Illnesses of the 21st century

Chronic muscle tension serves to suppress the perception of unwanted and dangerous impulses from the body. Their expression to the environment through movements, speech, gaze, and posture is limited. We lock these feelings and emotions inside so as not to use up the energy of our consciousness. This measure can be compared to imprisoning a dangerous criminal; it is more rational to prevent his escape than to hunt him. And yet, escape from any prison is not completely impossible. No matter how strong it is, the ego cannot provide security against the repressed energy, which, as an impulse within the membrane, is a potentially dangerous fugitive. Just like a convict, it is most dangerous when it is on the run. These impulses are a natural and inextinguishable expression of a person’s desire to live, and therefore always seek an outlet from the body, especially if the environment’s attitude towards this person is disturbing, hindering, or limiting.

Even though we get used to the state of constant muscle tension, come to terms with it or become numb to it, such relationships still strongly influence the physical level and preserve the desire to express the repressed, which means that our defenses must run 24/7 for it to maintain balance. Similarly, a prison administration must constantly improve security and make it difficult for prisoners to escape. Over time, the protection system inevitably wears out and becomes tired due to excessive energy consumption to maintain balance. It becomes increasingly difficult to retain the trapped energy inside the body, and it is also more difficult to maintain the patterns of expression and response to the environment acquired in the past.

Additional strong stress due to shock or a longer-lasting state of overexertion greatly increases the chance of breakthroughs of suppressed conditions. Thoughts of escaping, which might be becoming more common, are now strong enough to invoke genuine fear from which we shielded ourselves. Symptoms of anxiety, panic, or shock may appear. This connection is what makes talking about emotional conflicts so stressful for most. This kind of shock, if repeated, severely damages the ability to adapt, undermines resilience, and exposes us to collapse – disorder and disease. The ego takes all available means to prevent this, although it would be much better to accept the facts and deal with them, to sort them out gradually. A comparison can be seen between having a toothache and delaying a visit to the dentist.

The effect of diminishing the influence of impulses, which is regularly used by the ego, is limiting a person’s vitality. Chronic muscle tension is a straitjacket that limits a person’s breathing and movement, consequently limiting awareness and self-expression. At the same time, a person is under pressure from himself, his surroundings, and society to achieve some goal that he believes will bring him the respect and acceptance he needs. But because of the straitjacket, it is more difficult for him to achieve it, which requires more and more willpower to maintain unrealistic relations with his surroundings.

So the person is not only energy deprived but also burdened with additional requirements for energy expenditure. For most people in this position, the constant stress is too much and requires energy reserved for emergencies. Constant stress is a source of fainting, dizziness, burnout, and fatigue. Most of them somehow manage to get through this state for a while, but only because of a strong will, which at the same time inevitably points to the existence of a similarly strong desire to die, without which there is no will to live. The body, caught in this process, gradually moves from resistance to fatigue/exhaustion. The person runs out of energy to continue as he wants; he is used to it, or the environment demands it from him. Then he gets sick or injured. The ego was winning the battles until then, but now the body is winning the war.

The illness may be mild or very severe. It might be the common cold or any other typical psychosomatic illness – arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, high blood pressure, cardiovascular trauma, cancer, tumor, lupus, chronic joint and tendon inflammation, migraines, burnout, insomnia, chronic fatigue, etc. Due to the above-described process, a person can fall into deep depression or have a mental breakdown if they are more prone to mental illness. Illness generally removes the person from the original overly stressful situation so that he can regain his strength and heal himself through a change in his attitude towards the environment and the environment towards him. Of course, illness in the form of a disease process represents a new stress.


Cancer formations are a typical representative of this condition.


This means that our way of life and the way we act towards time and energy, which have become the norm in the last few decades, trigger emotions and attitudes towards oneself and the environment that lead to patterns of muscle tension and energy transfer that lead to autoimmune conditions associated with cancer formations. This attitude is despair. Henry E. Sigerist expressed the idea that illness and culture are connected. He states that in every era, certain illnesses became more common and are characteristic and completely logically placed in the structure of the time period.

Wilhelm Reich developed the same idea. He defined that the groundwork required for cancer to develop is emotional resignation. He described the process of cancer development as a contraction of the life force in the body and cancer cells as a product of the breakdown of normal tissue. Anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the cancer process than conventional medicine offers should read Reich’s book The Carcinomataous Shrinking Biopathy. However, despair is not the same as emotional resignation because despair does not exist if we have hope. But if hope is abandoned or lost, despair becomes resignation, which means surrendering to death. In a person suffering from cancer, these emotional relationships are usually not conscious because it is in the patient’s character to deny his despair and, later, his emotional resignation.

Denying despair creates a stressful situation for the organism, which is slowly being drained of its energy reserves. This is evident when we realize that denial consists of a program of apparently meaningful activities wrapped in a facade of optimism. False optimism is a defense against despair and prevents the outpouring of tears and sadness. This false optimism, however, leads nowhere, as it is created to deny repressed despair. The ego needs large amounts of energy and willpower to keep the body upright, despite the desire to give up and stop fighting depression. However, I would need it the most so that I could understand the real situation and change accordingly. When energy reserves are depleted due to an unrealistic attitude, fatigue sets in, and the organism surrenders to a slow death. It is an unconscious process.

On a conscious level, the ego tries hard to maintain a facade of optimism and survival, for which it also takes away energy from vital functions and the immune system. It seems illogical to say that when a person surrenders to despair and stops playing, he can also find joy and happiness in life because this way, he restores contact and a clear relationship between the body and the ego. However, this is not an easy and pleasant task because despair usually comes from childhood experiences and represents the inability to gain and keep parents’ love. We are just as helpless as adults when we start looking for love, especially since the need for an adult is more than just the love of another. An adult must love himself and others. Loving is an active act that requires energy, and then we are not helpless, we are not without hope, and there is no real reason to despair.

Some explanations for the second part of the claim are that despair is a typical attitude in the early 21st century. I associate despair with a lack of love in all its forms, which is also manifested in joy and goodwill. Despair is also the basic state of anhedonia, which has a very high dimension in modern societies. In today’s world, none of this is available in abundance. We are slaves to an economic system that promises fulfillment through things but actually provides us with distraction. The further up the economic ladder we go, the less freedom we have; without freedom, there is no happiness. Freedom is also relaxed muscles. Calmness. Authenticity. The ability to love and be loved.

As human beings, we can only be fulfilled when our lives are rooted in the body, drawing from it the life energy in our animal nature and the earth. Unfortunately, our technological culture is taking us further away from these basic connections. This makes our function more and more distant from our natural structure (the body and its structure), which cannot change as quickly as the function because it needs much more time. The environment, which technology makes possible to change at a speed never before possible, demands from us a quick change of function and requires the abandonment of strong and deep emotions. This, however, is in ever-increasing inconsistency with the structure and affects the structure entropically, creating strongly entropic states in it, the typical form of which is carcinoma. I can say that malignant cells are the materialization of self-directed helplessness and hatred.

Raising awareness and emotional maturity enables us to increase our ability to feel despair, grief, and sadness and to prevent these emotions from paralyzing and shutting us down, but to express them in forms that reduce helplessness and increase understanding, acceptance, and respect for those around us. This is how we get back the importance we deserve. This path allows us to move away from these diseases and gives us the will, faith, and desire to make joy, love, and happiness an integral part of our lives, which enables us to be satisfied and fulfilled. The lower our anhedonia, the less likely it is that the diseases of the 21st century will affect and stop us. There is no need for this anymore because we understand and use the law of time.

Aleš Ernst, author of the AEQ method and AEQ breathing

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