A Holistic Approach of Health and Disease:
Exploring the Mind-Body-Spirit and the Personification of Organs
Kirinroop Carolina Israel.
The most wonderful thing I have learned about the human body is its innate multidimensional configuration. As an integrated system, the physical and the spiritual bodies support the fulfillment of our soul’s experience. From this perspective, mind, body and spirit are inextricably interconnected, forming part of a complex system of interdependence.
Under this holistic framework, when something occurs in one of these levels, the entire system is affected if we consider the human system as a whole. Indeed, we are more than the sum of many parts; every human being is unique from its fingerprints to his/her authentic configuration and way of being in the world.
This holistic understanding draws upon many contemporary theories, namely, system theories, complexity theories, metaphysics and quantum physics, Gestalt theory, among others. These approaches have offered, especially in the last decades, a more comprehensive understanding of the process of health and disease in an individual, where well-being -as a state of being-, is a result of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components organizing themselves in a unique pattern of configuration.
Following this perspective, a disease is a manifestation of a conflict, friction, block, shock or a chronic or abrupt rearrangement of the patterns that compose the individual dynamic of being. From a Metaphysical approach, disease has an emotional or spiritual cause, meaning that the physical manifestation of a symptom is just an expression of an energetic imbalance that has been progressively generating itself for a certain period of time. This understanding exceeds the Germ Theory, which supported medicine’s long ride through the Newtonian or mechanistic approach that suggest an allegory of the human being as a machine.
A common mistake would be to exclude one approach for the other; indeed, the greatest challenge for humanity is to acknowledge the multidimensional reality that sustains us, -material and spiritual. It is useful to remember that our existence entails both aspects of the experience: we are not only a human, we are not only a being; we are a human (material) being (spiritual). In this sense, there cannot be a phenomenon occurring in one level without affecting the other. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Likewise, health and disease are both part of a continuum of experience, in which the appearance of an ailment comes with a message from the spiritual or immaterial realm into the material territory of the body. This message –usually configured within the subconscious dominion of experience-, can be deciphered in order to bring consciousness to that part of ourselves which we haven’t been acknowledging, accepting, or simply been aware of. From this holistic comprehension, understanding the spiritual meaning of a disease does not imply that one gives a “magical” meaning to it, or dotes a phenomenon with unnatural qualities. On the contrary, it is most certainly natural to conceive that an imbalance on a physical level is product of a building force, a movement of energy creating an impact on many levels.
However, this building force undeniably may have been gestating itself on a subconscious level, co-creating itself with physical correspondent phenomenon. This means that an unconscious pattern of emotions, such as perpetuated resentment for an unsolved situation, or a traumatic experience, can build itself up to an energetic dysregulation of other systems in the body, finally manifesting as a weakened immune response (or any disease), for instance.
Moreover, if we consider homeostasis as the continuous dialogue of opposite forces to sustain harmony, balance is plausibly a product of a wave-like movement between two dimensions or aspects of experience. This could entail a dialogue between cold and hot, light and dark, high and low, conscious and unconscious, material and spiritual, and so on.
Consequently, the movement between complementary opposites (like material and spiritual realms) manifest in both a universal level –encompassing the reality of all beings, namely, night and day, masculine and feminine, etc., and an individual level –appearing through a unique and authentic pattern of personal configuration, namely, fingerprints, personality, biography, etc.
This holistic approach is not new, it has been recognized for centuries by different cultures and traditions, from metaphysical perspectives to ancient eastern perspectives. An example of this is the Tantric Principle (India) or Yin Yang principle (China); opposites are only complementary aspects of experience, where one part holds in its deeper center the nucleus or seed of its opposite, implying an indissoluble inter-dependency.
Even more, the term “individual” has its etymological roots in the Latin word individuus, meaning “indivisible, inseparable”, or that which cannot be divided due to its inseparable or holistic nature. The same principle holds true for the example of “human being” mentioned previously, where spiritual and material realms of existence form part of a natural and indivisible marriage.
Accordingly, an approach that attempts to fragment human nature is simply failing to acknowledge its whole nature. A comprehensive approach requires the recognition of multiple levels of experience and the complex capacity of the human being to manifest itself in unique ways.
Regarding health and disease, some metaphysical approaches have described specific meanings of ailments to decipher and describe patterns of organization that gestated an imbalance on an emotional, mental and/or spiritual level. This approach states that the cause of a disease lies on a pattern of the mind, as a property of consciousness creating a certain reality. On the contrary, the Germ Theory states that the cause of a disease is held solely on a physical level, hence, its cure must undergo an intervention on this same level, regardless of the others.
However, an interesting middle approach could reconcile both levels of experience. Let’s set up some grounding notions to clear this up for proper understanding. A configuration is an arrangement or disposition of multiple elements conforming a whole. A pattern is a recognizable combination of qualities of a phenomenon, it represents the insight that results from connecting the dots. The property of authenticity is like a spiritual blueprint that brings uniqueness to the dimensions of time and space. In this sense, when either a germ or a mental-emotional constellation (repeated and divided thought/emotion pattern) appears in our system (mind-body-spirit), the quality of that system will determine its capacity for adaptation and its pertaining homeostatic principle. The theory of Disease Resistance is similar to this approach.
The art of healing -or comprehensively treating and understanding the meaning of a disease, implies a recognition of a pattern of configuration in an individual with the purpose of restoring balance or homeostasis. To heal, we need to meet the unconscious cause of an ailment and unfold it through the process of dialogue between opposites –material and spiritual-, while weaving the nuances pertaining to different levels (emotional, mental, etc.). We restore harmony by bringing encompassing consciousness and integrity to our acts. We treat the physical body while we search for meaning, and in this way, just like the immune system, we amplify our memory and awareness evolving towards a more complex level of existence.
Moreover, the physical structure of the body is also a configuration of patterns of the mind-body-spirit system. This means that from the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the human body we can extract its energetic/psychic expression. The Holistic Approach of Health and Disease, created by the Chilean physician Dr. Adriana Schnake, is an example of this integration. This approach derives from Gestalt Theory and Psychotherapy drawing upon numerous universal, ancient and scientific principles to understand the meaning and process of health and disease. By phenomenologically observing the systems of the body and its organs, it is possible to recognize its correspondence with aspects of the personality, by the way they are constituted (anatomical structure) and how they function (physiology).
From this perspective, we can identify the biological-organismic aspects of the personality, understanding that each organ and system has its pertaining qualities of being. When we negate, reject, neglect or struggle with aspects of ourselves, we are actually denying aspects of our material and spiritual reality, thus causing fragmentation, disruptive harmony and originating disease. When we do not acknowledge all the qualities of our being, we are restricting our adaptive capacity to deal with change and uncertainty, hence, impairing our innate ability to respond and endure transformations.
The Holistic Approach of Health and Disease derived from Gestalt Psychotherapy facilitates a dialogue between the person and its organ. Through the role playing of an organ, the person can embody its qualities to discover what are the rejected aspects of that organ and its according aspect of the personality. Phenomenologically, this suggests the following exploratory question: What are the characteristics that are being isolated, negated and fragmented by the individual? By experiencing the organ, the person can come to an insight of the underlying causes of a disease, as he or she learns the harmonic anatomy and function of his/her body-mind. In this sense, this approach, also known as the Gestalt Dialogues with the Body, offers the investigation of the symptom’s voice and its unique message that it waiting to be delivered to the person’s awareness.
An example of this would be a person that when embodying (role playing) a joint (articulation), discovers that she struggles with some aspects of its functions, such as being a mediator between opposite/different parts (a joint articulates a bone and a muscle). This insight can bring tremendous awareness and healing, especially if the person is in the journey of recovering from arthrosis, for instance. What is new about this method and differentiates it from other metaphysical methods, is that it recognizes an individual’s unique psychic (mind-body-spirit) configuration. While it is true that we can recognize patterns for all individuals, such as relating throat ailments with the 5th chakra and its communication aspects, each person has an irreplaceable way of being in the world, a unique biography and quality of experience. This method allows each individual to relate to the original characteristics of their organ in order to notice what aspects need acceptance, and with that, integration.
Integration comes from the creative dialogue between opposites, be it the material and spiritual realms or the multiple nuances that lie in between levels.