Psychology, Emotions and Ulcerative Colitis

The conventional view is that our psychological problems and our emotions have no impact in causing an illness and certainly no role in healing an illness. Based on my own experience and research, I don’t believe that this is true.

I grew up in an abusive household. On the outside, everything looked great but once the doors were closed at home, it was a different story. There is the expression “You scared the shit out of me,” meaning that in really scary situations, some people’s colon reacts in a certain way. I don’t want to be graphic. Just think about how that expression came to be. My childhood was filled with fear and torment. I did what most children do. I repressed and denied to survive. I found it interesting that I developed an illness that so closely relates to fear.

As part of my treatment to heal ulcerative colitis, I also went to a psychologist to treat and address my childhood abuse issues. It was not pretty, but my psychologist helped me process the emotions that I denied and suppressed as a child. Alice Miller examines in her book “The Body Never Lies” the long-term effects of childhood abuse on the body.

She used experiences of her patients along with the biographical stories of literary giants such as Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, and Marcel Proust. Miller shows how a child’s humiliation, impotence, and bottled rage will manifest itself as adult illness―be it cancer, stroke, or other debilitating diseases like ulcerative colitis.

Now you may think, “That is just nonsense. There is no connection between my psychology/emotions and my illness. Those are completely separate.” But is it?

Let’s step back a little.

wright-brothersThe human race has made amazing discoveries over the last few thousand years. The amount of knowledge that has been gained is just breathtaking. It was only 113 years ago (1903) that the Wright Brothers made their first flight.

Nowadays you can hop on a flight, and be half way around the world 12 hours later. That certainly can make someone proud of the accomplishments that we achieved collectively as a human race. Amazing isn’t it? Well, yes and no. While the accomplishments are certainly amazing, there is much we don’t know YET how to do.

Let’s take a look at our home, and I don’t mean our house or our country. I mean our planet, planet Earth. Earth circles the sun in our solar system together with the other planets in our solar system (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, etc.). Do we have the technology to visit and colonize our neighboring planets? Not really.

universeOur solar system is just a tiny tiny tiny part of the Universe. From what we know, the observable Universe has a length of 46 billion light years. If we could travel at the speed of light (another thing we can’t do), it would take us 46 billion years to fly from one end of the Universe to the other end of the Universe. We lack the technology to do that as well.

Based on the latest insights, we have about 1 billion years left before the sun’s expansion will make life on earth impossible. That means that at some point in the next 1 billion years, we need to develop the technology to leave our solar system if mankind is to survive.

That means while we, as mankind, can be proud of our accomplishments, a certain humility is in order if you think of the many things that we don’t know yet. In ancient Greece, Nemesis was the goddess who enacted retribution against those who succumbed to hubris (dangerous over-confidence).

To come back to Ulcerative Colitis, much of the medical field is guilty of hubris and completely devoid of humility. There is much we can do in the medical field, but there is so much we can’t do or lack the knowledge. If I lost a limb (say a leg) in an accident, it cannot be regrown. If I am paralyzed due to a severed nerve, the nerve can’t fixed. And so on…

What that means is a certain humility is in order. What really turned me off with my initial conventional doctors was the complete over-confidence and the number of absurd statements. While telling me that we don’t know what causes ulcerative colitis and how we can heal ulcerative colitis, he knew for sure that nutrition and psychology had no impact.

Now that just insults my intelligence and logic. It is ok to not know something (like the cause and how to heal ulcerative colitis), but then you can’t make a statement that other things (like nutrition or psychology) have no impact.

Why not explore?

In Japan for example, while the overall cancer rate is about 1/3 of that in the US (source), stomach cancer is 6 times more likely in Japan than in the US. I lived in Japan for a while, and in Japan, not showing emotions is of extreme importance. You are considered a child in Japan if you openly express or show your emotions. There, openly expressing emotions is considered to be acceptable only in certain limited circumstances. If you believe, as I do, that there is a mind/body connection, it is not surprising to learn that suppressing your emotions would lead to stomach problems.

I found it helpful to attack ulcerative colitis from all sides; nutrition, mind, and heart & soul. Attacking ulcerative colitis from the heart & soul angle, for me, included working through my psychological issues that I had.

In my particular case (abusive childhood), Alice Miller’s books combined with the psychologist sessions helped me a lot. Instead of having my painful emotions festering in the dark, they are now in the open where they can’t do me any harm anymore.

My holistic doctor also recommended me another technique that can be helpful in managing emotions, called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which I found very useful as well.

You can read more about ulcerative colitis and EFT here.

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