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Carl Jung observed that man “can make no progress with himself unless he becomes much better acquainted with his own nature.”(1)
By understanding your own style of feeling, you can speed the appropriate form of healing for you. In this day and age, when information is a mere mouse click away, we have little excuse to simply turn ourselves over to the experts. Especially when we have reason to doubt the efficacy of the conventional medical wisdom. Trying to find the source of your symptoms of your emotional type, you will gain a valuable new framework to augment your health care decisions. Your individuality will be front and center as you gather insight into the ways your personality and your health interact. That’s why I have structured my practice with health and lifestyle patterns during sessions. Our head and heart are one system and not separated in a body of parts.
What needs to be acknowledged and overlooked by many, including myself years back, is the fact that our feelings have a story to tell. They alert us to what is going on inside of us, and they draw attention to our reactions to certain events. If we were part of a series of events, whether it was a tree that fell on us, or we saw a tree fall onto someone else in close proximity, or we never heard about it, we will sense the feelings of the event when we are the victim or seen the victim get hurt. Or not at all as in the last event. Every feeling has a story to tell.
From simple to complex narratives, mostly the complex side, are the feelings associated with illness. Not just the feelings, but often the resulting symptoms as well. Symptoms are signposts if deciphered correctly, it will tell us something about the personality experiencing them. Did you think who you are is entirely separate from what you are feeling and what you’re going through? Far from it. No one else has your symptoms, your pains and ills. It’s your body and your self. Friedrich Nietzsche stated “There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom.”
In the West, modern medicine has conquered diseases that ravaged previous generations like polio, tuberculosis, syphilis, and typhoid fever. Today we are beset by maladies that seem to reflect the prevalence of toxins in our environment and an overload of stress in our lives (such as cancer and heart disease). Modern medicine seems incapable of defeating these ills. Furthermore, people are becoming affected by disorders that were noticed in earlier times but largely ignored in the twentieth century: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and post-traumatic disorder. The word syndrome indicates that, while the symptoms of a given condition are evident, the cause or connection between them isn’t understood. Then, the condition cannot be well treated. More and more of us are also made ill by asthma and allergies, while depression casts an ever longer, worrisome shadow.
No, you are not your chronic illness. But it does have personal meaning for you. By understanding your meaning, you have to look at your emotional type. It is intended to capture the way different people feel their feelings (or don’t). It relates to the brain; it relates to the rest of the body; it relates to your genetic inheritance; and it relates to the way you were raised. Your emotional type indicates how likely you are to be affected by certain chronic conditions. It is biologically based gauge of personality.
Significant illness magnified my life. It forced me to confront aspects of myself that I did not see for years. When I was in the throes of the pain, fatigue, and mild depression from my autoimmune disorder with my severe skin condition (psoriasis), I did not have much insight into the root cause of my disorder. As the Chinese understood in the venerable I Ching that “through introspection….external obstacles become an occasion for inner enrichment and education.” (2)
Personality cannot be reduced to feelings alone. According to a leading personality theorist, Robert Cloninger of Washington University, emotional drives constitute four of seven proposed dimensions of personality. The four are novelty seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence and persistence. Together, they make up what Cloninger calls “temperament.” The other three dimensions (self-directedness, cooperativeness, and self-transcendance) relate more to the conscious abilities and predilections than feelings; these he terms “character.” In Cloninger’s well-considered framework, character plus temperament add up to personality. (3) Feelings can be seen as a foundation of personality, a driver, but not the entirety in any sense.
Tufts University professor Ernest Hartmann developed a “boundary concept” to explain differences in personality type. He found that people have differing levels of boundaries, ranging from thick to thin. Thin-boundary people tend to be more artistic, more connected to their dreams and more likely to see themselves merging in their relationships with others. Thick boundary people see clear divides between themselves and others and tend to see the world in black and white.
People with thin boundaries are more susceptible to numerous illnesses with mind-body components like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. These illnesses have a common denominator of low serotonin levels. It is a key neurotransmitter found in the brain. However, 95 percent is found in the neuroendocrine tissue of the gut. Ever wonder why we have “gut feelings,” and feel like we’ve been “punched in the gut” when we get bad news. When the syndrome becomes a disease like irritable bowel disease (IBD) called Crohn’s, treatment is a lifelong process. For many sufferers, conventional treatments offer little relief.
Experts recommend complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches, even beyond the mind-body disorder of IBS, as a powerful treatment for IBD. The first goal is to treat the underlying imbalance that has caused a problem, so you can allow the body to heal itself. The second goal is to provide symptom relief in the meantime. CAM therapies are safe and unlikely to interfere with your conventional medical treatment. Also, they can actually help you to replace essential vitamins and mineral your body is losing because of the disease.
For bowel disorders, here are the most effective mind-body remedies:
Acupuncture-One study found that quality of life for Crohn’s patients improved significantly after treatments.
Mind/Body Techniques-meditation, guided relaxation, yoga, tai chi do not treat Crohn’s directly, but they do reduce stress and stress is known to trigger flare-ups and worsen symptoms.
Even in some of my clients’ cases and my case, I used acupuncture. Learning meditation, guided relaxation, massage and using the BEMER frequency machine daily has made a world of difference with my skin, stress and endocrine system recovery.
For example, you can find a mind-body therapy that is most effective for your type. Hypnosis is perfectly suited for thin boundaries, as is, biofeedback. And acupuncture can be a great way to assist thin and thick boundary individuals. Finding out your thick or thin boundary levels is clearly a critical part of what you can do to best treating a mind-body therapy that is most effective for your emotional energy type.
- Jung, An answer to Job, quoted in Juhan, Job’s Body, 19.
- Elias and Ketcham, The Five Elements of Self-Healing, 282-83.
- Cloninger, Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being.