Thinking About Symptoms

Symptoms are our body’s way of letting us know when something is wrong.

Normally the body is quite capable to keeping itself healthy with self-regulating processes working tirelessly all the time to maintain balance and address problems as they arise.  But when balance in that ability to self-regulate is lost those processes don’t work so well.  At this point the body usually needs some help – it needs us to start to do something or stop doing something, for instance, and it tells us this through symptoms.

As such symptoms, and our response to those tell-tale warnings, is a crucial part of better health.  But could our response sometimes actually be making things worse rather than better?

There has long being a tradition of attaching meanings to symptoms.  So I’m not referring to possibly obvious meanings such as ‘I’ve got a headache and therefore there’s something wrong with my head’ (though this may not always be the case but that’s is a discussion for another day!).  I’m referring to what may be considered deeper meanings – our physical symptoms reflecting our emotional or psychological state of health.

So, for example, problems with our Kidneys are often seen as relating to fear, the Liver is linked to anger, and problems with the Throat are considered to relate to a feeling that we’re not being heard.  Undoubtedly there is a link between our emotions and where issues occur in the body.  Thoughts and feelings produce chemical reactions within the body which impact on all our cells.  It is highly likely that certain cells in certain organs are more attuned to certain chemicals hence the thought/feeling link.

And this information can often act as a useful indicator as to where we can help the body regain self-regulation – when our thoughts and the associated stress may not be useful at that time, where that stress may be coming from, and, as a result, what we can do to resolve it.

All well and good but what about the meanings we give to symptoms which are perhaps more personal to us?

So the dialogue that maybe goes something like this, “Oh no – here it goes again – that headache.  Why do I always get that headache when I want to do something important?  It’s all my fault.  I ate the wrong thing again, I’m so stupid, why don’t I Iearn? It’s this job that’s too stressful – I hate my boss.  I must try harder to relax.  Perhaps it’s something really serious.  What if it is?  What am I going to do? I’m never going to feel well again. And on and on and on……

Perhaps these meanings are less helpful as they fill our minds with thought, raise our stress levels even more and potentially, as a result, make the symptoms worse!  And with our heads so full of this internal conversation it’s harder for common sense to be heard – that quiet voice that tells you exactly what the body needs you to do to help restore balance (take a rest, ditch the junk food, seek treatment).

So next time you experience symptoms take notice as to what you’re telling yourself about those symptoms.

Is it helpful?  Great – then take notice and take action.  If it feels scary, alarmist and unhelpful then maybe it’s not telling you anything very useful at all so take a deep breath, let those thoughts settle and then see what it feels right to do!

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