In 1890 Pavlov, a Russian physician and psychologist, accidentally discovered, through investigating the dog’s gastric function, the psychological response that he called Classical Conditioning.  Classical Conditioning can be defined as, “conditioning in which the conditioned stimulus (as the sound of a bell) is paired with and precedes the unconditioned stimulus (as the sight of food) until the conditioned stimulus alone is sufficient to illicit the response (as salivation in a dog)… “[1] In plain words classical conditioning is when something happens often enough the subject begins to elicit a response be it physiological, emotional and/or intellectual.  So if something happens to us or doesn’t happen to us often enough we develop an automatic response or should I say reaction.  We all too often react instead of respond and that is because we have been conditioned to do so.

So when someone shuts down and gets quiet as an individual or when someone starts flipping out (screaming, yelling, profanity, etc.) these are conditioned responses, they are reactions!  We are all conditioned whether or not we like the thought of it or not.  The good news is that we can alter the conditioning we have received.

To alter our conditioning is to alter body function as well.  As in my last article I discussed in some length how the spirit, mind, and body affect the body.  A simple test can be done with a conscious thought.  The next time you are lifting a weight think of a sad face and notice the strength that you have, then in turn think of a happy face and do the same thing and again notice the strength you have.  I think you will be surprised to see how thinking of a happy face can give you more physical strength.  I often use this kinesiological method to demonstrate this point more affectively.  The point being is that the conscious mind can and does affect the body’s strength, how about the unconscious mind’s ability to affect the body?  The unconscious mind’s ability is so powerful it can cause a person to faint at the sight of blood, to jump when startled, to determine the quality of sleep, the depth of breathing, raise and lower blood pressure, influence digestive processes, and much more.  If the unconscious mind is able to do this on a relatively short timeline what about days, weeks, months, years, or decades later?  Can chronic illnesses have a root cause of unresolved unconscious issues?  The answer is yes.  Both acute and chronic illnesses manifest in the body due to unresolved emotional issues often deeply buried in the unconscious mind.  I realize that pathogens can be the culprit but why do some contract the illness while others do not?  The answer lies in the deep-seated beliefs of the unconscious mind and body.

It is a sensitive matter to discuss the possibility that illness has a direct link to the way we have been conditioned to live our lives.  When discussing this connection between spirit, mind to the body either our society dismisses this as foolishness or becomes upset as though they are being blamed.  Dr. Gabor Mate, M.D.’s book, “When the Body Says No”, speaks of a fifty two year old university professor that vocalized her anger at him for writing about how the mind affects the body, she told him, “Why are you writing this book?… I got cancer because of my genes, not because of anything I did.”[2] I feel sad for those that are suffering physically and mentally, but what causes me even more sadness is when the message is misunderstood and the hope for positive change is lost.  It is unfortunate that people can misinterpret this message as being a form of blaming the victim as though their illness or death is a personal failure.  Blame and failure isn’t the issue rather the focus is on finding the cause and affect and working towards restoration of health and wellbeing.  All too often there is confusion between blame and responsibility.  Dr. Mate said, “While all of us dread being blamed, we all would wish to be more responsible – that is, to have the ability to respond with awareness to the circumstances of our lives rather than just reacting.”[3]

The first step is to become aware of the truth that the spirit, mind and body are all intricately connected and what happens in the spirit/mind affects our body. Plato quoting Socrates said, “This is the reason why the cure of so many dieseases [sic] is unknown to the physicians of Hellas; they are ignorant of the whole. For this is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians separate the mind from the body.”[4] Without awareness we cannot take on true responsibility facilitating the change we are truly needing.  This connection needs so desperately to be understood and embraced otherwise so many more will needlessly suffer and die.  Becoming responsible is becoming aware, having the courage to take steps towards professional help, owning your own emotional reactions, and having them processed through to the point of healing.  This process involves the healing of spirit, mind, and the body and leaving out any one of these is not wise.

If we understand that the universal order is always spirit first physical third then we can begin to embrace this ancient understanding of why our bodies are the way they are.  Here’s a biblical quote that is worth considering, “…the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible…”[5] Freedom comes when we gain understanding with hope of a better tomorrow!

[1] Classical Conditioning conditioning

[2] Gabor, Mate, M.D., When the Body Says No: the cost of hidden stress (Toronto: Vintage Canada, a division of Random House, 2003), 8.

[3] IBID, 8,9.

[4] Secrets Of Freedom From Headache, “Not tonight honey, I have a headache”

[5] Hebrews 11:3a, New King James Version, (Nashville, TN., Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982).