The healing power of the human mind: The emotional roots of disease.

In 1995, a large collaborative study involving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego was initiated to study the relationship between the abuse and maltreatment of children, and their health and well-being as adults.  The research was called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and it involved over 17,000 Kaiser Permanente HMO members.  (For more specifics see:

Categories of abuse and household dysfunction during childhood include psychological, physical and sexual abuse, violence against the mother, living with household members who were substance abusers, mentally ill, suicidal, or ever imprisoned.  Over 50 scientific articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as a result of this study.  The site provided, above, links to many excellent articles produced as a result of this research project.

People who were exposed to adverse childhood experiences in these studies had higher risks of psychological, behavioral and even physical illnesses (like ischemic heart disease) later in their lives, compared to people without this kind of childhood exposure.  As the number of adverse experiences increased, so did the risk of adult disease.  Dramatically. This was true even after all known risk factors (like smoking and obesity) were carefully controlled for.  One of the strong implications from these studies is that emotional damage in childhood somehow increases the risk of physical illness later in life.  While these studies do not prove this, it is a distinct possibility that this relationship is causal.

I posted an earlier article about a form of energy psychology called EFT (for Emotional Freedom Technique) that provides an orientation to what EFT is and how it was developed.  If you haven’t read it, you may need to do so now to get full benefit from what follows.  (  When Gary Craig, the developer of EFT, began to treat physical problems with the EFT method, not only did he frequently find that long standing physical problems improved or resolved during EFT, he also found that people sometimes vividly recalled specific childhood traumas that carried with them a lot of negative emotion.  He found that treating those memories with EFT and eliminating their negative emotional charge often eliminated the current pain or limitations that was the focus of the treatment.  He gave these memories with the negative charge the name “core issues.”  He found that a very efficient way to eliminate physical problems was to look for the core issues and remove the associated negative emotions by the EFT strategy.  I have seen this work and thousands of published reports indicate amazing results.  There is no doubt in my mind that it is an effective way to eliminate some very difficult problems.

To me, there is an obvious parallel between what the CDC found in the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and what has been observed by practitioners of EFT.  The ACE research shows the importance of early traumas in the development of disease and thousands of EFT reports from around the world attest to the ability to sometimes eliminate these same problems in adults by returning to the memories of the traumas and neutralizing the emotional charge that apparently maintains the disease process.  The study of the emotional roots of human disease is still in its infancy.  If the work discussed here is any indication, we have much to look forward to in the future as this type of research progresses.


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About Chuck Gebhardt

I am a physician specializing in internal medicine. I sub-specialize in nutritional medicine. I am very interested in all areas of healing research, not necessarily limited to traditional medicine topics.
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10 Responses to The healing power of the human mind: The emotional roots of disease.

  1. Jochen says:

    I’m not sure, Chuck, whether my postings get anywhere near what you hope for, but since this responding space has remained empty for a few days, perhaps it’s all right for me to get in my two cents worth.

    I believe we are on the verge of huge paradigm shifts that will significantly alter our view of the world and ourselves. There seem to be many centers of of political, societal, financial, humanitarian upheaval just about everywhere right now, and many of them look quite bleak, even almost hopeless. But looking more closely as I do in some places, hearing what people say who are actually involved, I’m amazed at how clear many of them are. The feeling I get is of a vast tide of new awareness surging around the globe although on the outside things can look quite chaotic.

    The real joy and satisfaction of providing health care is yet to come, following a paradigm shift that will replace the physical as the center of our attention – particularly of medical attention – with something else that is real while the physical only appears to be real but is, in fact, imagined. Health care will mean to assist people who have fallen into some trap of imagining less than perfect health and well-being, helping them find their way back into more and more enjoyable imaginings of their physical, emotional and spiritual state.

    How can we envision this?

    I am writing in what feels like a state of therapeutic shock after reading today’s Heavenletter #3915, “God’s Diadem” ( ). I’m particularly impressed with the last two paragraphs, so let me quote them here:
    “You have perhaps demanded too much from yourself. You want to be the fairest of all, the smartest of all, the most active of all. The fact of the matter is that you want to be tops in everything! When you fall short, you may feel contempt for yourself that you haven’t lived up to your ideal. What you don’t fathom is that your ideal does not require you to be the belle of the ball or the brightest light or the most anything.

    “At the present time, when you finish one task, you are onto another, and you don’t exactly have mercy on yourself. You, who do not expect enough, are, at the same time, over-demanding, impossible to please, way too hard on yourself. You have exceeded yourself when it comes to demands. You have been a slow learner when it comes to accepting yourself and being glad that you are My beloved as you are.”
    The shock was, of course, in seeing myself portrayed so well, but a moment later there was a vision of the whole world displeased with itself and then of the world pleased with itself. How beautiful the latter! There was an immediate insight that our state (of health, wealth etc.) is a direct expression of the degree of our goodwill toward ourselves. This is not magic and there is no causality at work. Being favorably disposed toward yourself – truly so, not just on the surface – you will be healthy, wealthy and wise and life can only be wonderful.

    Although I have nothing to prove it, I say this without hesitation: In goodwill toward yourself, nothing can be anything but well.

    And that will be the medicine of the future: Assisting people to get back into total agreement with themselves, regardless of whether they feel they have lived up to their ideals or not.

    • Jochen, my good friend,

      Your comments always exceed what I hope for, as do the comments of others. The difficulty, from my point of view, is in facilitating an environment where people feel more comfortable commenting. Comments are always helpful, sometimes immensely so.

      I agree with your observation and/or intuition that we are in the verge of a huge intellectual paradigm shift (which is also a huge shift in our awareness as a species on this planet) We also agree on the immensely valuable insights of so many people who are out there effecting communicating their ideas with others. I am not too sure that they have not always been there and I have just not been as easily aware of these folks since the communication technology was not there yet, or if the availability of increased ease of communication is accelerating the shift and now there are just many more people with great ideas to share. Maybe both.

      As you speculate about how healthcare may be evolving for us in the future, I feel like you are anticipating some of the future articles I will be placing for The healing power of the human mind category on this blog. I do see healing as having at least several levels and we have the ability to tap into our healing at any of these levels. I also see that deeper levels are more efficient and more profoundly healing, yet more superficial levels are ignored at our peril (as when someone develops appendicitis, for example).

      The recent Heavenletter you mention is one I also see as having superb insights. I do think that one aspect of our deepest healing is healing our own self image, as individuals. (for those not acquainted with Heavenletters, and wishing to read this letter, here is the link:, you may want to first read my article on this blog to get an orientation as to what Heavenletters are all about: )

      I also agree that much of the medicine of the future will be about assisting each other in getting to a point of total agreement (I might call it appreciation and comfort) with our individual selves. It could be that our healing is about that already, we just have not yet been able to see well enough to connect the dots as to what we are actually doing when we help each other to heal.

      Thanks for all your wonderful comments, Jochen. Your “two cents” worth are always welcome. This site is for me to communicate to others, but it is just as much about providing others a place to say just what is on their minds.


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  3. Mary O says:


    I will be back with a story for you about my sister-in-law who is beating cancer with her faith. I just need to get some more details first.
    That is if this fits your blog.

    • Mary,

      Such a story fits in with this topic quite nicely. I would love to hear it and I am sure other readers would, too. I am working on an article at the moment about the spontaneous remission of cancer. I hope to have it published this week. I am doing a lot of reading about the topic, so this is delaying its publication.


  4. Mary O says:

    My brother’s wife, Elize lost her mother to breast cancer before she got married. That was about 40 years ago. Initially she went for regular check-ups but at some point she stopped. Then in 2007 when she was in her 50’s she had to have open heart surgery and the doctors discovered a tumour in her one breast. They said that she was lucky because if she did not have the heart surgery they would not have discovered the cancer in time. Soon afterwards she had a masectomy followed by chemo. Shortly before her heart operation she joined her one daughter’s church. When the chemo became unbearable for her she stopped having it. She believed that she was healed even though her youngest daughter pleaded with her not to stop. She recovered and life went on.

    In August 2010 Elize and Bobby went on a cruise to Alaska which cost them next to nothing because their youngest daughter worked on the liner. When they got home Elize had back pain which she thought was caused by the long flight from USA to South Africa. After a few days she went for physiotherapy but there was no improvement. Her daughter told her that the cancer is back. She went for X-rays and scans and the doctor called her daughter and told her that her mother did not have long to live and it was too late for chemo.
    Elize just did not accept what they said. She told her daughter that she beat cancer before and she would do it again. She told her not to worry. The cancer was in her bones, her hips and skull and spine. She said the X-rays showed places where the cushion between the vertebrae was gone. Her cancer markers were 450. They gave her radiation on the spine for 10 days and zometa (I don’t know what that is) to build up her bones. She was told that this would not cure her but would slow down the progress of the disease. Her family were devestated except for the daughter and her husband who prayed for her. I would call her to see how she was and she would always say: “I am fine”. She would not discuss her sickness and although she was in bed most of the time in the first few weeks she was positive. She told me that she “speaks healing over her body”. She would say: “Lord I thank you that with every step I take my muscles are stronger. I am healthy”. She spoke such positive affirmations daily and her faith was unshakable.

    Each month when she went for her check-up the cancer markers were lower. It is now about a year since her diagnosis and last month her cancer markers were 33. She used to have the zometa every month but now only has it every other month. Recent scans show that the cusions between the vertebrae are all normal. She is not taking any other meds except hormone tabs. that she must take for 5 years. Her doctor recently told her: “Mrs Knowles, you are a walking miracle”.

    I think back to last year this time and remember how sad we all were. Her youngest daughter spoke about it being “My Mom’s last Christmas”. And here we are with Christmas around the corner. We are all very thankful that Elize’s faith was so strong and I am inspired by her.


    • Wow, Mary, that is quite a testimonial to the power that a positive attitude has over the workings of our body! I think the evidence is abundantly clear now that our mind has enormous power and the physical world responds to our minds. Unfortunately, my observation is that few in the medical profession have given the available evidence fair consideration at this point in time.

      Just positive affirmations, of themselves, will not work, though. Like Elise does in your example, you must believe in the power of these affirmations for them to possess their power. If you truly believe, the affirmations are the natural response of your mind to these heartfelt beliefs.

      My post from Oct 31, 2011, part of this series, addresses this further in the discussion of the literature describing the spontaneous healing of cancer. This is a beautiful example of a case history that fits the definition of spontaneous remission perfectly, Mary. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

      Much love and many hugs,


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