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What do my symptoms say about me and my life?

Written by Casey Hersch, MSW, LCSW

Emotional connections to symptoms

In my graduate program in social work I was gifted a book called, You Can Heal Your Life  (1999) by Louise L. Hay. In this book there is a list of problems in alphabetical order which are linked to probable causes and plans for new thought patterns that can alleviate the emotional roots of the problem. It didn't mean much to me as I didn't have an understanding of the connection between emotions and physical symptoms at the time. However, several years later, I was working with a patient who was working diligently to get into medical school. His sessions consisted of discussions about meeting the impossible deadlines of his life. He was experiencing a lot of stress as he tried to figure out how he was going to make this happen. At the same time, he developed some medical issues that eventually he disclosed to me: Hemorrhoids.

I stumbled upon this book, stuffed within my shelves, during this time.

Curious, I decided to open it and to my dismay it said:

Problem: Hemorrhoids
Probable Cause: Fear of deadlines; Anger of the Past; Afraid to let go; feeling burdened

Stunned by the parallels, I recalled that sessions with this young man had also included healing anger from the past and struggles with letting go. There was no doubt, medical school was also a tremendous burden as he worried he would disappoint his parents if he did not succeed.

bubblesMore curious than ever, I opened the book and looked up conditions/symptoms associated with my life:

Colon: Fear of letting go...
Intestines: Assimilation and absorption (of life)

In fact, most of the organs and symptoms associated with Crohn's disease had fear as a component. Stunned once again, I couldn't help but face the reality that FEAR had dominated my life. Not to mention, I had years of trauma that I continued to struggle accepting, forgiving, absorbing, assimilating into my identity. It was time for me to acknowledge the impact of my emotional state on the physical manifestation of illness--This was part of healing myself from the inside out.

Knowing this information empowered me. I could focus my life on how to alleviate these emotional burdens to my body. In the case of my patient, we were able to directly process and help him work through his fears associated with deadlines and how to let go of expectations he held that were his parent's not his own (this released some anger). Yes, he did have improvement: both physically and emotionally.

Today, I embrace emotional connections to symptoms just as much as I embrace the physical. Whenever I have a symptom, I explore what the emotional root may be through the use of Louise Hay's materials and those of others. My treatment plan incorporates this information. I seek out healing modalities that help me target my emotional blockages associated with my symptoms--I do experience results.