Finding your own song or "way" correlates with health.

In the book, Cancer as a Turning Point, research psychologist Lawrence LeShan describes how he pioneered the application of psychotherapy to working with advanced metastatic cancer patients, with the goal of improving longevity. In his lengthy career he consistently observed that those who went into remission were those who had learned to sing their own song in life. 

Nice, Polite Patients Die Sooner 

Cancer patients with the longest survival times are those who authentically express their true feelings of anger, fear, pain, and distress. Those with the shortest survival times are the unassertive ones—the ones, incidentally, whom nurses and doctors like the most. The nice, so-called “compliant” patients are usually labeled by medical staff as “well adjusted,” when in fact they have a problem expressing their authentic emotions and are too unassertive to request what they need or to say “no” to what they don’t want, and this “nice patient” mentality results in worse health outcomes. Considerable research reveals that cancer patients, as well as people with other illnesses, who are unable to identify and express their authentic emotions have higher rates of morbidity and mortality. Cancer patients who respond to their diagnosis stoically, or who respond with fatalistic hopelessness and helplessness, have the shortest survival times. These stoic patients are generally completely out of touch with their authentic feelings; hence, when they do express themselves, it is not authentic. For example, venting or raging is a defense to cover up authentic, more vulnerable feelings. Expressing to others the fear or hurt feelings that often lie beneath the venting or other smoke screen leads to greater self-acceptance and environmental mastery. Being a nice, easy, docile patient is another form of smoke screen—serving to prevent the expression of anger or other feelings that the patient was brought up to believe were unacceptable to express or even to acknowledge.

4 replies
  1. Bob says:

    Hi Larry, I hope all is well with you. I just wanted to say I am excited about you reading both of my “Emotional Core Therapy” books. I look forward to hearing from you later this month when you have had a chance to digest the information. Sincerely,Bob Moylan. 630-788-1100

  2. Lou Colaneri says:

    Powerful knowledge in this posting Larry. The question I have for you is this: How many people are capable of authentic self-expression? Attaining the latter seems to me to be a challenge for many people, especially men of a certain age who were raised in a culture that taught them what was acceptable and unacceptable ways of expressing oneself.

    Speaking personally, a big challenge I face is actually identifying what is the underlying truth for me. I certainly can be numbered among those for whom “venting or raging is a defense to cover up” what are the underlying, vulnerable feelings.

    I wonder, Larry, if one who is not of high enough consciousness and therefore not capable of authentic self expression – is that person doomed to be counted among those who have the shortest rates of survival?

    • Larry Berkelhammer says:

      Authentic self-expression is a practice. The idea is to be “on the path” of self-acceptance and authenticity, rather than to try to achieve a final goal. Set an intention to “practice” allowing yourself to fully experience your thoughts, sensations, and emotions. The fact that you are able to describe how you defend against underlying, vulnerable feelings means that you have a high level of self-awareness and are already on the path. The research is very clear that both men and (post-menopausal) women who live with hostility develop and succumb to cardiovascular (cv) disease at much higher rates than those who rarely experience hostility. Other people defend against their authentic feelings by taking on a weak, victim mentality; they too succumb to disease at higher rates, but they are more likely to develop cancer rather than cv disease. However, no personality style or characteristic causes any disease; our personality styles simply increase the odds of developing diseases to which we already have a genetic or epigenetic predisposition.

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