Is there such a thing as a cancer personality?
Are there different cancer personalities for different types of cancer? Although many researchers have examined these questions, no definable categories of personality types have ever been found that conform to the different cancers. The connecting factor however, is highly likely to be the intense emotional suffering that comes from feeling total loss of control accompanied by a personal decision to resign oneself to defeat. Most people who develop cancer are ‘good’ people, generally thought by others to be fine, gentle and uncomplaining.
Since Galen wrote in the second century AD, that cancer accompanies melancholic personalities, others have looked for a connection between personality and cancer. In 1983, Steven Locke and Mady Hornig-Rohan published a book called ‘Mind and Immunity: Behavioral Immunology, dealing with the relationships between mind and immunity’. They suggested that there has been sufficient evidence to link cancer with personality factors such as depression and an outlook of helplessness/hopelessness. In studies of breast cancer for example, there has been a tentative link to sadness due to the loss of an intimate relationship shortly before the diagnosis, combined with a feeling of hopelessness reflecting to a similar loss or rejection experienced in childhood.
The most common cancer-personality factors that researchers agree upon are those associated with holding resentment, having difficulty in forgiving others, self-pity, a poor ability to develop and maintain long-term relationships, a poor self-image, feelings of rejection, and loneliness-hopelessness stemming from the perceived lack of a connection and security during childhood. These characteristics when combined with the mind states reflecting loss and depression, seem to increase vulnerability to developing cancer.
People with multiple personalities have always created interest because of their abilities to dramatically switch behavioural characteristics such as facial language, speech mannerisms, handwriting, physical skills, phobias, memories, different brainwave patterns, different handedness and sometimes different illnesses. Clinical hypnotherapists know they can similarly change physiological characteristics through suggestion, and since the therapist is only using suggestion to elicit these changes, this is compelling evidence that we have more conscious control over our physiology than doctors would have us believe.
Cancer cells are continually forming in every person’s body throughout their lives and an efficient immune system removes them as fast as they develop. When the immune system is weakened, the chances of a cancer mass forming is increased. One understanding of how immunologic defences are weakened, is through hormonal and endocrine changes that accompany depression, repressed hostility, and feelings of helplessness.
Other factors influencing cancer and predisposing to cancer include lack of sleep quality, toxic defence chemicals in vegetables, superantigen pathogens such as EBV, lack of exercises, chemical poisons, inappropriate vaccinations, poor nutrition, damaging environmental influences and genetic predispositions. But regardless of whether or not stress causes cancer, there is general agreement that the body’s ability to fight cancer is hindered by stress—the body’s immune defences are compromised by stress.
For a cancer patient, there are combined stresses to deal with. There is the stress which predated the cancer. There is the stress of having cancer and dealing with the threat to self-identify and personal security, and there is the stress of treatments that can be uncomfortable, frightening, and depleting.
Fortunately, we humans are great learners. With coaching we can change who we are and how we respond to stresses in our lives. This is what yoga has been teaching for thousands of years. By learning how to regulate our emotional responses to specific life situations, we can gradually evolve our character traits to deal more effectively with these, and feel a sense of momentum and exhilaration rather than worry and despair.
The idea that we can assume responsibility for the course of our illness suggests to some people, that those diagnosed with cancer are being accused of causing their cancer. No one chooses to have cancer or causes their body to become cancerous in any deliberate way. However the way our bodies unconsciously respond to the focus and meanings we ascribe to our situations in life can be a powerful contributing factor. Once you realise this, you are fast approaching a position of authority to be able to change your health through your force of mind.
There have been studies to determine the character traits of those who survive cancer. In general the findings suggest that these people refuse to give up, rate higher than average in nonconformity and personal determination, and change their sense of self either through meditation, prayer, or their own spiritual insight. They are the ones who make interpersonal decisions to change how they relate to others, how they care for, and felt about their physical bodies. Every one, without exception, looked upon their recovery not as a gift or a miracle, and not as a spontaneous remission, but as a long, hard struggle that they had won!
The circumstances surrounding remissions for cancer are as varied as you can imagine, from religious sojourns to nutritional approaches, to changes in diet, fasting, specific exercises, medicines, and lifestyle changes. The common factor with all cases of remission is linked to connecting with themselves through emotional self-regulation, embracing self-responsibility by deciding to change their attitude/meanings to specific life situations, elevating hope, applying personal effort and determination, and striving for other higher purpose character traits.
The power of belief and expectation has never been more amazingly illustrated than in the famous case of a male with terminal lymphosarcoma who came to believe in a cancer cure known as Krebiozen. This is a true story about a ‘Mr. Wright’ lingering near death after exhausting every possible medical treatment. He was almost permanently on oxygen and fluid was daily being drained from his chest so he could breathe. Although told that his disease was terminal he had formed a belief that a cure by medical science was imminent.
He found out about Krebiozen, and the hospital where he lay dying had decided to test it. Because of his immediate terminal condition he wasn’t eligible to be included in the research but with effort convinced his doctor to include him. Four days after the first injection of Krebiozen was given to him he was moving around the ward, showing patients and staff alike how much he had recovered because of this new drug. By this time his tumour masses were less than half their original size. Other patients who had been given the Krebiozen treatment had not responded at all to the treatment. Within the next few weeks the man regained normal health, left the hospital, and resumed his normal life. Months went by with normal health.
His belief in the effectiveness of the treatment was beginning to be challenged as hospital after hospital began to report no significant changes using this treatment. He began to question what had really happened to his cancer, lost his belief in the treatment, became miserable and resigned to his fate. His body returned to its terminal state. His doctor, intrigued at this turn of events decided to test the placebo effect, told the man that a new discovery had given new hope to the efficiency of Krebiozen. He suggested that the treatment had been having little success because it was now known that it had a very short shelf life, and most of what had been used, had denatured. He said that he had a fresh batch of Krebiozen which he wanted to try again. The man’s faith in the treatment was restored. The doctor decided to simply give him a water solution to see if the placebo was really working, and within a short time after this water treatment, his tumours melted. He regained normal health for several more months until the American Medical Association announced that Krebiozen treatment was worthless as a treatment for cancer. He readmitted to the hospital and soon after died.
How do we explain these two spontaneous remissions except by acknowledging that the mind has authority to influence physical changes of state in the body when clear direction, belief and strategy line up to achieve a desired goal. This is the placebo effect—the mental ability to regulate self through connecting with self for a determined outcome. Another example is ‘Pointing the Bone’. This psychosomatic response is well documented as a real response in traditional aboriginal believers.
If a psychosomatic response or placebo is really an emotional experience that influences biochemical responses, it should be used as an important therapeutic tool for a patient’s belief in the healing power of the physician. Practicing defensive medicine nullifies any placebo affect and in fact destroys any mind authority that may assist the patient.
Part of illness is a response to a life challenge and a life-threatening illness such as cancer reflects a perceived or imagined inadequacy in the character of the sufferer. Something internal needs to be dealt with to improve the quality of survival of the patient into their future. Faced with a diagnosis of cancer, people react in different ways. Some people resign themselves the moment the cancer diagnosis is pronounced. Cancer becomes the central focus of their lives. Their self-image incorporates dying, and they act out this role to the finish. On the other hand, some patients shift into gear with a purpose of getting well at any cost.
Some people do indeed want the doctor to cure them while they take on the roles of passive recipients of their treatment. To a large extent, our medical system fosters this, by pressuring the patient to take a passive role, follow instructions and be compliant. It engenders an expectation that the patient will be cured if they totally conform to the procedure based on operations, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and possibly biotherapy. Doctors are discouraged from tapping the self-healing potential of their patients.
The psychological effect of a diagnosis of cancer drives some people to identify with death, which then becomes the organizing focus of their lives. Others change their focus and address deficiencies in their personality traits for coping with life. They embrace the moments of their life as precious, reconstruct their priorities and relationships, and develop the real feelings of love for themselves. We all have the power of choice.
Imagine being able to prevent cancer by building an anticancer personality—one that allows you to be anywhere at anytime, with any person, gathering your experiences, whether you wanted this or not, and feel love and joy for yourself and others, while you grow with confidence and freedom, enveloped by the belief that your life is compelling and ideal for you.
Bill Giles conducts 10 week workshops on developing higher purpose character (personality) traits.