It’s a rather slow news day, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you…
Our “Emotional Immune System”
It was a real “ah ha” moment for me when I first had this idea of an “emotional immune system”. I had never heard the term before, and yet it seemed to explain so much for me. I did a “bing” search after my initial use of the term on one of my blogs and I did find a few references, but really nothing extensive about this concept. Which has lead me to this moment of “jotting down” my thoughts about this.
It is recognized that we are all born with different physical immune systems. Our unique immune system may or may not respond to a given allergens. One person is allergic to sage brush, another reacts to shell fish and yet another can’t eat anything with nuts in it. We are all very aware of this, to the extent that we label our food and put emergency information on dog-tags and bracelets.
Some people get ill more easily and it is said that they have a weak or lowered immune system. Some people don’t get as sick or seem to recover more quickly. They are said to have a stronger immune system.
And then there are Autoimmune diseases which arise from an overactive immune response. This results in the body actually attacks its own cells. Type 1 Diabetes is actually an example of this.
Though our immune system is genetic, it can also be affected by environmental, and some believe, emotional “exposure” such as stress, which may compromise your immune system.
Additionally, in recent years we have come to understand the constant or extreme exposure to certain things (stress, pollutants, mold, toxins) can overwhelm our immune system, and cause it to shut down causing almost “everything” to be an allergen, resulting in life threatening illness.
So, we recognize that we are born with a certain immune system that is unique to us and that there are many things that can affect how it operates.
As with the physical immune system, we all respond to things differently. We become more or less sad, happy, depressed, etc. by the events in our life. This would be similar to an allergic reaction.
Some of us have a weak or lowered emotional immune system, crying or getting our feelings hurt more easily. We may be more susceptible when we are tired or hungry or not feeling physically well.
The Autoimmune comparison would perhaps be mental illness, where the emotional immune system no longer deals with reality, but rather turns on itself, imagining that the world is a dangerous place and taking charge to protect itself.
And lastly, an emotional immune system that is constantly under attack will be overwhelmed. At this point “everything” is a potential threat and again, mental illness is the potential result.
This all makes perfect sense to me. It explains why even children raised in the same family do not respond to life in the same way.
We would certainly not compare one child’s physical health (immune system) to his siblings, as if it was the child’s fault that he got sick more often. So can we compare the emotional health (immune system)? Some of us are born with a weaker emotional immune system and are therefore more likely to laugh, cry, be afraid, become depressed, etc. than others. It would explain why some bounce back from feelings of sadness, grief or depression; it is a stronger emotional immune system. Obviously this is not meant to be an excuse for anyone’s behavior, failures or successes, but rather as a way of understanding that as in physical health (immune system) and abilities, our emotional health (immune system) is part of who we are, and though there are things we can do to strengthen ourselves, ultimately how we respond emotionally is partially something you were born with and partially a sum of your life experiences.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this…