Most of us are familiar with the Type A individual – the hard driving, aggressive and demanding go-getter – who is considered at high risk of heart disease. Numerous research studies in recent decades have focused on identifying the exercises associated with those people most at risk of developing cancer, the Type C personality. The most consistent factor is “the inability to express emotion, particularly the feelings associated with anger”. (quote from 'When the Body Says No', page 99, Dr. Gabor Mate) These individuals are also described as overly cooperative, patient, passive, self-effacing, lacking assertiveness and accepting. They suppress or repress “negative emotions, particularly anger, while struggling to maintain a strong and happy facade.” (same reference, page 125)
From my own experience of working with a number of patients with cancer, I invariably find that they are either related or have great difficulty to access or talk about their anger, resentment, and other troubling emotions. They also tend to take on the role of looking after the needs and happiness of others rather than their own. These traits or coping styles are developed at an unconscious level very early in an individual's life as a strategy to reduce stress and are mentioned here not as a criticism nor to suggest that the person has done anything wrong. Within the context of the their life, people are doing the best they can with that which they are aware.
What might be the character traits and qualities of those people who are most likely to heal – the Type H personality? Here is what I have compiled from my own observations of patients who have healed from a range of illnesses, including cancer.
* they learn to feel and express the full range of emotions from anger, fear, sadness to joy. They learn to be assertive and set healthy boundaries.
* they are not passive, not playing victim to the disease or circumstance nor waiting to be fixed. They also do not blame others which is just another way of playing victim and perpetuating a state of helplessness and powerlessness.
* they find a way to diminish and manage their fear so that they are not overwhelmed.
* they do not accept a grim medical prognosis as a 'given'. They maximize medical treatment for the physical disease and they recognize that they can do more. They are able to maintain a perspective that allows for the possibility of a better outcome and full healing.
* they develop and maintain a sense of humor and stay interested and focused on living their life.
* they are willing to see the whole disease in all its aspects – physical mental, emotional and spiritual. They appreciate that the disease is the outcome of unconscious, unexamined patterns of stress or styles of emotional copying and that they hold the keys to unlocking these patterns. They are the very experts that they have been seeking and they are willing to conceal and utilize their own self-knowledge.
* they develop an attitude of responsibility – being 'response able' – for whatever they can do to help themselves.
* they are willing to change key aspects of themselves and challenge their conditioning, habits and beliefs and even their self-image. These individuals accept at some level that how they have been living their life is simply not working. They see the disease as a sign that they have wandered down the wrong road somewhere and they need to stop, identify where they lost their way way and redirect themselves. The disease becomes a life-saving opportunity for health restoring change.
* they have the courage to be honest with themselves and acknowledge their 'dark side'. Healing can only flourish in a climate of truth, of what is real and not denied.
* they are willing to take the high road – transcend conflict, let go, grieve, forgive both themselves and others, and move on.
* they are willing to grow in compassion for themselves and others.
* they are willing to heal the wounded child aspects of themselves and mature into a more balanced, aware and responsible adult.
The above list may appear daunting to achieve and yet it takes only a shift in attitude and a commitment to becoming responsible and self-aware.