The Human Condition

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“Dis-ease” is something that affects us all, in fact, it is part of the human condition. I like to add a hyphen between the s and the e, as I believe this enables the word to be understood and appreciated more accurately and for what it implies; rather than when simply written as “disease.” It is not possible to prevent dis-ease and neither should we. After all, human beings evolve through sickness and health. Both states teach us much.

In our western world we view sickness as bad and something to be avoided at all costs. We do everything we can to eliminate dis-ease. Pain, whether physical, psychological or spiritual is viewed as something to be banished or avoided. The first hint of discomfort sends us hurrying to the doctors looking for a pill to “cure” our “dis-ease.” or “dis-comfort.”

Medicine is at a crossroads today. Pioneering research and developments in neuroscience show us how chemicals inside us form a dynamic information network. linking mind and body. Convincing evidence exists to support that we, as individuals, cause most, if not all, of our own health problems.

In the past fifty years we have polluted our air, water, land and food. The incidents of cancer are rising, in part, because people are living longer and detection rates are improving, but also because most cancers are environmentally caused. We cannot cure cancer, which is a symptom of human decay, without recognising and eliminating its cause – not the pollution itself, but our attitudes towards life that created the pollution. Pollution is not the cause of cancer; it is only the agent of change.

Sadly, so often Mother Earth is taken for granted. Many people live lives cut off from nature. Choosing to drive instead of walking, choosing quick and easy processed food over “real” food. We sit and watch television or play computer games rather than sit in the garden. In many towns and cities the colour green is absent from view; instead we see concrete, cement, hard things. Because we are so distant from nature, we become sick. We need to be mindful and practise awareness if we want to save our world, ourselves and our children. Every time we throw away a plastic bag we know that it is different from a banana peel and that it will take a long time to decompose. Knowing that our action is not in the direction of peace and good health for our planet or ourselves should urge us to think with awareness.

As a body therapist as well as a talking therapist, I am struck by the number of people I see with “psycho-somatic dis-ease.” It has been estimated that 75 per cent of illnesses are psychosomatic, other more liberal estimates suggest up to 95 per cent. I am not for one minute suggesting illness is “all in the mind,” and does not exist in reality. Mostly, symptoms are very real. What I am saying is that illness is very often brought on by the action of the mind (psyche) on the body (soma) or vice versa.

Each one of us carries the potential to contract any dis-ease at any time. It is only certain people. however, who will become ill while others remain well. Good diet and good health habits are but part of the picture. If we look holistically we can see that individuals actually have concious control over and responsibility for their health.

The word “holistic,” comes from the Greek holos, meaning “whole.”  It tells us that an integrated whole has a reality independent of and greater than the sum of its parts. In my opinion, for so many reasons, it is imperative that we learn to cultivate an awareness and understanding of the many aspects, or component parts, that comprise the whole. With regard to our “mental health” it is not sufficient to have a “check up from the neck up,” and neither is it sufficient just to consider the body when we are physically unwell.

If you look back at all the illnesses you have experienced and what was going on in your lives and around you at that time, you will discover that most of your health problems have arisen because of circumstances and many will have served a useful purpose. Often life’s lessons are as a result of illness. The depression that leads us to make the decision to change our career or the frequent stress headache that leads us to evaluate the demands on us. The bad cold that prevents us doing something we did not want to do, or the upset tummy that meant we did not have to give the lecture we were not ready to give.

The physical body is the outward expression of our inner self. It reflects the inner condition through thoughts, feelings, ideas and emotions. The inner (subconscious) self communicates to the outer (conscious) self through health, sickness, pain and so on. We just need to learn the language of the inner self and listen to what it is saying. So often, physical illness can be viewed as a metaphor for underling issues. For example, back pain may indicate issues relating to support or burden. A sore throat may be related to issues of communication, perhaps the holding back of something needing to be said. I am not implying that we should disregard physical symptoms as medical issues, what I am saying, is that illness should be considered holistically from a physical to a spiritual dimension.

Health is a dynamic process. By searching within ourselves we will find the real causes of our dis-ease. Sickness can be a positive manifestation and is so often a valuable vehicle heralding growth and personal development. Looking at “dis-ease” from an expansive holistic perspective is the “cutting edge” of healing, not the sole preserve of hippies. Next time you get a headache, ask yourself what it is telling you and what you need to learn from it.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist


Caldwell, C. (1997). Getting in touch; The Guide To Body-Centred Therapies. Quest Books.

Hanh, T. N. (1991) Peace is every step; The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Rider.

Jackson, R. (1980) Massage Therapy: The Holistic Way To Physical And Mental Health. Thorsons Publishers 

Pert, C. B. (1997). Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel The Way You Feel. Pocket Books.

Tolle, E.(2009). A New Earth; Create A Better Life. Penguin Books.

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