BODY AND SOUL
I’ve always thought like many that watching the Nollywood make one a complete dumb ass. It turns out this is one of the biggest misconceptions I ever made.
Reminiscing on old-time movies of the 90s. You know? Those scenes where some witch doctor does some tricks and gbam!!! His enemies convulses like a frigging zombies slavering whitish froth. Or when some lover runs haywire after being confronted by the news of the demise of his sweetheart from a fatal automobile accident.
Or yet again, a scene portraying how a high priest plays the village Detective role to get to the root of a crime. He fishes out the culprit through his uncanny ‘unorthodox’ methods. He gives each of the suspects equal portion of a fluid ‘X’ to drink and like abracadabra, the alarm goes off like a crystal-clear halo on the culprits.
Well, for me, those were the glory days of the film industry in Nigeria. The intricate cultural values we held so dear… The sociocultural overview of life in ancient times.
Now we may argue, some of their ways were not logical and visibly explicable. I believe nonetheless they still were equally effective in their own right.
Today’s piece is simply on the ability of your mind to “auto-shutdown” your body. Like OMG! Is this really possible? Well it is and I know why. Read more…
Can you recall any point when you were under an overwhelming emotional stress that caused you to be ill?
Scientists have study how possible it is for people to experience severe physical ailments as a result of a myriad of psychological / emotional issues. For example, shock from a bad news, heart-break, anxiety disorders amongst others. These are serious issues of the heart, if you like – the mind.
Let’s make things a little less complicated here; the brain is the mind, simple and short. The mind tells us what to do. Right?
Now advancements in medical research say the brain is partitioned into the feeling (reptilian) brain and the thinking brain (which qualifies us as Homo sapiens). One actually needs both parts of the brain to be a fully functional human.
Ancient medicine in the world like Traditional African Medicine, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Unani etc. were mostly rooted in the belief that, if there is an imbalance particularly in the emotional brain, a health disorder is most likely to manifest in the visible physical form (body), according to D.T. Okpako, the author of ‘Science interrogating belief’ and a renowned Nigerian Pharmacologist.
As a matter of fact, these forms of ancient medicine dwelled fundamentally on restoring and re-establishing a natural balance in the emotion brain and the rest of the body.
In the field of medicine, the relation between the body and mind is channeled into a specialized study called PSYCHONEUROIMMUNOLOGY (PNI). PNI is the study of the brain’s control of body immunity.
The field expounds on scientific evidence that long bouts of negative emotion of fear, anger, insecurity, grief, hate, depression among others could lower a person’s ability to fight against infections.
Now, don’t you agree that this science indeed echoes the esoteric thoughts of our forefathers on the art of healing?
From their experiences in the ancient times, serious illnesses in an acculturated people (persons culturally indoctrinated) are known to taken their roots in the mind in the form of sustained emotional distress.
The ancients also had their beliefs firmly rooted in three ideologies which helped them predict, explain and prevent the occurrence of serious illnesses:
- That anti-social or immoral conduct made people sick (perhaps this was why people were made to confess their evil deeds in order to receive their ‘salvation’).
- The power of the conscience to trouble the mind of a culturally indoctrinated person as a contributory factor to illness.
- The presence of the supernatural unknown ‘X’ (e.g. Ancestor spirit) whose anger is believed to trigger the illnesses.
I can imagine thinking how can emotional instability cause life-threatening illnesses? Science supplies us with valuable insights. Read on…
One likely explanation is the role of stress.
Stress is a non-specific response to any stimuli that disturbs the general well being of your body.
Negative emotions including boredom, bereavement, hate, bitterness, chronic anxiety, guilt, fear are inclusive in a long list of stressors or stress-causing factors.
In the early 80s, a team of scientists studied a hormone known as the Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). ACTH is hormone released from the anterior pituitary gland in the brain during stress-induced activities.
Briefly, the study investigated the relationship between brain activity (with respect to biological chemicals like hormones, neurotransmitters) and the white blood cells.
Their work showed that the white body cells acted as little extensions of the brain as they can also sense certain stimuli (e.g. Bacteria, virus, and other non-cognitive agents), then signal the brain via chemical pathways (called Lymphokines) common to both the immune and neuro-endocrine system.
The brain in turn releases chemical signals that react with this white blood cells (lymphocytes) in unique ways to modify their function. This in turn causes a change in the immune status of the person experiencing the emotion.
In likewise manner, the cells of the immune system can also respond to the chemicals released from the nervous system (the autonomic nervous system, a part of the peripheral nervous system) during stressful conditions.
The immune cells in extreme cases may even go berserk and undergo a form of reprogramming due to this imbalance, which results in autoimmune disorders like Rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis etc.
Various scientific studies have furthered built on this discovery to demonstrate that the white blood cells (lymphocytes) have receptors for many neurotransmitters from the central and peripheral nervous system.
Now…this scientific theory may not entirely answer all the questions regarding why emotions can affect one’s physical health, particularly the traditional belief in ancestor spirit anger inducing ailments.
D.T. Okpako in his book suggested that the religious angle to this fear in the ancestor spirit anger to cause behavioural changes and illnesses could be said to have served at least two purposes:
- As a shorthand explanation to the occurrence of serious life threatening illnesses where specific causes could not be ascertained.
- As a moral law, as the fear of serious illness or possibly death from angering the ancestor spirits deterred people from anti-social behaviours.
This is also in addition to the fact that the ancients held these sacred beliefs in the absence of centralised law enforcement like the courts, police etc. The role of such traditional beliefs ensured strict adherence to societies’ moral laws which promoted order and cohesion among its members.
By Shobo Adedoyin
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