Since 1992, one of the most important foundational truths of my practice has been that we are three-part beings: spirit, soul, and body. Any understanding of “wellness” is incomplete if it doesn’t include all three. Granted, my patients come to me to achieve maximum physical wellness through adjustments, exercise, and nutrition, but as we work together, we often identify mental, emotional, or even spiritual blockages that can prevent them from achieving their physical health goals.
For instance, stress is a killer, not just in the mind, but throughout the body. If you are stressed out, your body responds with a flood of neurotransmitters that are best served in moderation. Short bursts of cortisol and adrenaline are great when you need to face an attacker (or run away) for a few minutes, but most of us keep the faucets open all the time at work. The result is swelling, weight gain, inflammation, headaches, ulcers, heart disease, and a dozen other preventable health problems. You don’t feel well and it affects everything you do.
The cost of stress on workplace productivity is staggering, not only because it affects team morale, but because it literally makes people sick and causes them to miss work.
Where Did The Damage Start?
It started between your ears, with feelings of pressure or anxiety from work or offense in a relationship. Someone said something that hurt you or did something that made you feel threatened. The longer you thought about it, the longer the faucets stayed open. After a few days of dwelling on it, you start to feel sick because your organs, muscles, and joints have literally been stewing in a hot chemical bath of corrosive acids.
What they said/did was probably bad, but that is where their responsibility ends. Everything that happened to your body after you took offense is your responsibility. I keep seeing this fantastic meme on Facebook that says, “How people treat you is their problem. How you react to it is your problem.” It’s so true. People are going to do things that are hurtful and mean and offensive. But it only affects you as much as you allow it to.
Offense, unforgiveness, and bitterness originate in the heart (spirit) and affect every part of your three-part being.
One of my good friends, who has been a counselor and minister for decades recently said, “If I’m not feeling well, I look in the mirror first, to see if I’m harboring unforgiveness, bitterness, or some other hurt.”
That statement struck me so hard, I spent the rest of the day thinking about it. It’s absolutely true. An article in Psychology Today nailed it:
Several years ago, researchers with the National Comorbidity Study asked nearly 10,000 U.S. residents, “Would you say this is true or false? I’ve held grudges against people for years.” Slightly more than 6,500 people responded to the question. Writing in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology in 2010, researchers Erick Messias, Anil Saini, Philip Sinato, and Stephen Welch report that those who said they tended to hold grudges reported higher rates of heart disease and cardiac arrest, elevated blood pressure, stomach ulcers, arthritis, back problems, headaches, and chronic pain than those who didn’t share this tendency. Though most scientists note that much more research is needed on the subject, this isn’t the only study linking unforgiveness to health problems.”
Another article on CBN.com said it this way:
Unforgiveness is classified in medical books as a disease. According to Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, refusing to forgive makes people sick and keeps them that way.
With that in mind, forgiveness therapy is now being used to help treat diseases, such as cancer.
“It’s important to treat emotional wounds or disorders because they really can hinder someone’s reactions to the treatments, even someone’s willingness to pursue treatment,” Standiford explained.
Of all cancer patients, 61 percent have forgiveness issues, and of those, more than half are severe, according to research by Dr. Michael Barry, a pastor and the author of the book, The Forgiveness Project.
“Harboring these negative emotions, this anger and hatred, creates a state of chronic anxiety,” he said.
“Chronic anxiety very predictably produces excess adrenaline and cortisol, which deplete the production of natural killer cells, which is your body’s foot soldier in the fight against cancer,” he explained.
Feeling Sick? Look In The Mirror
If you haven’t already guessed, when I say you have a “heart condition,” I’m not talking about that blood pump that sits between your lungs. When I talk about heart problems here, I’m referring to your mind, will, and emotions. Remember, they are all woven together.
I see it all the time in my practice. A patient who should be in good health is struggling with headaches, or digestive disorders, or a persistent bout of the flu, or painful joints, and nothing seems to work because they are angry at someone and I didn’t pick up on it. Sometimes, all they have to do is tell me about the situation and their body begins to manifest symptoms – right there in my office. The jaw clenches, the fists tighten, the eyes narrow, and their muscles stiffen.
Other times, they admit to the unforgiveness and the health problem begins to melt away. You can see the change in their countenance almost immediately. The color returns to the face, the posture straightens.
I cannot overstate the importance of this. Bitterness in the soul works its way out into the body and the spirit (have you ever tried to pray when you’re mad at someone?). I had a friend who studies Hebrew tell me one time that the Hebrew word translated “curse” in the Old Testament is the same word for “bitter” or “bitterness.” And because we are three-part beings and the three parts are woven together, toxicity in one part bleeds over into the others.
That person in your office who always has a cold or joint pain may need to get something off their chest. They may be angry and harboring unforgiveness.
Forgiveness Could Save Your Life
What about you?
You cannot change what other people have done to you. You cannot change the past. You can’t even force them to apologize to you. But it’s OK, because your healing is not contingent on what they do. If your healing was dependent on their apology, they could hold that from you for the rest of your life. You don’t want to give them that much power over you.
But you can release them in your heart.
As I’ve said so many times here, refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It’s crazy. You don’t forgive for their sake; you forgive for your sake.
My Prescription For Fighting Persistent Sickness
I want you to do something right now. You are not allowed to close this article until you do it ;-). This exercise will not be any fun and it may hurt, but it will heal your mind and body.
Right now, think of someone you are mad at. Think about why you are mad at them. Be specific. Close your eyes and imagine they are in a chair facing you.
In your mind (or even out loud) say:
“NAME, you did _________________.” (Say what they did that hurt you).
“I felt _______________.” (Do NOT say they MADE you feel that way – no one can MAKE you feel anything. You have to take responsibility for your own emotions and responses.”)
“I forgive you, I release you, and I bless you. You owe me nothing. You are free.”
You have to say all of it, no matter how much it hurts. Remember, your refusal to forgive them is not hurting them in the least, but it is literally KILLING you. Release them for your own sake.
Anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, stress, shame, guilt, and hatred are all damaging your body from the inside out, but you have total control over all of them. Release them and let them go.
Don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel lighter, happier, and healthier, because you are.
In fact, it might feel so good you will want to do it over and over again. Good. Let the endorphins and other positive neurotransmitters flush in and do their work.
You might even lose weight.
It’s that big of a deal.
Spread The Word
If this “Wellness Wednesday” article was helpful to you, please take a few seconds to share it. Emotions can kill you slowly if you don’t know what they are doing to you, so this information could save someone’s life. Let’s get the word out together. Especially with all the bad news and angry politics swirling around us, we have to know how to handle negative emotions before they make us sick.
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