October 8, 2007
Is your relationship making you sick, literally? From Britney Spears’ hit “Toxic” to Pink’s lyrics “You make me sick,” songs about unhealthy relationships have been topping the pop charts for decades. Now the topic seems to be popping up on medical charts too. There is much evidence to suggest that the repressed anger, hate, and grief stemming from bad relationships are the root emotional causes leading to the suppression of the immune system and even the development of cancer.
Knowing this, the next time you feel like crying, let it flow! Or if you are feeling angry, let it out! Feelings are created by the mind for the sole purpose of being expressed, not repressed. If negative feelings are not communicated, they remain trapped inside the body and over time cause physical illness. This is due to high levels of stress within the body.
Have you ever been told, “Don’t cry. Everything will be OK?” or “Be tough. Keep a stiff upper lip!” Don’t listen to this advice. Doing so can be detrimental to your health. Repressed negative feelings are harmful to the body and increase a person's level of the stress hormone cortisol, a hormone that has been found in many studies around the world to directly lower immune system function. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in the following functions: proper glucose metabolism, regulation of blood pressure, insulin release for blood sugar maintenance, immune function and inflammatory response. Although stress isn’t the only reason cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects. According the New England Journal of Medicine, when the immune system is not functioning properly, cancer cells, which exist in every human being, can multiply and form tumor sites. Researchers around the world say there is a direct correlation between cancer and “sick” relationships. The Journal of Psychosomatic Research has reported that extreme suppression of anger was the most commonly identified characteristic of 160 breast cancer patients who were given a comprehensive psychological interview and self-administered questionnaire. Repressing anger magnified exposure to physiological stress, thereby increasing the risk of cancer. Another example of the ill-effects of a poor relationship on health comes from renown cancer surgeon Dr. Ryke- Geerd Hamer from Germany. Dr. Hamer examined 20,000 cancer patients with all types of cancer and noticed that his patients seemed to have something in common: There had been some kind of psycho-emotional conflict prior to the onset of their cancer—usually a few years before—a conflict that had never been fully resolved. Dr Hamer started incorporating psychotherapy as an integral part of the healing process and found that when the specific conflict was resolved, the cancer immediately stopped growing at a cellular level.
Dr. Hamer believes that many people with cancer are unable to share their thoughts, emotions, fears and joys with other people. He calls this "psycho-emotional isolation." According to Dr. Hamer, the more people tend to hide away sadness and grief behind a brave face, the more susceptible they are to diseases, like cancer. Some of us are not even aware of our emotions further intensifying isolation and negative factors that contribute to disease. A common denominator among all the reports from around the world have indicated that people who repress emotions tend to be more prone to illness, particularly immune-system related diseases.
To keep stress at bay and to keep cortisol levels under control, you must take steps to learn various stress management techniques. Many healthcare professionals have found the following steps to be very helpful in relaxing the mind, body and soul. First, be willing to change. If you are in a toxic relationship, be willing to seek help or get out of the relationship all together. A reluctance to change could put your health and life in danger. Second, find a detox program that works for you. The Journal of Holistic Medicine suggests detoxing the lymphatic immune system with regular massage exercise. Also, strengthen the immune system by eating a balanced, nutritious diet with foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Third, eliminate what psychologist Dr. Tana Dineen calls the victim mentality. If you believe bad things always happen to you, then you are giving people power over you. Take back control, change the toxic conditions and revise your toxic thoughts. Fourth, move out of fear and reconnect to your life. When you live in fear, you are not living at all. You reside in a state of high stress and anxiety. This weakens the immune system and allows sickness to thrive. Fifth, learn to forgive yourself and others for past grievances. Anger, hurt, resentment, bitterness all work together to weaken the immune system. Dineen says, “There needs to be a willingness to face emotional pain from the past, to express and release painful feelings, and to forgive others and yourself for wrongs committed.” Finally, welcome the winds of change into your life. Alter whatever environment you are in that you feel is bringing you down emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This may include a bad relationship, a bad job or even living in a city you are not happy about. Find a lifestyle that gives you back your life, and be at peace with each decision you make.