Mind and Body Link to Illness By Dr. Dido Gustillo Villasor, Phd.

Dr. Dido Villasor became deeply aware about the mind and body-link to illness at 21, when she accompanied a beloved aunt who was terminally ill with cancer to UCLA as part of her new treatment program. While there, she interacted with other patient participants. Unaware, she developed feelings for the disease and stress, now found common among caregivers.

Health, Wellness and Healing

Contrary to common belief, health is not just the absence of disease. Health involves a sense of wellness or feeling ok. Health and wellness happen when there is a balance between the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of a person. The physical dimension involves using the five senses to interact with the world. The mental involves learning about one’s condition/ problems, weighing the pro and cons in decision-making. The emotional dimension evaluates one’s feelings and places value on what one is going through. The spiritual dimension gives meaning/purpose to one’s life and situation in the context of something bigger than oneself. Each of us uniquely combines these four dimensions to create boundaries (separateness) that help us interpret and deal with our circumstances.

The body or our physical dimension is our biological make up or genetic inheritance. As early as 1940’s Alfred Adler, MD talked of an “organ of weakness” where life conditions may impact a predisposed organ. Today, in regular check-ups, doctors routinely ask if hypertension, diabetes, heart or cancer run in one’s family. Another biologically determined marker is temperament, modified by psychosocial conditions.

Psychosocial conditions (family, education, experiences, religion, random/unpredictable events) contribute to the development of one’s attitude, beliefs and values. These directly influences how one thinks, feels, acts and determine the quality of life, work, relationship with the self, others and something bigger than the self.

Unexpected events/conditions can be stressful and can alter one’s assumption about the world, the self and others. For example, when one loses his/her job on short notice, this alters the entire life of the self, and family. One can view this as a challenge or set back feeling anxiety, helplessness or hopelessness. The body however reacts to a perceived threat of one’s well-being. The body releases hormones to prepare for “fight or flight.”

Gerald O’ Collins (1988) listed triggers that can affect the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance within the person: namely Death, Sickness, Betrayal, Exile, sense of Failure, Yearning for more. These triggers impact individuals in different ways depending on the personality type. The Type A personality is someone more competitive, aggressive, multi-tasker, and a perfectionist who may take a challenge, fight, seek out different solutions, insist on their way. A Type B personality tends to be more laid back, may go into denial, minimize the condition, and seeks help at the last minute. The Type C personality tend to be anxious, non-confrontational, repressed anger, hostility, worries a lot.

Author Carolyn Myss in her book “Why people Don’t Heal and How they Can” (1988) talks about “Woundology” where a person hangs on to the past wounds (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) and these define who they are and how they cope with life. Forgiveness of the Self is primary in order to forgive the other person and contribute to one’s physical health. There is always an on-going exchange of the mental, and physical, emotional and spiritual factors of a person whenever Stress or Crisis happens. Those who cannot cope or refuse to seek help have difficulty experiencing healing.

Health, Wellness, and healing require being CONSCIOUS of what is going on outside as well as inside of oneself. Second, it requires making a CHOICE on how to live one’s life. Finally, it underscores TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for the choices one makes.