It can provide support, confidence and love when we are feeling down or need a boost. Others can reflect back our thoughts and give us feedback, suggest alternatives. They can provide cooler heads when we are about to lose ours. But most importantly, other people provide the interplay so necessary for our own growth and development. That’s lot to give up in order to feel safe.

The same thing is true for feelings of superiority. “Southern girls don’t do that,” or “Goodness child, look at your hair, what will people think,” or, “We don’t behave like that in public.” You get the point.

“We” is inclusive. It lowers the boundaries between us and enhances the flow of information and feelings. If I feel safe in the “we” space, I can let down my boundaries. I allow you to see me, warts and all. I no longer have to go around feeling like I am always under attack or that I must defend my every decision or action. It is a far more enjoyable life experience.

So, how do you get to the “we” space? The answer lies with your inner one who believes she is inadequate, unworthy, shameful – whatever. She holds those beliefs because that’s what her early life experiences led her to believe. They’re not true, they cannot be, but those beliefs can be so deeply imbedded that they seem intractable.

Well they are not. You can change this. It takes some work, and you have to want it, but you can learn to give her the love she has always needed. You can show her that she is not who she believes she is. I don’t want to oversimplify the process, but it can be done. You may need some outside help, I certainly did, but with effort and the willingness to challenge what you believe, you can turn “I” into “We.”

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2015

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Finding The Truth

by Ross Bishop
We are surrounded by the bustle of daily life, and although everything that happens here is real, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “How much of it will last?” The answer is, “Not much.” The only things you will carry out of this world are the greater awareness and compassion your life experiences have taught you.

Probably ninety-nine percent of the stuff we worry about is of little real consequence. In the first place, most of the things we worry about never happen. And the rest, the stuff we struggle over, other than presenting opportunities to learn from, is transitory, at best. This is because our beliefs and ideas are all disposable as are our “accomplishments.”

That is actually fortunate because the foundation many of us have built our lives on is fairly suspect. We believe some pretty awful things about ourselves and our behavior is a reflection of those beliefs. So, you ask, “What are we here for?” The answer is to learn greater compassion (for yourself and for others).

But, your life experiences (your present childhood and past lives) have convinced you that you are unworthy. So going inside to find the truth poses a problem. You don’t really want to see what you fear might be inside. You know what you can become when backed into a corner, and you fear that this may be who you truly are. That’s the problem of living from the ego. It leads to the wrong conclusions.

Besides, you don’t want the hassle of having to face your feelings of inadequacy. That’s why you turn to externals – truth from a teacher or a book, for example. That feels safer. Some people go from teacher to teacher or book to book, looking for answers. And although teachers and books can help illuminate the way, they are still only signposts, not the path itself.

There is another problem with externals – no matter how good or insightful they are, they remain just that – outside. Until you integrate them and make them your own, they remain someone else’s beliefs. But the answers are never “out there,” they are always “in here.” Rumi wrote:

This is certainty, O Beloved:
I am hidden in the Hearts of the Faithful.
If you seek me, seek in those Hearts.

First of all, he didn’t say have a successful coaching practice or some other business. In fact, he didn’t point to anything worldly. He didn’t even say “read this manuscript” or “study with this teacher,” or “join this religion.” He was saying, “If you want a map, you’ll find it in your heart” – in your God connection. And if doing that poses too many obstacles, “find it in the heart of someone who knows God.” (not to be confused with religion.) The way isn’t a set of theories to be learned like you did in school, it’s a practice to be lived.

The currently popular, “Fake it ’till you make it,” approaches to helping our inner pain are appealing because they avoid confrontation with our fearful inner ones, but in avoiding that conflict, they do not address the deeply held beliefs that drive our behaviors.

Truth comes in many disguises. Don’t pre-judge it or close yourself off to an opportunity to learn. How often have you turned away from the truth because it came in a package you didn’t care for? The truth makes you anxious because it calls into question what you have been doing. It challenges the ego-based beliefs you hold and the life you have built around them and you don’t want to hear it! It’s easier to blame other races or ethnicities when their values challenge ours.

I know how difficult confronting your past experiences can be. I have been doing it with clients for over thirty years, and think I have learned a thing or two about the process. First, the reason you have had difficult life experiences is because of the predominance of the ego in your life.

The ego isn’t exactly a bad guy. Your ego-based behaviors are a safety mechanism. They hold you back until you are (mostly) convinced of the truth and feel safe enough to move forward in spite of your fears. But a life run by ego is going to cause problems. It must. That pain provides the impetus for change. Otherwise, you’d just go along creating difficulties for yourself and those around you.

When you have a problem you blame it on someone – often yourself, for being inadequate. That’s the ego running things. But you don’t blame the ego! But then when life presents you with opportunities to change your beliefs, you shy away from them because you feel unworthy, further reinforcing your feelings of inadequacy and solidifying the ego’s hold. That guarantees the eventual creation of a crisis that will bring you face to face with these same issues but without giving you any way out other than through compassion.

The only thing worse than not facing your beliefs today is to put them off until tomorrow. Because these things only get worse when you ignore them. That is Universal Law! And, you are going to have to do it eventually, anyway. The only question is, how much difficulty are you going to create for yourself before you surrender your beliefs?

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2014

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Paradigms

by Ross Bishop

Franciscan author Richard Rohr writes of people of various religious beliefs as frequently being in conceptual “boxes” that prevent them from seeing other’s points of view. George Bernard Shaw once described the situation as, “One religion, a thousand variations.”

It isn’t just religious people who suffer from the blindness of belief. In various ways we all do. We all live in conceptual “boxes” (called paradigms) that limit our ability to see other perspectives.

Paradigms are conceptual frameworks – mental shorthand – that help us to ”understand” the world without having to process every bit of information in it. Using paradigms we can predict that dogs will do this and cats will do that, that people will act in predictable ways, that the sun will come up and that summer will be warm.

But sometimes the truth hides in the details. Blacks or Hispanics may have certain cultural tendencies, but you’re on shaky ground when you apply those values across the board to everyone in the group. Einstein described paradigms as “The prisons of our ideas.” Our “prisons” prevent us from not only seeing other’s views, but from being compassionate towards them as well.

We can hide in our paradigms when we are threatened by a different viewpoint. New ideas, whether the abolition of slavery, abortion, women’s rights, the legalization of marijuana or equality for gays upsets the given order of things (the established paradigm). Black people, gays and liberated women all bring a somewhat different perspective and different values to the table and we are sometimes uncomfortable with that. It forces us to look into our own values – something we are not always willing to do.

The truth doesn’t have a paradigm. It just is. Truth has a way of obliterating established thinking. George III dissed the idea of American independence and we know how that turned out. Louis XIV ignored the discontent of the French people and it cost him his life and his crown. Lyndon Johnson misread the anti-Vietnam war sentiment and lost the Presidency. All three leaders clung to the established paradigm in the face of the forces of change, and lost.

If you don’t hold Universal Truth about something, what beliefs will you substitute? What beliefs are you hanging on to about gays, blacks or maybe Muslims? What about the roles of males or females? What beliefs do you hold about relationships, raising children, sex, intimacy? And the biggest one of all, what beliefs do you hold about yourself?

Any belief not firmly lodged in Universal Truth cannot be true. Blacks and Hispanics may hold cultural differences, but they are still people. Men and women may be different, but they are still God’s children.

Our personal paradigms are based in our beliefs about ourselves. Each belief that, “I’m this” or, “I’m not that,” expresses an unwillingness to hold The Truth. So what are your paradigms? Not just the surface ones, but the deeper beliefs that keep you from being happy?

Notice that the box that defines the “false self” is determined by external matters. What others may think, the possibility of embarrassment, that sort of thing. Because of our “inadequacies” we must build walls between us. These exclusionary walls (paradigms or beliefs) isolate us from each other and from life. And living inside the “box” hurts! You keep running into the walls!

Hell isn’t someplace we go when we die, it is the life we create for ourselves when trapped inside our paradigmatic walls. This is our self-created prison.

As Richard Rohr said, “The good, the true, and the beautiful are always their own best argument for themselves – by themselves – and in themselves. Such beauty, or inner coherence, is a deep inner knowing that both evokes the soul and pulls the soul into its oneness. Incarnation is beauty, and beauty always needs to be incarnate. Anything downright ‘good,’ anything that shakes you with its ‘trueness,’ and anything that sucks you into its beauty does not just educate you; it transforms you.”
Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2015

 

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Origins Of Disease

by Ross Bishop

If I were to say that emotions play a role in disease, you would agree. If I said that emotions cause disease, some of you would agree. Now, If I said this to your physician, I’d get the equivalent of a blank stare. He wouldn’t deny it outright, but he could not bring himself to accept it either.

Emotional causality is outside the accepted paradigm of the world of pharmaceutical medicine. In spite of hundreds of studies establishing the role of emotion as in fact, causal, doctors who above all, claim to be scientists, cannot, will not, accept the scientifically established proof of their own research. Emotions cause disease. As a dodge, they’ll accept it as “one factor among others.”

Dr. Gabor Mate` M.D. has been on a crusade to get his fellow physicians to heed their own research. He is not bringing new ideas to the table. He is simply trying to get doctors to accept what their own researchers have been telling them for a long time – “When emotions are repressed, this inhibition disarms the body’s defenses against illness.” There is compelling evidence that, “an intimate relationship exists between the brain and the immune system.”

Dr. Mate` is a pretty good speaker. Yet when he talks about emotion causing disease to a group of physicians, he will often be greeted by silence. They don’t exactly disagree, nor do they respond with facts and contrary opinions, they simply are unable to respond! His premise is so far outside the bounds of what they have been trained to believe, that these incredibly intelligent and otherwise competent physicians are simply at a loss as to what to say – at least publicly. Much of the rest of this article is taken from Dr. Mate`s book, When The Body Says NO. Exploring The Stress Disease Connection.

Millions of you will go to these same physicians seeking help for your diseases, but you will only get your symptoms treated. And treating symptoms is necessary, but only a partial solution to your problem. But you’ll go home feeling confident that your disease has been treated. And that takes us to the heart of the problem: pharmaceutical physicians are not trained to deal with the causes of disease, they basically treat symptoms.

Going to the cause of disease requires an entirely different perspective and techniques and pharmaceutical doctors are simply not trained for this. And I want to be very clear, if you have a heart attack or cancer, you want these folks to treat you! They are great at that sort of thing! But, what is not talked about is that a heart attack or cancer are symptoms of a deeper emotional disharmony. And, if that disharmony is not addressed it will simply manifest elsewhere in the body.

A story: Estaban takes his mule Emily, to the vet. She is lethargic and can’t pull the cart like she used to. He tells the vet that he thinks her hips and knees are bothering her. So the vet examines her and injects her with cortisone and pain killers to help her inflamed joints. Then when the vet’s assistant brings Emily out to hitch her back up to her cart, he is astonished by the burden she’s expected to pull. “My God,” he says, “no wonder her knees and back are shot!” Had the vet seen the whole problem, his treatment might have been more extensive. And that’s the problem with only viewing symptoms and not seeing the whole picture.

In one of Plato’s dialogues, Socrates quotes a Thracian doctor’s criticism of his Greek colleagues, “This is the reason why the cure of so many diseases is unknown to the physicians of Hellas; they are ignorant of the whole. For this is the great error of our day in the treatment of of the human body, that physicians separate the mind from the body.” And so it has been for over 2,500 years.

As far back as 1892, Dr. Wm. Osler, one of the greatest doctors of all time, suspected that rheumatoid arthritis was a stress related disorder. Typical of many persons affected with rheumatiod disease is a stoicism carried to an extreme, a deeply ingrained reticence to seek help, perfectionism, a fear of one’s own anger, denial of hostility and strong feelings of inadequacy. Osler’s insightful perspective was simply ignored. As recently as 1985, almost a century later, an editorial in the august New England Journal of Medicine proclaimed, “ . . it is time to acknowledge that our belief in disease as a direct reflection of mental state is largely folklore.”

Dr. Mate` writes, “Research has suggested for decades that women are more prone to develop breast cancer if their childhoods were characterized by emotional disconnection from their parents or other disturbances in their upbringing; if they tend to repress emotions, particularly anger; if they lack nurturing social relationships in adulthood; and if they are the altruistic, compulsively caregiving types.”

In one study, researchers psychologically profiled patients admitted to hospital for breast cancer biopsy. Using only psychological profiles, they successfully predicted the presence of cancer in 94 percent of the cases! In another study, 40 cases with breast cancer were mixed with 40 controls who did not have the disease and again, using emotional profiles alone, researchers were able to identify the cancer victims with a 96 percent accuracy! Repression of anger increases the risk of cancer for the very practical reason that it magnifies exposure to physiological stress. In this case prolonged exposure to the very potent hormone, Cortisol.

“A large European study compared 357 cancer patients with 330 controls. The women with cancer were much less likely to recall childhood homes with positive feelings. As many as 40 percent of cancer patients had suffered the death of a parent before they were 17.”

Dr. David Kissen, a surgeon, found that patients with lung cancer had a tendency to “bottle up” emotions. A number of studies have subsequently found that people with lung cancer “have poor and restricted outlets for the expression of emotion . . .” The risk of lung cancer is five times higher for men who lack the ability to express emotion effectively.

Researchers conducted a ten-year study of the population of the whole town of Cvrenka, Yugoslavia. During the ten years, of the 600 people who died, cancer incidence was 40 times higher for people classified as “rational and anti-emotional.” Instead of one death per 100 people, the rate was 40 per 100!

At the University of Rochester, a fifteen-year study of people who developed lymphoma or leukemia reportedly found that those malignancies were “apt to occur in a setting of emotional loss or separation which in turn brought about feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger or hopelessness.”

Japanese men who migrate to America experience two and a half times more prostate cancer than men who remain in Japan. The evidence for the difference points to stress. American black men experience prostate cancer at a rate six times higher than black men in Nigeria. Regarding patients with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), there is a high incidence of emotional and physical abuse in the histories of patients with intestinal diseases and especially those patients with IBS.

In 1946 Johns Hopkins undertook a long term study of its medical students. Over the next 18 years, 1,130 former medical students, were studied. Colo-rectal cancer patients and suicide cases were more likely to demonstrate denial, repression of anger and other negative emotions while maintaining the appearance of a “nice” or “good” persona and suppressing reactions which might offend. They avoid conflict.

Dr. Cai Strong is an internationally known researcher at The University of British Columbia. He says about Alzheimer’s, “I am convinced that Alzheimer’s is an autoimmune disease. It is probably triggered by chronic stress acting on an aging immune system.”

I could go on for pages listing other research studies. Their number is legion, but you get the point. Unfortunately, your doctor, in all probability, does not.

Dr. Mate` writes that, “Emotional repression is also a coping style rather than a personality trait set in stone. Not one of the many adults interviewed for this book could answer in the affirmative when asked the following: ‘When, as a child, you felt sad, upset or angry, was there anyone you could talk to – even when he or she was the one who had triggered your negative emotions?’ In a quarter century of clinical practice, including a decade of palliative work, I have never had anyone with cancer or with any chronic illness or condition say yes to that question.”

To simplify: What we know is that physiological stress is the link between beliefs about oneself and disease. Certain traits, called coping styles, magnify the risk of illness by increasing the likelihood of chronic stress. Common to them all is a diminished capacity for emotional expression. Emotional experiences are translated into potentially damaging biological events when we are prevented from learning how to express our feelings effectively. The learning occurs – or fails to occur – during childhood.

One of the reasons this is so important is that as Dr. Mate` says, “Disease frequently causes people to see themselves in a different light, to reassess how they have lived their lives.” This is the gift of disease. It challenges us to change how we see ourselves. It is the final challenge in a life of denial. If we only treat it’s symptoms, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow from it and secondly, insure that the learning will come in some other, more devastating, way.
If your doctor is not familiar with Dr. Mate`’s book, When The Body Says NO. Exploring The Stress-Disease Connection, you might get a copy for them. You’ll be doing both of you a favor.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2015

 

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