This IS rocket science! Not hard to understand once you let your brain take it in, but no doubt right up there with rocket science. Imagine – your auto immune system applied to your mind and your thinking. The way you automatically respond to the world around you. Your Auto Response Psychology. Imagine having an allergic reaction to a word, or the way a person looks at you, or the thought of betrayal. Imagine that the short term irritation you feel on the inside when a person jumps the queue is just as real on the inside as the comparatively short term irritation on the outside when you’re bitten by a mosquito.
This is about ‘allergic’ reactions, similar to things like nuts or pollen but to the hidden stuff, the stuff of your mind and thoughts: a child misbehaving or being rude in the store, the sense of feeling trapped, and out of control. Whether it is inside or outside makes not that much difference. You’re human, and humans have allergies, and an allergy is an auto immune reaction.
Several years ago I went to give blood at the local transfusion service. These are voluntary, good-natured occasions, and as usual I joked with the nurse who asked me if I was allergic to anything. I produced my stock light-hearted answer, “Just two things.” She looked up expectantly. “Pain and rejection,” I said smiling. “I handle both badly!” Instead of laughing as most people do, she burst into tears. Maybe she was allergic to them as well.
These days most psychologists would accept that your mind is part of your physical body, and that what happens in one part affects the others. We’d like to take that a step further and say that the actions of your immune system and your psychological auto-response system, and even the language we use to describe how they work, show just how closely they are linked.
In English we use the same references: Haemotologists use the name Natural Killer cells and Helper cells to describe two of the many sorts of white blood cells (or leucocytes) that march round your blood system looking for invaders, tagging them and destroying them. We say that a person’s language was ‘inflammatory’ and a damaged patch of skin was suffering ‘inflammation’. We know that both you and your psychology use physical barriers to protect you from others. (Clothes are both a physical protection and a psychological one.) We describe particular physical illnesses as dis-ease, and a particular state of mind as un-easy. Not much different there either! In Powerchange we remind ourselves that our unconscious Auto Responses are there to make sure we are emotionally safe, whilst reminding ourselves that the purpose of an Immune System is to provide both a passive and active biological protection system round us.
Ever heard someone say “That’s just not ‘me!'”? Your body’s immune system, like your mind’s Auto Response System, needs to know very clearly what IS ‘Me’ and what is NOT ‘Me’ in order to screen viruses and other unwelcome visitors attempting to enter and damage you. It cleverly ‘tags’ which is which and orders a round up of all the invaders. In psychology we call that ‘a clear sense of self’. Without it your immune system breaks down and starts attacking itself, and your psychological wellbeing deteriorates.
And sadly, even though your body and mind are stunningly clever, both your defence systems make mistakes from time to time and attack the ‘wrong’ things. So what happens when that happens? We call that process ‘auto-immune disease’ in the medical world, and it has many different forms. In Auto Response Psychology we call it generically ‘psychological damage’ and it results in various levels of emotional ill-health, not least dis-ease.
I’ll explore this more in a later post.