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Healing: Illness and Problem Solving PDF Print E-mail
Written by Allen Lawrence, M.D.   
Monday, 11 June 2012 15:56

It is not often clear that healing is simply a form of problem solving. Western medicine generally considers the reasons for illness to be “external events” that is, it is caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, inadequate nutrition (the foods we eat are inadequate or tainted), injuries and so on. The closest Western medicine gets to “internal events” is in suggesting that many illnesses are caused by genetic mutations, yet, often they may quickly add that these mutations are caused by radiation, toxins or a host of what in the end are simply more “external events.”

The truth is it is really much simpler and but less politically correct is that most illnesses are ultimately caused because of failure of our own immune and defensive systems. Illness occurs when our own immune system breaks down because we are in conflict over one or another unresolved problem, which I, for dramatic purposes like to call, “unresolved conflicts.”

These unresolved conflicts are unresolved for many reasons mainly because we chose to ignore the information they are providing to us, but also because we are either genuinely unaware they exist or because we know they do exist, and we are either unable or fearful of finding appropriate solutions for them.

It is also clear to anyone who understand this relationship that we are also taught how not to solve problems during childhood. In fact, often as children we are taught not to solve problems as solving certain problems may negatively affect others or get us in trouble with others such as with our parents, “friends” or with our school.

In the end, however, it is often these same unresolved conflicts, large and small, that ultimately end up undermining our immune system, sabotaging us and setting us up for illness.

A Case History Demonstration

As I work with patients this process is demonstrated many times a day. Take for example Hank, a patients I saw recently. Hank is a 62 year old male who presented with an assortment of medical problems including recurring stomach ulcers, anxiety, insomnia, episodes of rapid heart rate, and recurring prostate problems. When I first Hank he brought in with him a number of medications for his medical conditions, including medications for high blood pressure, which was reasonable controlled, medication to treat his ulcers, sleeping meds, anxiety meds, and medication to shrink his prostate.

Hank had been married for 29 years to a very intelligent woman, we will call her Mary. Mary was a bit domineering often controlling large parts of Hank’s life. She made most all of major decisions which effected the two of them. They had raised three children all of whom were professionals and all married and all long out of their home. After talking with Hank for a short while it was clear that Hank was an unhappy man.

During his first visit I felt that it was important to help him find out what underlying unresolved conflicts ere causing his significant anxiety his high blood pressure, and ulcers. I felt compelled because he appeared to be so overwhelmingly unhappy and sad. Fortunately, Hank was immediately forth coming. With only the two of us in the room it was soon clear that there was a problem with his relationship with Mary. Whenever he talked about Mary he phrased every sentence with “Mary is a great woman” “Without Mary” or “If I didn’t have Mary” all of which suggested to me that not only did he love Mary but also that there was something very important and possibly destructive, going on within his relationship with Mary. I decided that the best approach was to be straight forward, so I asked Hank bluntly, “What is the problem between you and Mary?” As I often experience when you hit the nail on the head, his initially response was, “There is not problem with us, we are great!” So I asked again. I had already recognized several important clues which were suggesting to me that there was a sexual conflict between them. First he had prostate problems, next he praised her again and again, as if he were placing her on a pedestal, lastly he always looked down at the floor when he spoke her name. “What are you ashamed of I asked?”

Hank sat for a minute and said nothing. Then he looked up at the heavens and tears came to his eyes. “I love Mary, but I don’t think she loves me.” “What do you mean”“ I asked.

“We have been together for nearly 30 years and she ignores me, doesn’t listen to me, and is uninterested in having sex with me. We have not had sex in months. I feel so alone and all I can think about is having an affair. Whenever I look at another woman I think about having sex. It is Mary I want, but she does not want me.”

Hank spent 10 minutes more telling me what was going on and related a series of events over many years. He related that he believed that Mary always needed to be in control of everything in their relationship yet she only rarely showed affection. He told me that their problems hadn’t started until after she started into her menopause. “Once she started into her change of life, she seemed to lose all Interest in me and in having sex.” He told how he first interpreted this as a lose of interest in him and later deduced from it that she had simply had fallen out of love with him.

I asked him if he had ever talked with Mary about what he felt and how what he related were affecting him. He answered, “No! Whenever I would try to talk about our sex life she would change the subject.” “On a number of occasion she told me that there was nothing wrong but that I was just overly sensitive.” “I don’t believe,” he said, “that I am overly sensitive, I really believe she is just unwilling to be with me.”

Mary was not a patients of mine so I really did not know her, yet, I was immediately aware that all of what he believed was happening might well be related to hormonal changes Mary might be experiencing as she is going through her menopause. This is not unusual, so it is likely that she might be experiencing chemical problem triggered by loss of her female hormones. However, even if this is true, the real issue here is that they aren’t talk about these issues, hence they have grown and created new problems over the years.

Hank, feels abandoned and unloved, He wants to be love. Obviously withe Mary, but since she is unavailable he has begun to fantasize about other women. Since he also feels that Mary believes that there is something wrong with him, he wants evidence that he is really okay. Since he has not acted on his fantasies regarding having sex with other women he is left only with his fears and guilt. His fantasies and fears have been causing his anxiety and after a while they began causing him to start eating himself up a live, hence his ulcers. Hank is not having sex and he is thinking about it a lot and often this might well lead to over stimulation of the prostate and hence enlargement of the prostate and this then could lead to possible urinary problems. Hank also worried and fretted about confrontation with Mary at bed time that he feared going to bed with Mary because he wasn’t sure that if he were to touch her that she would reject him, so he simply sat up late into the night, drank and watched TV. He told himself that he suffered from insomnia and when he told his doctor that he had insomnia this was validated when his doctor gave him sleeping pills. He was also give meds for anxiety which then drugged him up so that he could no longer think or obsess over his loneliness and need for intimacy, two causes of his anxiety. 

Gradually this became a life pattern. Because he thought about sex with other women he felt guilty and his guilt caused him to put Mary on a pedestal. He feared her rejection which lead to anxiety and thinking about having sex with other women gradually he began to delude himself that all of this must be his fault and the guilt worsened causing everything to worsen again.

Hank had a problem and he only half heartedly tried to solve it as he did not want to make waves, or make what was happening worse. In doing so the problem was left unresolved and this lead to illness and a worsening of the entire situation.

I would like to tell you that this is an easily solvable problem and sometimes it is, but this type of  problem required the couple to sit down and talk, to deal with what is happening and to create workable solutions. Sometimes people are willing and able to do this and sometimes they are not.

Everyone Experiences Stress, We See Its Effects All Around Us

We all see examples of this every single day in our life. We do not always recognize what is happening. Most illnesses have little specifically do with sex. Often they are caused by unresolved conflict regarding work, career, children, past or present abuse. These unresolved conflicts drive people to over use and abuse alcohol, drugs, sex and each other. They lead to anxiety, stress and guilt. Sometimes they are easily resolved and sometimes it may take years to find realistic solutions. One thing however is clear when unresolved conflict exist they almost always lead to illness and illness to chronic illness and chronic illness to premature death.

My soon to be released book, When Your Body Talks, Listen! looks at this topic of unresolved conflicts that ultimately lead to illness, stress-related illness, stress-related disorders (SRDs) and chronic disease. It will be available later on this year. If you are interested lookout to be available later on this year.


Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 15:34