Wednesday, September 30, 2009

That's My Story and I am Sticking to It

Is your glass half empty or half full?

The journal Circulation of the American Heart Association recently published a study that showed that our attitude towards life has a direct bearing on our physical health.  The study followed 97,000 women for 8 years. The seminal conclusion was that optimism is an important factor in our resilience to illness. Women who were optimistic  had a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease and dying from a major illness.  Conversely, the study showed that women who were negative, mistrusting and cynical were more likely to die over the same time frame. 

The study’s conclusions are not revelations to the spiritual traditions but they do reveal that mainstream medicine is taking seriously something that alternative researchers and spiritual teachers have known for a long time – that psyche, mind and the body are an integrated system.  Our emotions and thoughts affect the body’s bio-chemistry and thus our physical well being.   Our thoughts and words create our world, our reality and our placement in it.   They operate as dialogues running in the background of our lives. 

Many psychological theories and spiritual traditions have defined this phenomenon - voice in the head, self talk.  Eckhart Tolle in his book A New Earth  explores the difference between what happens and our story about it   Buddhism calls it dukkha. Roughly translated, it means suffering, pain, sorrow, dissatisfaction, pessimism, and bitterness.  Indeed bitterness in the western world is so common and so destructive that psychiatrists are discussing whether to add it as an official diagnosis in the DSM – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  (In a later blog posting I want to look at bitterness and wisdom and what transforms bitterness into wisdom)

Carl Jung developed the notion of complexes to describe the filter, the lens with which we interpret the world.  He defined a complex as a cluster of related but often repressed ideas and impulses that compel characteristic or habitual patterns of thought, feelings, and behavior.  

Anyway you look at it,  the suffering that the ego creates for our soul occurs when we view the world through a particular lens or filter and refuse to accept what is.  It is the thoughts that we have about our world and our place in it that creates suffering and illness.

To heal the symptom, James Hillman argues in Healing Fiction, we must heal the person, and to heal the person we must first heal the story in which the person has imagined himself.

What’s your story?

Christina Becker is a Jungian Analyst, Alchemical Astrologer and Consultant with a private practice in Toronto, Ontario Canada. She is graduate of the C.G. Institute Zurich. Her practice purpose is to empower individuals, couples, teams and organizations on their path of transformation. Her website is

1 comment:

  1. I wonder though how much of either positive or negative responses are ingrained in us, a part our our genetic makeup. What if the negatives are a symptom of the diseases mentioned rather than causative?