IMAGINE Magazine Autumn 2015 Volume 1 Number 1 - Page 9

Forgiveness is like an apple a day… By Lori Rubenstein T raditional Western medicine treats symptoms. If we are depressed, we take a pill. If we are having panic attacks, we take another pill. If we have aches and pains, we get pain relievers or muscle relaxants. The truth is that stress causes many of our health problems. At the same time, we have to remember that when we talk about stress as a negative symptom, short bursts of stress can be extremely helpful and useful as a motivator to get things done, and therefore can be regarded as positive. So what causes the negative stress that is not good for our health? Some obvious examples are feeling threatened, fearful, or being under pressure. However, a significant cause of long-term stress is living with persistent thoughts and feelings of frustration, anger, guilt, hurt, or resentment. These feelings may be so pervasive that we regard them as a normal and immutable part of our lives. But holding onto these feelings, not being able to let go, release, or feel compassion for ourselves or another, may create adverse reactions in our bodies that can result in dis-ease. So, yes, it’s true: long-term lack of forgiveness causes long-term stress which can turn into chronic illness. There are many studies over the past 10 years that support this conclusion. For example, Stanford University Center for Research in Disease Prevention found the following: “when you hold onto bitterness for years, it stops you from living life fully. As it turns out, it wears out your immune system and hurts your heart.” What happens when we are negatively stressed out is that the brain tells the adrenals to release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a natural pain reliever. It reduces inflammation so it feels good, at first. This is often referred to as the “fight or flight” hormone. When your body releases cortisol, you are in a state of heightened alert, which is helpful when you are in trouble. However, it is harmful when it is released over a prolonged period of time. When your body is in “fight or flight” mode, your immune system literally shuts down! For example, Don Colbert, in his book, Deadly Emotions, says that when chronic anger is present, the body has a steady drip of the hormone cortisol. This excessive presence of cortisol can cause the immune system to