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Community and Relationships

A discussion of the Foundation Issues of Health and Healing would be incomplete without attention to the importance of the effects of social issues in health and disease.  The community we live in has a great effect on our disease susceptibility. This stems from the ability of our community to maintain public health standards. It also is affected by the belief systems that are dominant in the community. This is self-evident when we observe the culture of violence and drugs that is rampant in our inner cities. The common causes of death and disability are the consequences of the cultural norms that are tolerated by the society and the specific cultural groups that constitute a given community. A less obvious phenomenon that demonstrates this idea is the relationship to cause of death to birth year in certain Asian cultures. It has been observed that individuals born in certain years die from causes that are predicted by the commonly held belief of the culture about the specific health vulnerability related to Astrological Birth Sign. As strange as this sounds it is a phenomena that has been studied by reasonable scientists. There is no scientific explanation for this phenomena other that the power of belief.

The power of commonly held beliefs is precisely the point. The sharing of interest, beliefs and common behaviors is one of the features of community. Participation with a community of people who are interested in supporting each other in improving health is a key factor in maintaining health, preventing disease and improving health status. Going out of your way to cultivate these activities is very important in creating and maintaining optimal health.

Relationship is a word with broad connotation. It is applicable to our interaction with communities. It is applicable to our interpersonal relationships. Thirty years of medical literature and thousands of years of common sense speak to the importance of interpersonal relationships in health and disease.

Individuals who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, which may result from childhood or spousal abuse, have a permanently altered autonomic nervous system. This results in an impaired ability to handle stress, a decreased ability to recover form illness, and a general lack of well being. At least one in 10 women have suffered from childhood physical and sexual abuse. This is probably true for men as well, however, it is not well studied in men. Many Sociologists believe that the cycle of violence in our society stems from this phenomena.

A spouse who loses a significant other is at much greater risk for serious illness and disability in the two years after the loss. A parent who loses a child is at similar risk. The caregiver of an ill relative is at risk to significant health problems. Our relationships affect our health. It is important to attend to the quality of relationships. Relationship can be healing or hurtful. Chronic illness and chronic suffering affect relationships and relationships affect our health.

The integrity of the family is very important to optimal health. Exploring disturbed family relationships and creating an opportunity for the individual to address the adverse effects of such relationships is an important component of treatment in individuals with chronic illness.

“Love’s Hidden Symmetry: what makes love work in relationships” by Hellinger is an interesting exploration of these issues.

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