Ms. Hay asserts that disease is caused by mental thought patterns-particularly patterns of criticism, anger, resentment, and guilt. In her book, Heal Your Body, she talks about different diseases and the mental patterns associated with them. When she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, she put her money where her mouth was, and embarked on a regiment of therapy, (as well as nutrition and reflexology), working through her own resentments over being raped when she was 5 years old. She says she rid herself of the cancer.
Holistic healer Poorvi Mittal writes that while running a small homeopathic practice, she treated many people suffering from various types of cancer, and found that what they all had in common was tremendous anger and resentment. “The body, like everything else in life,” she says, “is a mirror of our inner thoughts-it is always talking to us. We must listen to it.”
In a presentation made to the Q.E. Hospital Birmingham U.K. oncology nurses, James Middleton said, “Cancer patients often have unresolved resentments…We experience stress not only when we go through the experience which created the resentment, but we re-experience it each time we recall the event, or experience a similar event. This locked-in or long-term stress and tension can produce inhibition of the body’s natural defenses.”
Are there any studies supporting these ideas? Researchers at Stanford University showed that women who repressed their emotions were more likely to show disruptions in stress hormones-disruptions that predicted early death in women with breast cancer in earlier studies. The Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that extreme suppression of anger was the most common characteristic among 160 breast cancer patients. (Resentment is often described as a form of anger.) And recent studies at the Public Health Institute in California confirm that hostility and resentment tear down the immune system and increase risk of heart attack, cancer, and diabetes.
“So many diseases, like heart disease and cancer, can be triggered by unresolved resentment,” writes Lori Radun, CEC and certified life coach. “By choosing to forgive, you can dramatically improve your emotional and physical health.”
Indeed, it seems forgiveness is the solution to resentment. A new study from Duke University Medical Center showed that among people with chronic back pain, those who had forgiven others had lower levels of pain than those who hadn’t forgiven. According to Dr. Everett Worthington Jr., psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, “Chronic unforgiveness causes stress. Every time people think of their transgressor, their body responds. Now, if you can forgive, that can actually strengthen your immune system.”
If you feel you may be holding on to some resentment and want to let it go, try the following steps. You can also try the “Resentment Release Worksheet” provided at growbeyondcancer.com.
1. Recognize that forgiveness doesn’t deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you. Rather, it’s a way to help you feel better, and to safeguard your own health and peace of mind.
2. Face and release the anger that you feel. Talk about it with trusted people, spend time journaling, and or pray about it.
3. Write a letter to your perpetrator. Pour out every emotion you feel. Tell her everything she did to hurt you and make you angry. Don’t hold anything back. When you’re done, burn or bury the letter as a symbol that you are ready to move on. Do not give the letter to the person.
4. Make a choice to forgive, and see if you can reconnect to the love in your heart. Realize that everyone makes mistakes, and try to find understanding for why the person did what he did.
5. Try to look for anything good in your experience. Did it make you stronger? Increase your resilience? Expand your understanding?
Have you been able to forgive someone who wronged you, and let go of a long-standing resentment? Please share your story.
Photo courtesy insk0r via Flickr.com.