Gill South: Healthy mind, healthy body

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Gill South hops on the couch to delve into the connections between her emotional and physical life.

In trying to bridge body, mind and spirit perspectives, Dr Brian Broom encourages women to express their anger because they tend to lock it all up. This may help with those bodily aches and pains. Photo / Thinkstock
In trying to bridge body, mind and spirit perspectives, Dr Brian Broom encourages women to express their anger because they tend to lock it all up. This may help with those bodily aches and pains. Photo / Thinkstock

I am going to see Dr Brian Broom. This is my first consultation with a psychotherapist and I'm excited. What can I say - too many Woody Allen movies.

Brian is an adjunct professor at AUT leading the post-graduate programme in MindBody Healthcare. He is a consultant physician in allergy and clinical immunology at Auckland Hospital, a psychotherapist and "mindbody" specialist. He is also the author of Meaning-Full Disease. How personal experience and meanings cause and maintain physical illness.

I am coming to him, to see if my dermatitis, hay fever and the odd unexplained rash have anything to do with my own personal story. When patients present to Brian, he bridges body, mind and spirit perspectives.

I hold forth on various major life events which I think might interest him. He says he is looking for patterns. I tell him about having to make a big decision when I was a teen and Brian suggests that this may have a lot to do with the fact that I generally find it difficult to make choices.

Not because I am an indecisive person but because I don't want to, I want both and whenever I can, I'll do my darndest to have both. This could explain my bank account, hmmm. In situations where I have two invitations on one night, Brian advises me to tell the people why I am struggling with the choice. This might help resolve things.

I tell him that I like to take action when the chips are down - it makes me feel better. When I was young and single, a relationship break-up would inevitably lead to me booking a flight somewhere and a new experience to cheer me up. It worked pretty well. But Brian says this tendency to take action in times of crisis, means I am not necessarily confronting things like fear of aloneness and desolation.

I have been agitating for a house renovation but we look at why I might be pushing for this so enthusiastically. I argue it's so I can make life bearable when the kids hit teenagehood. Brian thinks there could be more behind it - it could be displaced, compensatory action. Perhaps I need more closeness in my relationships, he suggests. What goes on in one's relationships is probably the most crucial health factor, he says.

Brian is interested in the language his patients use and how it relates to our health - he has a fancy term for it, somatic metaphors. One patient of his had a condition where her skin was thickening all over, you couldn't pinch her skin into folds. When something bad happened, she often said "I went into my shell." One of my favourite sayings is, "It does my head in," when frustrated. And when life gets busy, I get headaches. Rather than taking painkillers on these occasions, it's more helpful to identify what I am feeling, Brian tells me.

Women often lock up our anger, he says. We are often told off for being angry, but if we are getting aches and pains, it would be useful to think of other ways of expressing it.

So watch out anyone who knows me, I'm just going to let that anger out, expressing myself clearly as Brian advises. I'll try and keep it to my nearest and dearest, heaven help them.

Next week:

All that writing I did before Christmas, I think - or is it my new smart phone? - has made my hands, especially my thumbs, sore. So I've headed off to hand rehabilitation clinic, Handworks for some therapy.

- NZ Herald

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