Have you ever noticed that some people with cancer die unexpectedly, but others with less favorable diagnosis survive? Perhaps this can often be explained by the relationship between cancer and the mind, emotions and cancer. Is there any scientific basis for us to believe that positive emotions have specific physiological effects?
About negative emotions, we already know that anger is related to the production of norepinephrine, and fear or anxiety has to do with adrenaline. Positive emotions relate to acetylcholine outside the brain, which produces muscle relaxation, and has to do with endorphins and serotonin inside the brain.
Cancer is not just a disease. There are several interrelated diseases, several changes that end up generating cancer. There may be a genetic predisposition, a lot of stress in childhood, a diet of poor nutritional quality, a contaminated environment, polluted air, free radicals, smoking, alcohol abuse and other factors. Cancer is an indication that there is something else dysfunctional in the person’s lifestyle.
Lawrence LeShan was a psychologist who worked for more than 20 years just with dying patients, and in one of his studies of 152 people with cancer, he found that some mental attitudes had a negative influence on those cancer patients.
The study came to some interesting conclusions about the emotional or mental posture found in the people surveyed, who developed some form of cancer. Let’s look at some of these results from this study. Of these 152 people, 109, or 72%, had lost their purpose to live, and were unable to establish new relationships. There may have been attempts to develop new relationships, but they failed and the person remained isolated, even surrounded by family and friends, so that is to say 72% of people suffered from loneliness.
It was found that 71 of these people, or 47%, almost half of these people, were unable to demonstrate hostility in their self-defense. In other words, she had a feeling that her desires didn’t deserve to be defended, they didn’t know how to protect themselves. They are those people that when you step on their toes, they are the ones who apologize, people who do not know how to defend themselves, even from hostile people.
The study also found that 58 people, or 38% of them, had tension, a major stress due to the death of a parent. For some individuals, the type of emotional bond with the father or mother is so ingrained that when one of them dies, the suffering of the son or daughter is much greater than in people without this type of affective bond, who also experienced a period of grief and normal sadness, but without so much suffering, and without despair. So 38% of people who developed cancer had a lot of suffering a while before the cancer appeared, with the death of the father or mother, because of this extremely strong bond they had with that parent.
It was also found that many of the studied group showed self-depreciation, a lack of self-confidence, a lack of respect for their own achievements. It’s the people that when you praise, for example for being in a nice outfit, they say: “Oh, I bought it there at the benefit bazaar”, or when these people have passed an exam and you congratulate them, they say: “Oh, it wasn’t so hard to pass”, that is, they always devalue themselves. So this psychologist working with these people with cancer found that many of them had this self-deprecating mindset.
Other people who had cancer in the study group had a sense of despair they had lived with all their lives, a despair in the sense of looking at life with pessimism, without good prospects for the future. And also the good number of patients evaluated revealed that they had more emotions than energy to express them, and they had very few or no channels of emotional expression, there is no one to whom they could open up, that is, they swallowed, repressed more emotions than they should have done, and some cases seem to explode into cancer.
Dr. Samuel Silverman of the School of Medicine at Harvard University, he says:
If there is a latent tendency to develop cancer, the inability to express one’s feelings will strike the body at some vulnerable point.You can fight for your life : emotional factors in the causation of cancer
Some mental attitudes that help in the prevention or treatment of Cancer from a psychological and emotional point of view are the following:
- Have a meaning for life beyond the desire for physical healing.
- Reflect on how best to be useful with what you are, the talents you already have or can be learned.
- Learn, that you can express emotions, opinions and still be loved and accepted.
- Acquire self-knowledge to live with emotional honesty, that is, not fooling yourself.
- Appreciating the positive traits in me, what I can do, the blessings I have received, looking positively at those things that God has placed in me, which are talents, they’re blessings.
- Realize that you can try to understand and love yourself, forgive yourself, accept your limitations, without fighting with you, without criticizing yourself, without belittling yourself.
- Also strive to make changes in your life, in search of what you want, rather then remaining in a bad situation, even if it produces some benefits, such as an economic gain.
Dr Lawrence mentions in his book a doctor who had a specialty that earned a lot of money. Then she had breast cancer and she found out that she actually would like to work in another specialty, which would earn less money, but she decided to change, resulting in better coping with the cancer.
He cites the case of another woman, a lawyer that was professionally and economically very successful, but who also had breast cancer, and during psychotherapy she discovered that she had always liked music. So this woman decided to quit her job as a lawyer and went into music.
After doing a study on these people who made important changes in their lives after cancer, it was found that they had a much better survival rate, a much better quality of life, a much better recovery from this cancer than those people who got stuck and didn’t do these changes. So it’s important to think that it is healthy for the mind that influences the immune system, to make less money, but to be happy in what you do. Think about it when you decide to make important changes in your life.
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Dr. Cesar Vasconcellos de Souza is working as a psychiatrist and international speaker. He is author of 3 books, columnist of the health magazine “Vida e Saúde” for 25 years, and has a regular program on the “Novo Tempo” TV channel.