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War, natural disasters, the loss of a loved one, domestic abuse, financial destitution, a cancer diagnosis, tragic events from childhood: these and so many more situations can cause the “bottom to fall out” of our lives. They can also leave us with medically-diagnosable psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But can emotional traumas, if left unresolved, actually lead to cancer? The answer, according to the latest research on stress, the emotions, and cancer… is an unequivocal Yes!
The Long-Term Effects of Emotional Trauma
According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is “the emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event.” In-the-moment responses to such events (often called “shock”), such as racing pulse, dizziness, confusion, numbness, disorientation, and distraction, are a normal part of our system’s “fight or flight” response.
Problems arise, however, when the effect of such events are so severe that they linger with us long after the fact.
The following are signs that an emotional trauma may still be effecting you or a loved one:
- Avoidance of people, places, and situations that are reminders of the trauma
- Spontaneous recurrence or distressing memories of the event
- Ongoing nightmares and flashbacks about the event
- Distress when faced with people, places, and situations that remind the person of the event
- An inability to remember the important aspects of the event that is not related to head injury or substances
- Sweeping negative generalizations and blame about oneself, others, or the world (eg. “I am no good,” “All men are scum,” “The world is a dangerous place”)
- Overall feelings of shame, horror, anger, guilt, or fear
- Diminished participation in activities that used to interest the person
- Estrangement from others
- Inability to experience positive emotions
- Self-destructive behavior
- Hypervigilance or paranoia
- Exaggerated “startle” response
- Inability to concentrate
- Sleep issues
- Emotional numbness
- Overall edginess or irritability
- Mood swings
Whether or not you have been medically diagnosed with PTSD, if you have experienced a traumatic event in your life and you have not healed the wound of that experience, chances are you are dealing with the ramifications of chronic stress which could lead to cancer.
How Chronic Stress Effects Cancer
When emotional trauma goes unhealed, the body system is in a constant state of heightened stress. Numerous studies have connected stress with lower immune function and higher incidences of disease in general. A recent report, however, analyzed the findings of close to a hundred other studies that showed how the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) can actually encourage metastasis when it is chronically activated.
The SNS is the primary system involved in the chemical changes that occur during “fight or flight.” In acute situations, the SNS becomes active. As soon as a traumatizing event has passed, however, the body goes back to homeostasis within about an hour. Under chronic stress, the SNS is “turned on” virtually all the time. In this state, adrenaline and noradrenaline-stimulating mechanisms within it will alter genetic code.
This genetic alteration can lead to a number of pro-cancer processes:
- Activation of inflammatory responses
- The inhibiting of immune responses
- Inhibition of programmed cancer cell death
- The reduction in the cytotoxic function of Natural killer cells
- The inhibiting of DNA repair
- Stimulation of cancer cell angiogenesis
- Activation of “epithelial-mesenchymal transition,” which is one of the ways new cancer stem cells are created
4 Ways to Heal Emotional Trauma and Lower Chronic Stress
Dr. Douglas Brodie, MD, is a pioneer in understanding the connection between the emotions, the mind, and cancer. After almost three decades of research, he noticed that the majority of individuals diagnosed with cancer have similar psychological traits. He calls this the “Cancer Personality Profile.”
Among these characteristics is the experiencing of a traumatizing and emotionally-damaging event roughly two years before getting a cancer diagnosis. Other characteristics mimic those of long-term emotional trauma mentioned above. A few of note are the tendency to internalize intense emotions, difficulty in establishing closeness with others, and an inability to adequately cope with stressful situations.
The good news, however, is that there are dozens of modalities out there that can help you heal the wounds of emotional trauma and reduce chronic stress that can lead to cancer. Here are four to try:
#1 – Meditation and Visualization
Radiation oncologist Dr. Carl Simonton and his wife Stephanie, a trained psychologist, are the authors of the book Getting Well Again: A Step-by-Step Self-Help Guide to Overcoming Cancer for Patients and Their Families. This seminal work was perhaps one of the first to document how people can influence their disease process through healing their emotions. Of the many modalities they discuss are meditation and visualization. In their book, they provide example after example of how meditation and visualization prolonged life, improved the quality of life, and in some cases aided in cancer healing altogether.
More recent research confirms what the Simonton’s wrote about in the late 70s. A 2015 Canadian study observed breast cancer survivors who meditated and those who didn’t. After three months, the meditators showed evidence of longer telomere strands than those who did not practice meditation. Telomeres exist at the end of every cell chromosome and protect the integrity of genetic information. Shortened telomeres are often associated with age and diseases such as cancer.
#2 – Healing Emotional Wounds
Healing deep emotional wounds through therapy, hypnosis, or specific programs can help heal the lingering effects of emotional trauma, especially if it occurred during childhood.
The experiences you had during your formative years, whether they were positive or negative, formed how you now interact with the outside world as an adult. These belief systems can be changed, but only by working at the subconscious level, which was where they were formed in the first place. “Talk therapy” can be helpful for understanding the dynamics of the event and for breaking unhealthy behavior patterns when combined with other modalities such as visualization. Programs such as The Silva Method can speed up the process as well.
#3 – EFT
New Physics pioneer Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, considers Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or Meridian Tapping, to be in the category of “super-learning.” This is because EFT reprograms old negative beliefs by working on both the kinesthetic level (through tapping acupressure points) and verbal statements for very rapid results. EFT is ideal as a supplement to other modalities and as a stand-alone for lowering anxiety and stress levels quickly.
#4 – Exercise
There is a direct link between regular exercise and the regulation of stress hormones. Numerous studies have shown that when animals are stressed repeatedly and not allowed a physical outlet, disease sets in quickly. When animals are provided with a physical outlet to release the stress, however, the damage to their bodies is minimal. Studies also confirm that individuals who walk and jog on a regular basis are more flexible in their belief systems, display greater self-acceptance, self-confidence, and self-responsibility and were less prone to depression.
You CAN Heal Emotional Trauma and Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
Whatever modality you use for trauma healing, remember that the best course of action should include practices that you can incorporate into your regular routine − preferably on a daily basis. The ability to allow emotions to simply flow through you instead of holding on to them is akin to a “muscle” that must be worked every day in order to grow strong.
It may take a little time to see results from your inner work, but you WILL see them. And when you do, you will realize that the state of your life, and your health, has remarkably changed for the better.
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There are many situations that can cause the “bottom to fall out” of our lives. They can cause chronic stress, emotional trauma, and even leave us with medically-diagnosable psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to the latest research on stress, the emotions, and cancer… this emotional trauma can actually create cancer.
Problems arise when emotional trauma goes unhealed and the body system is in a constant state of heightened stress. A recent report shows how the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) can actually encourage metastasis when it is chronically activated.
Under chronic stress, the SNS is “turned on” virtually all the time. In this state, adrenaline and noradrenaline-stimulating mechanisms within it will alter genetic code which can lead to a number of pro-cancer processes.
Dr. Douglas Brodie, MD, is a pioneer in understanding the connection between the emotions, the mind, and cancer. His work has shown that the majority of individuals diagnosed with cancer have similar psychological traits. Among these characteristics is experiencing a traumatizing and emotionally-damaging event roughly two years before getting a cancer diagnosis.
The good news is there are dozens of modalities that can help heal the wounds of emotional trauma and reduce chronic stress that can lead to cancer. Here are four to try:
1. Meditation and Visualization
2. Healing Emotional Wounds through therapy, hypnosis, or other specific programs
3. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)