Cancer consciousness is the mental-emotional pattern that creates a vibrational energy within the body that precedes the actual development of cancer.
Many people will undergo traditional forms of therapy to kill or remove their cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, and will be considered to be cancer-free or in remission. However, even though there may be no visible sign of cancer in the body, the vibration of cancer (the memory of cancer) may still be present on the more subtle energetic level.
This information is not presented to create fear, but to support you in your motivation to change long-standing stress patterns that interfere with the quality of your life and your health, even though at times these patterns may seem "invisible."
The mental-emotional pattern of cancer consciousness was described in the previous section. This pattern is characterized mainly by a consistent tendency to create long-standing stress by operating out of old or unhealthy beliefs and images that create the perception of being in emotional or physical danger.
"I am not entitled to pleasure without pain."
"I am not lovable."
"I am not good enough just the way I am."
These beliefs lead to emotional pain and deprivation, which are translated by the body into a belief that it is in real danger.
Since bonding is a biological need which requires emotional openness and physical closeness, any belief or image that associates "pain" with the need for bonding can lead to the actual reality of deprivation of this need. Since our tendency is first and foremost to avoid pain, we may actually move away from getting an essential need such as bonding met, as the result of attempting to avoid pain. Chronic deprivation of bonding over a long period leads to the experience of being in "survival danger" and is part of a stress response that precedes cancer.
To change the mental-emotional pattern that creates cancer consciousness, it becomes essential to change your identity. Your identity is made up of long-standing decisions about who you are. These include the core characteristics of the kind of person you would describe yourself to be. It may seem awkward to even consider changing basic behaviors at this point because it may seem unnatural to being who you are.
However, it is essential to make new decisions about who you are that will lead to more consistent patterns in your brain of associating pleasure and comfort with your identity.
Chronic long-standing patterns of learned unconscious beliefs that generate helplessness and hopelessness define the mental-emotional set of cancer consciousness.
- Learned helplessness and hopelessness result from the limiting belief, "Nothing I can do will help."
- When you are stuck in emotional pain, you are stuck in a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic image accessing mode. Or you are stuck in a time frame focus either reliving past painful memories or projecting painful images to the future.
- We are born optimistic.
- We learn pessimism to protect ourselves from pain.
- When people say they are being realistic about not being optimistic, or when they hedge about making a decision to get well, they are fearful and afraid to be disappointed.
- Instead of being realistic, you can be intelligent and accurate by developing beliefs that empower you and that are most likely to yield the results you want.
Some people won't change their beliefs that lead to cancer consciousness because the current pain is not as great as the pain of losing their identity.
Your identity is your highest unquestioned belief about who you are.
This is different from what you do or what illness you have.
For example: Cancer Patient vs. Powerful Person with Cancer
You can't stop being who you are, but you can change what you do and what you have, and then you experience a difference in who you are.
Your identity is the highest form of leverage. Once you decide who you are, new behaviors will follow.
Your power to win with cancer lies in your ability to change yourself and to give an empowered meaning to your current health situation.
The primary polarities between the Type A personality prone to heart disease as described by Rosenman and Friedman in Type A Behavior and Your Heart and the Type C personality prone to cancer as described by Temoshok and Dreher in The Type C Connection reveal the following:
The cancer patients were cooperative and appeasing, unassertive, patient, and utterly compliant with external authorities.
The Type A patients were highly charged competitors, struggling fiercely to achieve or maintain a top-dog position in their careers or relationships.
The cancer patients did not express negative emotions, especially anger.
Rosenman's Type A subjects were often overflowing with anxiety, hostility, and anger.
The cancer patients were more involved in meeting other people's needs than their own.
The Type A people were self-centered, focusing incessantly on their own needs and how they could meet them. (Temoshok and Dreyer, 1992, p.38)
A FIGHTING SPIRIT
The role of a fighting spirit in recovery and the relationship of hopelessness to cancer death were demonstrated by Steven Greer, M.D., a British psychiatrist, in a ground-breaking study of women with breast cancer, in 1974 at King's College Hospital Medical School in London.
Greer found that his patients' coping styles could be grouped into four categories:
- Fighting spirit:The patient fully accepts the diagnosis of cancer, adopts an optimistic attitude, seeks information about cancer, and is determined to fight the disease.
- Denial:The patient either rejects the diagnosis of cancer or minimizes its seriousness.
- Stoic acceptance:The patient accepts the diagnosis, does not seek further information, and adopts a fatalistic attitude.
- Helplessness/hopelessness:The patient is engulfed by knowledge of the diagnosis; his or her daily life is disrupted by preoccupation with cancer and dying.
Greer found that grouped together, the fighters and deniers were more than twice as likely to be alive and well five years later than those who were stoic or hopeless.
The systems model postulates that certain types of family organization are closely related to the development and maintenance of psychosomatic illnesses within family members, and that the illness itself plays an important role in maintaining the family homeostasis (balance). Imagine the following five elements making up a closed circle of actions and reactions:
Family Organization and functioning
Vulnerable family member
Physiological, endocrine/immune, and biochemical mediating mechanisms
Symptomatic family member
Change is required within the system model in the feedback processes by which the family members and the "cancer patient" constrain and regulate each other's behavior. Transactions among family members that sustain "sick behavior" need to be looked at and changed.
Four characteristics of overall family functioning emerged from Dr. Salvador Minuchin's research of psychosomatic families (1982). No one of these characteristics alone seemed sufficient to spark and reinforce psychosomatic symptoms. But the cluster of transactional patterns was felt to be characteristic of a family process that encourages somatization. The four family characteristics are enmeshment, overprotectiveness, rigidity, and lack of conflict resolution.
Enmeshment refers to an extreme form of proximity and intensity in family interactions. In a highly enmeshed, over-involved family, changes within one family member or in the relationship between two members reverberate throughout the system. Dialogues are rapidly diffused by the entrance of other family members. A conflict between two family members may set off a chain of shifting alliances within the whole family as other members get involved. Or one family member may relay messages from another to a third, blocking direct communication.
Boundaries in enmeshed families are poorly differentiated, weak, and easily crossed. For instance, the spouse relationship is subordinated to carrying out parental functions, or parental control is ineffective. When boundaries are crossed, children may act inappropriately towards parents or siblings. Or a child may join or be enlisted by one parent against the other in decision making.
Individuals within an enmeshed family system are poorly differentiated. Each person within all families is regulated by the family system to some degree, but in enmeshed families, members get lost in the system. Functioning in individually differentiated ways is handicapped because the boundaries that define individual autonomy are so weak. Excessive togetherness and sharing brings about a lack of privacy. Family members speak for each other and intrude on each others' thoughts and feelings. All these problems of enmeshment are reflected in the perceptions of the family members towards themselves and each other. These perceptions show the poorly differentiated sense of self.
The psychosomatic family that is characterized by overprotectiveness shows a high degree of concern of family members for each others' welfare. This concern for example would not be limited to the identified patient (or family member with cancer). Family members in this sort of system are hypersensitive to signs of distress among its family members and constantly elicits and supplies nurturing and protective responses. In such families, the parents' overprotectiveness retards the small or grownup child's development of autonomy, competence, and interests or activities outside the safety of the family. An adult with cancer from this kind of family can feel great responsibility for protecting their parents or other family members. For the person with the cancer, the experience of being able to protect family members emotionally in some way by unconsciously using their symptoms may be a major reinforcement for the illness.
Rigid families are heavily committed to "keeping things the way they are." They resist change and experience difficulty when change and growth are necessary. Negotiations over individual autonomy are not allowed to surface to the point where they can be explored, because autonomy represents change, which is viewed as a threat to the rigid family system. Such families are highly vulnerable to external stressors which may overload their coping mechanisms and precipitate illness.
The rigidity and overprotectiveness of the psychosomatic family system, combined with the enmeshed communication patterns, make such families' thresholds for conflict very low. Many reasons are given for avoiding conflict, including a strong religious or ethical code within the system. Problems are left unresolved as a result of this. This family system's avoidance circuits will be activated over and over again each time an unresolved area of conflict arises.
Each psychosomatic family system has its own way of avoiding conflict. Often one spouse is an avoider and always manages to detour confrontation that would lead to the acknowledgment of conflict and, perhaps, its negotiation. One spouse may simply leave the house when the other tries to discuss a problem.
Many families that would be considered to have a psychosomatic structure deny the existence of any problems whatsoever, and see "no need" to ever disagree. Other psychosomatic families might disagree openly but would avoid any conflictual issue by constantly interrupting each other or using other maneuvers of distraction. Normal families are able to promote autonomy, support growth and change, disagree with one another, and resolve conflicts.
Viewed from the systems perspective, the person with cancer acquires new significance as a regulator in the family system. A person's symptoms of illness often reflect unresolved conflict with their spouse or their parents. Spouses who h ation in which it emerged.
Therefore, it becomes important for the person who is sick within the family system to change their identity that has grown out of the system they grew up in or now live in. The person with cancer, for example, very often has long-term unresolved anger towards one of their parents. They may also have a history of getting the most attention and love when they were sick. So it becomes very important for the spouse of the patient and other family to encourage the patient to express their feelings and to resolve conflictual issues. Also, it becomes very important to reinforce healthy behaviors within the patient as they change their past identity within the family system. Sometimes for people who get diagnosed with cancer, their family members make it very difficult for them to change their identity as being a healthy person even after they get well. It may help to teach your spouse or others close to you about your decision to make this a winning experience. Asking for what you want and expressing your feelings will help your spouse or others from having to guess what you want and need. It will also help them in knowing how to reinforce your strategy for getting well. If family members begin to speak for you or they are speaking more behind your back than towards you directly, let them know that part of your work in getting well is to develop your sense of self — as you change past patterns of how you relate within your family system, you are strengthening your autonomy ... and changing your identity!
Family members need to look at their limiting beliefs about the experience of cancer:
- There is a certain way to get well
- Cancer recurrence = death sentence
- I "have" to get them well
Common concerns for family members:
- Taking on too much responsibility for protecting the patient's feelings.
- Avoiding direct conflict with the patient by letting the cancer become the detour or distraction from "real issues" in the family.
- Taking on too much responsibility — "doing" too much — burning out. Then getting angry at the patient for not doing "what they should do."
- Experiencing a sense of helplessness or hopelessness about what to do about "the situation," feeling "out of charge."
TO FAMILY MEMBERS
A Reminder of How You Can Help
To provide the best in support teamwork, be a team of winners.
Winning is an attitude ...
Be careful not to identify the family member with cancer as the "problem person" within the family.
Be open to how you can change patterns of relating within the family system to encourage growth, change, and resolution of conflict. Remember, healthy families express their feelings directly, and they do disagree at times. Allow the family system to transform so that there does not have to be a sick person within it who must carry the symptoms or unresolved tension of other members.
Spouses often feel caught in the middle, wanting to protect the patient...
- speaking for them,
- reporting their health status to the world,
- feeling caught between what doctor thinks is best for spouse and what patient wants, and then explaining that to the world,
- protecting the patient emotionally, wanting to keep outside world "believing" in spouse,
- holding certain beliefs about what is really happening as patient's idea (denial, etc.)
Family members and spouse need emotional and physical support.
The patient needs your confidence and your energy.
If you over-do, you will be stressed out and exhausted. Eventually, you could get sick!
A Reminder of How You Can Help
Fall back in love with your spouse.
Strengthen your intimacy/bonding.
Stimulate your sexual relationship.
Be on the same team and play ball.
Know the game and the rules.
Ask yourself, what has to happen in order for me to feel ...
Keep changing the strategy until you find one that has winning results, and then reinforce a winning pattern in your relationship together:
- greater energy through bonding and love-making
- greater energy through fun activities
- greater energy through adopting new, empowering beliefs about your future