Illness Explorer assumes your health problem, disease, or illness could be related to your ‘story’.
Some people react negatively to this, usually because of misunderstanding, or because of previous bad experience, often, sadly, with the medical profession.
So let’s tackle the common fears and questions verbalized by many patients.
Everybody, yes, everybody, expresses their issues, stress, and distress in some form in the body at some time or other. Some people get a disturbed bowel, some get headaches, some get rashes and the list goes on and on and on. Some people get visible things (a nasty rash on the face) and others get hidden effects (high blood pressure).
When I do ‘Medicine and Story’ workshops with ‘normal’ people I find EVERYBODY gets stress and story-based reactions in the body at some time.
In 15 years of this work I have not seen one hypochondriac. A hypochondriac is a person who is preoccupied with a dread of illness which does not exist. It is a distressing but rare psychiatric condition.
I assume you are doing this program because you have REAL physical symptoms whatever their cause.
If you have a physical symptom, it is in your body, it is physical, it is not imaginary. Sometimes doctors, when they cannot find anything to label, or cut out, or treat, seem to hint that there is nothing wrong with you, so you should go away and try forget about it. If they cannot find something they can sight, detect, or measure then in some way it is not real.
This makes me very annoyed. Symptoms are symptoms, suffering is suffering—and if it does not fit the doctor’s understanding and competency that problem is the doctor’s problem.
I sometimes say to some patients: “What is most important—a back pain related to a disc problem (which a doctor can detect with a CT or MRI scan) or a back pain due to anger (which the doctor cannot detect with a scan)?”
The patient usually gets the point. The issue is not which is most important or valid. They are different problems. If we can discern the difference we can treat the two quite differently.
This is a big one for some people.
We all put great stock on having things together and having things in control. We fear that in some way we are lesser mortals if it is discovered that emotional and life issues are affecting our health.
But eventually most people learn that things are not so simple. Our story is very important in our health. But sadly, some, particularly men, would almost rather die of a disease than admit ordinary human vulnerability and deal with issues that are being expressed in the body.
This is a tricky one.
Things do run in families. Genes do have a powerful effect and in some disorders are the most important factor. Some disease states are so strongly genetic or have resulted in so much permanent structural abnormality that a lot of change is not likely by exploring story aspects.
But many diseases are dynamic and fluctuating states. Ask any doctor about how much physical diseases fluctuate. A ‘story’ approach can influence the variability for the better.
This is a common worry, particularly if the illness is cancer, or a particularly distressing illness.
We don’t see it that way mainly because that is too simple a view. As you will see later nearly all illnesses are due to MULTIPLE FACTORS. No one thing is to blame. And we don’t like the blaming approach, it makes things worse. We like to consider the CONTRIBUTING FACTORS.
The story about the woman with cancer of the mouth will have shown you that making important connections with story can provide powerful meanings, and offer a new chance to heal troubled relationships.