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(Transcript is as originally printed and published, intact, without correction of grammar, spelling, typos, etc.)
MISCELLANY VERMONT FREEMAN WEEKEND DECEMBER 19-22, 1969
Cancer, Disease and Society by Bernard Sanders
Is it possible to disassociate civilization and the way we live from the causation of disease? Can disease be understood solely by looking into test tubes and microscopic slides, while ignoring the emotional lives of the people who succumb to them? Is disease just a tumor, or an ulcer, or a headache, or are those merely and manifestations of a persons whole state of being? And if this is true, can a lasting cure be brought about by dealing with the symptoms alone, while leaving the basic cause untouched? Why is it that A comes down with a disease and not B? Does a germ “just happen to hit A and not B, or are there deeper reasons than a chance as to why some people are able to resist disease and remain healthy, while others fall sick?
And, related to the above. and, most importantly, how will the future battle against disease be fought? Will drugs and surgery continue to be used against symptoms, or will society, and the way we live, undergo radical change so that the human organism can flourish on this planet. In short, will society be changed so as to fit the needs of the human organism, or will the human organism continue to be adapted, molded and crushed to fit into basically insane and disease provoking patterns.
The following paper deals with the problem of cancer. In 1952 a study entitled “A Psychosomatic Survey of Cancer of the Breast” was published in the medical journal, Psychosomatic Medicine. The authors. three Chicago physicians , were Drs. Bacon. Renneker, and Cutler. Their study attempted to determine whether or not it was possible to observe some characterological patterns in patients who had developed breast cancer. In other words, did women who developed breast cancer have certain similar traits which might lead one to see a connection between emotional health and cancer.
The study states; “Thirty-nine of the group (out of the 40 women who were studied) received no sexual information from their parents. Thirty-three of the group were virgins prior to marriage; 5 unmarried members of the group remain virgins. Twenty-five have never experienced orgasm, did not enjoy intercourse, and considered it a distasteful, wifely duty. The 5 virgins are not included among these 25. Only 5 women were freely capable of orgasm; 5 more experienced rare to occasional orgasm. It is interesting to note that the ages of the sexually adjusted patients were 68, 67, 67, 59 and 41; whereas those of the partially adjusted group were 54, 55, 55, 57, and 61. This means that of the 14 patients 51 or more years old, 9 had some degree of orgasmic ability, whereas OF THE 26 PATIENTS BELOW 51, ONE WAS SEXUALLY ADJUSTED.”
The authors concluded their study by citing 6 characteristics which they feel were shared by the patients:
01) A masochistic character structure. (The patients will to live appeared not very strong. Many of them delayed going for treatment despite the fact that they had noticed lumps on their breasts and were aware of what they could mean).
02) Inhibited sexuality – (as discussed above).
0 3) Inhibited motherhood
0-4 The inability to discharge or deal appropriately with anger, aggression, or hostility, covered over by a facade of pleasantness.
05) The unresolved hostile conflict with the mother, handled through denial and unrealistic sacrifice.
.6) Delay in securing treatment.
In another article in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 16 (1954), P287. entitled “Life Stress and Cancer of the Cervix,” it is stated that “sexual adjustment seemed to be very poor in those with cancer of the cervix were found to have a lower incidence of orgasm during sexual intercourse than patients in the control groups. Dislike for sexual intercourse, amounting to actual aversion for the act, occurred far more frequently in the patients with cancer of the cervix than in patients with cancer of other sites.”
In a book entitled “The Psychological Variables in Human Cancer”, by Gingerelli and Kirkner, an interesting study is discussed. Two researchers, stationed in the cancer section of a hospital attempted to discover whether “there was a relationship between psychological factors and the growth of cancer” Thy concluded that, in fact there was such a relationship.
“Characteristic of the fast cases are greater defensiveness, more anxiety, and less ability to release tension through motor discharge, either verbal or physical when compared to the slow cases”. They also state that the “Patients with rapid growth were more inhibited in outward expression.”
In a book entitled “A Psychological Approach to Cancer”, by Jacob S. List, the author quotes Dr. James Jacobs to the effect that “the more the appearance of ‘goodness’ because of the inability to discharge these (hostile) impulses, the shorter the life span of the cancer patient”.
The author quotes another physician, Dr. Byron Butler, that the cancer personality “represses hate, anger, dissatisfaction, and grudges, or on the other hand, is a very ‘good’ person. who is consumed with self-pity and suffers in stoic silence.”
A three day conference sponsored by the New York Academy of Science on the Psycho-Physiological Aspects of Cancer was covered by the New York Times of May 23. 1968. Dr. Clauss Bahnson reported a study of 200 lung cancer patients with 200 patients suffering from other disorders. “The results indicated that the cancer patients were less emotionally reactive and lacking in outlets for emotional release.”
The Times also reports of the conference that; “several studies, among hundreds of cancer patients, were conducted by a University of Rochester medical team. These studies indicated that most of the patients contracted the disease when they were reacting to a loss or separation, with inner feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
A study by a New York psychologist, Lawrence LeShan is also mentioned. LeShan studied 500 cancer patients concluded that “the cancer patients were characterized by early loss bringing pain and feelings of desertion, loneliness, and often guilt and self-condemnation.”
Dr. Bahnson was quoted by the Times as stating that; “In the cancer patients’ background were parents and particularly mothers. who were “there” physically but not emotionally. As a result, the children learned to deny their emotions rather than to discharge them.”
In a book published in 1948 by Dr. Wilhelm Reich entitled “The Cancer Biopathy”, Reich is very definite about the link between emotionally and sexual health, and cancer. Although many of the following references deal with cancer in women. Reich felt that exactly similar processes took place in men.
He states that; “Up to now, the connection between disturbances in discharge of sexual energy and cancer have not been investigated.. Experienced gynecologists are aware that such a connection exists. Respiratory disturbances and muscular spasms are the immediate result of a fear of sexual excitation (orgastic impotence). Organs with poor respiration, organs which are spastic and insufficiently charged, are biologically weakened, thus, they are highly susceptible to cancer-producing stimuli, whatever they may be. On the other hand, organs which function biologically normally are not affected by these same stimuli. This is a necessary and logical assumption.”
“These clinically well-established facts deficient biological charge, muscular spasm and deficient external and internal respiration, give the concept of ‘cancer disposition’ a tangible context. I shall now attempt to show how sex-economic clinical experience led to cancer research.”
“Sex-economic observation of character neuroses showed again and again the significance of muscular spasms and the resulting devitilization in the organism. Muscular spasm and deficiency in bio-electrical charge are subjectively experienced as “being dead”. Muscular hypertension due to sexual stasis regularly leads to a diminuation of vegetative sensations; the extreme degree of this is the sensation of the organ “being dead”. This corresponds to a block of biological activity in the respective organ. For example, the blocking of biosexual excitation in the genital always goes with a spastic tension of the pelvic musculature, as is regularlv seen in the uterine spasms of frigid women. Such spasms often result in menstrual disturbances, menstrual pains. polyps and fibronata. The spasm of the uterus has no other function than that of preventing the biosexual energy from making itself felt as vaginal sensation. Spasms representing inhibitions of vegetative current are seen particularly frequently whereever we find annular musculature, for example, at the throat, at the entrance to and the exit from the stomach, at the anus. etc. These are also the places where cancer is found with particular frequency…”
“Many women who suffer from genital and virginal anaesthesia complain of a feeling that ‘something is not as it should be down there.’ They relate that during puberty they experienced the well known signs of biosexual excitation:, that later they learned to fight these sensations by way of holding their breath. “Later, so they relate in a typical manner, they began to experience in the genital a sensation of ‘deadness’ or ‘numbness’ which, in turn, frightened them. As the vegetative sensation in the organs are an immediate expression of the actual biological state of the organs, such statements are of extreme importance for an evaluation of somatic processes.” (End of quote from Reich)
“Now,” someone may say, “this is all very interesting, but why isn’t it put into some cancer research journal or something? What does it have to do with me?” The answer, my friend, is obvious. It has everything to do with you. The above references, in no uncertain terms, state that you might very well be the cause of cancer. “What!?” says the upstanding citizen and head of the P.T.A., “absurd, preposterous. I don’t know anything about cancer (except that aunt Millie died of it and that the Cancer Society will eventually prevent it). Ridiculous, me being the cause of cancer.”
Not so fast, my friend. Read the above statements by the researchers again, this time more slowly, and bear in mind that the physicians who wrote the above (with the exception of Reich) are not social critics. They write gently and matter of factly.
What do you think it really means when 3 doctors, after intense study, write that “of the 26 patients (who developed breast cancer) below 51 (years of age), one was sexually adjusted.” It means, very bluntly, that the manner in which you bring up your daughter with regard to sexual attitudes may very well determine whether or not she will develope breast cancer, among other things.
How much guilt, nervousness have you imbued in your daughter with regard to sex? If she is 16, 3 years beyond puberty and the time which nature set forth for child-bearing, and spent a night out with her boyfriend, what is your reaction? Do you take her to a psychiatrist because she is “maladjusted,” or a “prostitute,” or are you happy that she has found someone with whom she can share love? Are you concerned about HER happiness, or about your “reputation” in the community.
With regard to the schools that you send your children to, are you concerned that many of these institutions serve no other function than to squash the life, joy and curiosity out of kids. When a doctor write that the cancer personality “represses hate, anger, dissatisfaction and grudges, or on the other hand, is a ‘good’ person, who hnd, is a ‘good’ person, who is consumed with self pity, suffers in stoic silence”, do you know what he is talking about, and what this has to do with children, parents, and schools.
It means this quite simply. A child has an old bitch of a teacher (and there are many of them) or perhaps he simply is not interested in school and would rather be doing other thing. He complains and rebels against the situation. which is the healthy reaction. When a person is hurt. no matter what age, he SHOULD rebel.
And what happens the child rebels against the adult world? Here he is, a little guy, complaning against a teacher who has been in the school for 47 years, or maybe against the whole school system. Who listens to him, who takes him, and his feelings, seriously? Who demands that a teacher be fired “just because” she makes little kids miserable? Who demands that compulsory schooling be eliminated “just because” millions of kids don’t want to go to school
The child rebels but, because he is a child, nothing happens. His rebellion is impotent because, being a child, people feel that he doesn’t know what is right for him and that the major decisions in his life have to be made for him by adults. Some childens, despite all the obstacles in their way, continue to rebel and assert their rights.
Others, in one form or another, give in and become resigned to the situation, and this is what the cancer personality as described above is all about. The child becomes resigned by repressing his natural anger and feelings about the situation he finds himself in. Outwardly ,he becomes a “good boy”, conforming to the rules and regulations of the system. Inwardly, his spirit is broken, and his soul seethes with hatred and anger which is unable to be expressed. He has learned to hold back his emotions and put on the phony facade of pleasantness. Thirty years later a doctor tells him that he has cancer.
What the above research into the psychosomatic aspects of cancer shows us is that, in psychological terms, resignation is the other side of the coin to the somatic breakdown called cancer. Simmons, among other, in his short work entitled “The Psychosomatic Aspects of Cancer” cites several instances when famous personalities developed cancer after suffering serious emotional traumas or dissappointments and felt that their future was hopeless. When the human spirit is broken, when the life force is squashed, cancer becomes a possibility.
The cancer problem, like disease in general, poses an extraordinary dilemma for society. How painful it is to face up to the truth, and how easy it is to place a label on something, cancer, raise a hundred million dollars for research and give it to a handful of specialists to work on, “Go,” we say, “solve the cancer problem. Prevent cancer. Tell me about the little virus that causes it, invent an injection to cure it, and everything will be just fine.”
“While you’re at it, tell you friends at the other laboratories to invent an injection to cure neurosis and psychosis, heart condition and ulcers, asthma and rheumatic fever, sexual impotence and frigidity alcoholism and drug addiction, obesity and insomnia, etc., etc., and etc”.
Life is very simple. All we .need is lots of money; well trained technicians and a steady output of new drugs.