Evolution, Health and the Immune System
Man's unique ability to use language and think logically is a reletively recent addition in evolutionary time. Instinctive drives, emotions, body-language and intuitive thinking co-evolved together with all of our major body systems long before this crucial innovation. All of your major organs and each individual immune cell in your bloodstream have receptors for many chemical messengers, called peptides, which are emitted by the ancient parts of your brain. The whole system has evolved together as an integrated network with strong interactions between your emotions and immunity, blood circulation, digestion, skin and virtually all health-related systems of your body.
Our newly-acquired ability to think in words, use logic and carry out long-term plans. has very limited interaction with the older system because they lack a common language. Intuitive thought in the form of emotions, images and gut feelings is often untranslatable into words. These two systems of thought self-organize into a kind of partnership, much like that of a horse and rider. This partnership can be harmonious and healthy or contentious and unhappy.
We all have a verbal "self" that thinks logically and tries to explain all of our behavior in words. This verbal self is capable of taking charge of our behavior and does so when we use "self-control." Since only the verbal self has the ability to explain our behavior in words, it is easy to forget that it is quite separate from those older, non-verbal parts of the brain that interact so strongly with our physical health. Often our verbal explanations are no more than inaccurate rationalizations based more on observation than actual inside knowledge.
Most of the unhealthy mental habits are logical concepts that deny or resist the feelings from the ancient parts of the brain. Usually well-meaning and often a result of parental training, these habits result in frustration and unhappiness at the feeling level which causes the heart and immune system to function poorly. When deep needs are ignored and frustrated, the result is often a state of hopelessness which can result in a virtual shutdown of the immune system. Often a suicidal impulse also causes a greatly increased chance of accidents.
This "self-destruct" state probably has an evolutionary advantage because it acts to cull the weak and unsuccessful. Just as mating battles and predators improve the breed by culling the weak from the herd in nature, this emotional reaction ensures that only the strong shall survive. Animals that are left behind by the herd soon die of diseases and accidents. Salmon, after breeding, go into a self-destruct state where skyrocketing cortisol levels cause early death from disease, parasites and tumors. Cortisol is the same chemical messenger that rises dramatically in humans in response to stress.
As evolutionary descendents of animals, we also have this emotional self-destruct mechanism. However, because of our unique ability to think logically in words, we can easily form bad mental habits which ignore our basic needs and push ourselves into unhealthy situations through misguided use of self-control. When we do this we are often just following goals that we have been taught are good by our teachers and parents.
One of the important goals of this web site is to identify these unhealthy mental habits and help you to relearn them. We hope to teach your logical self to respect your more ancient needs and feelings and work in harmony with your instinctive side, not in opposition. A lifetime habit of ignoring your own feelings cannot be wiped away with a few words. You must retrain yourself by repeatedly setting up experiences which will re-condition your habitual behavior. Our one-year E-mail program will give you the reminders, but it's up to you to do more than just glance at them. Study them carefully and repeatedly and turn them into life-changing experiences.
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Copyright © 1997 Thomas R. Blakeslee. All rights reserved. Revised: November 23, 2003.