Consciousness and Health

In everyday language we use the term consciousness to describe an awareness, a living, feeling state, which all animals have in their unique way, and which includes all living things. We can even stretch it one step further and say that all things have their own consciousness, even rocks and other inanimate forms.

Many alternative systems of healing directly employ a form of consciousness in order to help the body and mind achieve better health. In Chinese medicine it is called "Chi", in Indian philosophy it is called "Prana". In western thinking it is called the "Vital Force". All describe a form of energy or consciousness that exists in living things and which is the force that maintains health and balance in the organism. Once a person dies, this energy is no longer present, even though chemical changes may continue in the body.

Consciousness is also a specific mental condition, an awareness and experience of events as they are observed and felt by a human being. The nature of this consciousness is conditioned by experience and memory, the accumulated phenomena of life that leaves an indelible imprint on our mental and emotional reality. What we see in our lives is predicated on what we have experienced. We carry with us the history of our experiences. This affects how we act and feel, it conditions our ability to perceive what is around us and colors our responses to our experience. Various forms of psychological therapy, including psychoanalysis, transactional analysis, transpersonal psychology and many other forms of psychotherapy deal with the psychological impact of our accumulated experiences as they are felt both consciously and unconsciously. The term unconscious, as described by Freud and later added to by Jung and others addresses the part of us that is not within our conscious experience or control but yet has a profound impact on our psychological evolution. It addresses aspects of our reality that we have difficulty in accepting or are not ready to accept. It also harbors the potential for our evolution and connects us with a broader reality of the world around us, described by Jung as the "Collective Unconsciousness." It is often experienced in the form of dreams or in unconscious patterns of behavior.

Many forms of bodywork address the notion of consciousness within the physical body. That is, the body contains a kind of "memory" of accumulated experiences, which are fundamentally of an emotional nature. We walk around and carry with us "all" of our lifetimes experiences within our body our hope, fear, shame, grief, anger, loss, joy etc. These experiences create "blocks" of energy, which can impede the energy/consciousness of the body. In other words, our past gets in the way of our present. Body workers, through various physical techniques can release this energy, which helps unburden past experiences that have remained unresolved and are somehow stored in the body. It may be scary to think that we carry with us all of our feelings and experiences of a lifetime, positive and negative, but this is what consciousness is about.

Some psychological therapies pay a lot of attention to the dynamics that exist within a family. A well-known German therapist called Bert Hellinger discusses how if one member of a family has a deep unresolved problem, another member of the family may unconsciously adopt the problem and play it out to another level. He explores the pattern that may exist within any given family and sees that ones individual problems are often part of a larger "gestalt" or pattern of events. In other words, he enlarges the context of understanding of a persons problems and put them into a "holistic" situation.

So, why mention all these things? Well, as of now, none of them can be understood by conventional medicine. They cannot be explained by methods of scientific experimentation and laboratory analysis that is the cornerstone of conventional medicine. Most forms of emotional problems are reduced to chemical imbalances in the brain, the treatment being drugs that affect the composition of the bodys chemistry. This "reductionist" approach to medicine, especially when addressing emotional states, has led to the extraordinary growth of the use of antidepressants and anti anxiety medications.

However, to reduce emotional and mental problems purely to a biological/chemical imbalance denies a broader understanding of the causes of these states. It also perpetuates the idea that the person experiencing these states can do nothing about it, that they are a victim of chemistry and therefore the only option is to take a drug. It implicitly denies responsibility. This is not to deny that chemistry and also genetics do play a role in our emotions and understanding but it does not give the full picture. Our consciousness is more than just chemistry.

It is unfortunate that the culture of drug therapy is so pervasive now that even therapists and psychologists are often resorting to suggesting drug treatments whilst undergoing therapy. There may some situations where this is appropriate, but the taking of drugs that alter brain chemistry can only inhibit a more complete understanding of the conscious and unconscious patterns that would lead to a profound resolution of a problem.

Any true healing in the body or mind can only occur through a change in consciousness. The body has to do it for itself. Its like learning to ride a bicycle. You have to know through your own experience. You have to be conscious for this to happen. There is no other way to do it