Shifting Focus Can Keep a Busy Mind from Focusing on Symptoms

November 10, 2011
Dushyant Viswanathan, MD

Getting out of one's mind gets to the root cause of the neurotic conditions.

We have only begun scratching the surface of understanding the complex neurobiology of the human body, and more research will uncover startling discoveries about the human organism. However, there are a group of conditions, that I here call "neurotic" conditions, which perhaps don't require obtuse and complicated explanations. Conditions such as migraine, vertigo, anxiety, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, asthma, eczema, panic disorder, and even certain chronic pain conditions all have earned arcane scientific exploration, even to the point of generation of new pharmaceutical drugs (and making a lot of money for a lot of people). Here I would like to explain that such conditions may be explained and resolved in a far simpler manner.

Civilization has divorced the human species from nature, and human physiology is still adapting to this divorce. We all know that at some level. This separation has led to an overwhelmingly dominant left brain, and left frontal lobe (for more on this topic of split bicamerality, please consider reading Leonard Shlain's “The Alphabet vs. The Goddess”). Consequently, internal processes such as implacable worry, and endless thoughts on stressful issues march on mechanistically, and the emotional responses (sympathetic activation, secretion of inflammatory cytokines, etc.) react to such spiraling thought processes. The physical manifestations of all of this are symptoms.

I know this in my own personal experience and as a result of learning of the experiences of friends, loved ones, and patients. I have experienced and resolved TMJ, asthma, eczema, anxiety, and particular ligament-associated pain, in my own body at various times in my life. There is one fundamental cure to these conditions: getting out of one's mind. That temporary peacefulness that comes from getting out of one's mind actually can cure the symptoms, before the automatic brain turns on again in its neurotic excesses. Getting out of one's mind gets to the root cause of the neurotic condition to begin with. Consequently symptoms resolve. This always works.

How does one get out of one's mind? The easiest thing is to do unselfish acts focused on the suffering of another. As a physician, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to engage in such acts on an hourly basis. Interestingly, it was after particularly emotionally rewarding days in the hospital when I realized that symptoms I was feeling the night before had disappeared.

This happened just last week when I was experiencing exquisite pain upon radial deviation of my left wrist. Initially I had attributed this pain to a hypersupination injury of the wrist while maneuvering along the fretboard of the stringed instrument that I play (clinicians always wonder about trauma as the likely explanation for any focal pain). It became so progressively painful over the next few days, that I couldn't do anything with the wrist.
Then I had a day at the hospital in which I spent 12 hours focused on very complicated patients and their families, and I didn't think about my own problems or myself once during the entire shift. When I arrived home, it eventually dawned on me that my wrist was fine. Today it is fine. The same scenario occurred in mid-2010 when I was assailed by intractable left-sided TMJ. One particularly absorbing day at work completely cured it. Simply changing one's attitude about a source of irritation can work. For example, letting go of irritation and judgments internally harbored against one's spouse or employer or neighbor can also be a method to cure the neurotic symptom.

In India there's a saying: “Controlling the mind is like controlling the wind.” This is true. The mind just goes and never stops. It can't stop by doing anything in particular. But it can stop if you change the paradigm completely - regularly do works of selfless compassion or find something to focus on outside of you, and get out of the neurotic automaton which is yourself.

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