By Shelli Stanger Nelson
Dying of a broken heart is an actual, documented phenomenon in the scientific literature. We are all aware of the pandemic of coronary heart disease that sweeps the Western world. As a cardiovascular nurse clinician and educator for the past 24 years, I am acutely aware that, despite gallant efforts, people are still dying from heart attacks daily. Heart problems are not limited to the popular chest-clutching heart attack pain. As drugs and procedures have improved, so has the sophistication of heart problems. While we help people to survive heart events, we now are showered with a host of people living with heart conditions, which, in the past, would have ended tragically. In May, the Mastery Studies students at the Academy will be hearing lectures and learning bio-energy techniques that can promote heart health with specificity to the presenting heart ailment utilizing the structures and functions of the Human Bio-energy System (HBS).
But what of the emotional traumas which may impact heart health? Some time ago I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. James Lynch, PhD lecture on the topic of the medical impact of loneliness. Lynch, a psychologist, researcher and author is considered a pioneer on the topic of the health implications of loneliness and social isolation. Lynch has authored three books on the subject; “The Broken Heart: The Medical Consequences of loneliness (1976), The Language of the Heart: The Human Body in Dialogue (1985) and A Cry Unheard: New insights into the Medical Consequences of Loneliness (2000).
Lynch made his discoveries as a bi-product of research he was doing in the 1960’s at Johns Hopkins University. The researchers were attempting to create elevated blood pressures in dogs in order to develop medications to treat hypertension in humans. By accident he discovered that interactions with humans, namely petting the dogs, dropped the blood pressure in the animal by 50%.
From there he went on to ask the question; ‘If humans can affect the cardiovascular system of animals, can humans affect humans in similar ways?’
What was found was that even the most transient episodes of human touch to another person positively impacted blood pressure and heart rate. Even when a nurse touched a patient’s wrist to take a pulse, the cardiovascular system responded in a favorable manner.
From here the question was asked, “If these temporary periods of contact had such a positive impact on the human heart, how does the absence of contact and isolation over time affect the health of the human cardiovascular system?’
In the early research something very interesting was discovered; when people speak, blood pressure rises-across the board-and nothing brings it down. The only outlier to this was in the presence of schizophrenia. It is a normal part of physiology that talking produces a stress-response in the body. Of course, the topic one speaks about has a direct correlate to the degree of rise in blood pressure. But more than this, what the research also revealed was that when people listen, blood pressure falls. But even beyond these factors, what Lynch found was that when someone was “listened to” or “heard”, blood pressure fell the very most.
The end-result is that Lynch and his colleagues proved through clinical research over an extended period of time that communication from the body-meaning face-to-face interactions, signifigantly decreased risk factors for coronary artery disease. These factors include things such as high blood pressure, vascular spasm, and stress. Stress is the major player in promoting elevated cholesterol as well as increasing blood sugar, which requires the hormone insulin to be released. Increased insulin levels, in turn, increases tummy fat and ultimately what we see here is what is known as “metabolic syndrome”-one of the highest predictors of heart disease.
As a bio-energy practitioner, and one who operates a school of healing that has a focus on relationship health, Lynch’s findings are validating and inspiring. Everything is about relationship; our relationship to other, to the self and to the universe. To trivialize this pivotal element of health is woefully naive and myopic. We must learn how to build and maintain healthy inter-dependent, right-relationships with each of these entities. Right-relationships are ones based on respect, mutual benefit and compassionate reflection.
There is no disagreement that this type of relationship is an important aspect of mental health. And Dr. Lynch’s research is but one demonstration of how connection to self, other and God is also a determining factor in the health of the physical heart. Without these relationships we fall into patterns of social isolation and loneliness. It becomes important for those people who tend to avoid speaking, perhaps based on fear of being embarrassed or wrong or even being visible to others, to unravel the limiting beliefs that silence the tongue. Further, it is apparent that revealing the obsessive need to talk while being seemingly unable to listen is equally important. If no one speaks, no one is heard and if no one listens we end up in the same silent cavern. Ultimately, according to Lynch, we are then doomed toward an existence of social isolation which means, amongst other problems, a broken heart.
In closing, it is valuable to note that Lynch specifically speaks of communication from the body, not from outside of the body. His research validates another emerging hypothesis in that the benefits of communication are obliterated when the communication takes place over technology; texting, internet and even the telephone. With the dawning age of a generation who has learned primary communication not face-to-face, but rather through electronic devices, we ought to concern ourselves with the possibility that the human species may lose an essential element in human relationship-the art of being together. As bio-energy practitioners, we can draw some valid conclusions that the communication exchanged between the bio-energy field, energetic relationship cords and energetic signals may be the mechanism of transfer inherent in communication that translates into the most beneficial outcomes to one’s global health.
In the circle of connected communication we see prosperity in all phases of communication; in order to listen, someone needs to speak. And when a person is heard, the heart rejoices.