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Symptom and Significance

  Beverley Kane, MD
Copyright © 2004-2022 Beverley Kane
employees were expected to make up for the missing people. Melissa spoke bitterly of how she was
constantly forced to "Produce, produce, produce!" Not surprisingly, inappropriate secretion –
overproduction – of fluid, a common mechanism in diarrhea, was exactly what Melissa's colon was
doing. The symptom was thus a graphic metaphor for Melissa's job. She realized her colon was
asking her to set healthier limits in her career based on her own standards of productivity.
We often use body metaphors in everyday conversation. Disappointments leave us
"heartbroken;" we "can't stomach" an unpleasant situation. Once I asked a patient with chronic neck
pain, "Quick, tell me, who is the biggest pain in the neck?" Without thinking, she said, "My
husband!" Although she was immediately embarrassed to hear herself blurt out such an admission,
she realized that she needed to finally deal with the dark side of her marriage.
Step 4: Dialog With the Body
The previous three steps entailed rational processes. When rationality has been more or less
exhausted, it is time to allow a free play of imagination and intuition. Imagination is the gateway to
the unconscious and the act of imagining is a powerful psychokinetic constructor of physical
One of the most effective ways to stimulate the imagination is by writing out a dialog
between your conscious mind and your body. Imagination is in its freest form when we induce a
slightly altered state with vigorous exercise, a hot bath or sauna, gentle stretching or massage,
meditation, or a little alcohol. Make some quiet time in a room by yourself where you can be
undisturbed for 15 to 30 minutes. Sit in a relaxed position for a few minutes with your eyes closed,
breathing deeply and slowly. 
Begin querying the body. You might wish to ask questions like "Why are you hurting?" and
"What can I do for you?" When the body responds, be a faithful scribe and record the dialog
uncritically. You will be surprised at the images and ideas that seem to arise out of nowhere and
you might soon find yourself caught up in a rapid exchange.
One of my most dramatic cases was a patient I'll call Joel, a psychiatric social worker, who
had developed left pectoralis (chest) muscle tension in college. He underwent biofeedback
treatment and the symptom went away. Ten years later Joel developed a malignant melanoma on
the skin directly over the muscle. Looking back, he realized he had developed the chest pain when
his advisor, an adored professor and mentor, had rejected Joel's Masters thesis. Crushed and
disillusioned, Joel fell into a series of destructive relationships and patterns of low self-esteem. In
dialog with his melanoma, Joel realized that although he seemed to have become a respected
professional, he was still insecure about issues of external approval vs. internal assurances of self
Joel's experience also illustrates how even so-called alternative therapies such as
biofeedback might still leave the consciousness unaware of the dreambody's message.
Step 5: Focus on the Positive
Throughout Jane's illness, Seth stressed the need to recognize and acknowledge each small
improvement. In any given moment, it is possible to identify the harbingers of healing, however
fleeting. Rather than constantly focus on the disease, allow yourself to feel pleased with how well
your body functions on every other level. If your left knee hurts, appreciate the fact that your right
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