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Many mainstream views on asthma reduce its cause to something environmental, such as an allergen or pollutant, but this avoids looking at what the true cause tends to be, which is more at the level of an original emotional conflict. Thorwald Dethlefsen, in his book The Healing Power of Illness, lists four possible emotional roots or themes behind bronchial asthma [His four items are in italics below] :
- Giving and taking. Many patients tell me this — that they find it much easier to give than to receive. It’s fascinating that the peak time of year for bronchial asthma is during December, the season of Christmas which demands a whole lot of giving.
- The attempt to shut oneself off. The basis of allergies, in general, is one of fear, and a false perception that life is dangerous rather than good. We’ve previously discussed the relationship between expansive and contractive tendencies in our life, and how any disease process will begin to emphasize the contractive over the expansive — this is clearly evident in asthma, where the lungs are contracting much more than they are expanding, ie closing off from taking in more life.
- Lust for power and feelings of smallness. Detlhefsen makes an interesting general point throughout his book, which is that any illness functions to “make us honest” — meaning, that it manifests a state of affairs which we do not otherwise have the courage to express in a rational, conscious mode. In the case of asthma, he points out the extreme level of control over the environment which is demanded around an asthmatic, from controlling levels of dust and cleanliness, to having pets removed from the family home. These feelings (of wanting to dominate) are not socially acceptable, and so may be transferred to the physical level in terms of the lung symptoms of asthma. Or more generally, the amount of suppressed aggression in our society is epidemic, and may come out in any number of health issues.
- Resistance to the dark areas of life. Similar to the previous point, the effect of asthma drives the patient to create an ultra-clean environment for themselves, and consequent fear or aversion to anything “dirty”. To truly be alive means to embrace the polarity of life, where both “clean” and “dirty” are accepted. At the emotional level, I see this in many patients who “beat themselves up” for thinking or feeling undesirable things about the people around them, and being ashamed of these “shadow” elements of themselves.
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