In Woody Allen’s movie, Annie Hall, Diane Keaton wants to know why he isn't angry. "I don't get angry," Allen replies, "I grow a tumor instead."

Deb recently had a burst appendix and she is immensely grateful for the medical intervention that saved her life. We know that illness is real, that accidents happen, and how medicine can help. So we am not writing this to try and convince you that the sole reason for your illness is in your mind, and that you must have done something wrong or are to blame for being ill. Nor are we saying that simply by understanding how the mind and body work together that you will be able to miraculously cure yourself of whatever it is that ails you.

What we are saying is that the role of the mind and emotions in our state of health is a vital one. It is only a part of the overall picture, but it is the part that is invariably overlooked. By understanding this relationship we can claim a greater role in our own well-being.

Ed remembers having an upset stomach when he was a child and his grandmother asking him if he was having a problem at school. What she knew instinctively we are at last beginning to prove scientifically: that there is an intimate and dynamic relationship between what is going on in our life, with our feelings and thoughts, and what happens in the body. ATime Magazine special showed that happiness, hopefulness, optimism and contentment, "Appear to reduce the risk or limit the severity of cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension, colds and upper-respiratory infections; while depression—the extreme opposite of happiness —can worsen heart disease, diabetes and a host of other illnesses."

If we separate an organism into its component parts it cannot function. Each piece has a role to play, even if it is a very small role, so if only one component part is malfunctioning it will affect the whole. Recently our car broke down. After it was fixed, we were told that it had been just one small wire that had caused the problem yet the engine could not function properly without it. In the same way, if we ignore the role our feelings and thoughts play we are ignoring one of the most important component parts that make up our whole being. And it may be the one that most needs to get fixed.

We tend to think of our bodies and minds as separate systems and believe they function, for the most part, independently. Yet, instinctively, we know that is not the whole story. For instance, can you remember the last time you had an interview for a job? Or went on a first date with someone you were really trying to impress? In either case, no doubt you wanted to appear calm and collected but at the same time you were feeling self-conscious and nervous. Can you recall how your body felt? Self-consciousness will tighten your buttock muscles (so you are literally sitting on your tension), you will sweat more than usual, may feel slightly nauseous, and you will probably fluff your words, just when you want to appear suave and confident.

In other words, your emotions affect you physically. However, it might be easy to understand that a scary thought gets our heart beating faster, but it is harder to realize that loneliness, sadness or depression can also affect us physically, and when it comes to more complex emotions or illnesses few of us consider our emotions to have any relevance.

We are not saying that by understanding the bodymind relationship you will be able to cure all your physical difficulties but by learning the language of symptoms and illness you can learn what is being repressed or ignored in your psyche and emotions, and how this is influencing your physical body. From this vantage point you will discover that there is an extraordinarily intimate two-way communication going on between your body and mind that affects both your physical state and your mental and emotional health.

Let us know how your body reflects your mind,

In joy

Ed and Deb

authors: Your Body Speaks Your Mind

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