Allergies are widespread in our present culture, and literature indicates that humanity has suffered from them for centuries. Traditional approaches to allergic reactions are the removal of the substance that causes the trouble or the administration of medication that prevents the body from responding to the substance. Allergies also represent a group of diseases that we, as human beings, seem to have much more frequently than do other animals. Let’s take a look at allergies as understood through the coherency theory.
There are probably millions of different specific molecules to which a person could become allergic. We may become allergic to cat dander but remain nonallergic to dog fur; we may become allergic to walnuts but not to peanuts. A person who has been found to be allergic to grasses can often tell you exactly the species of grasses to which he or she is allergic. This can be determined by skin testing. The question arises, “Why does the body choose only a certain set of molecules to react against, ignoring other molecules to which it could have become sensitized?”
Those who work in the field of allergies know their relationship to emotional disturbances. Outbreaks of hay fever, asthma, and topical rashes often accompany emotional upsets. If you have an allergic condition, you might be able to associate it, by thinking back, with periods of great emotional stress in your life. Following is a theory as to how allergies begin.
The human being is perhaps the only animal who will remain immobile in an unpleasant situation. At work, on the freeway, in arguments, we stand still and experience levels of tension that would send any self-respecting dog running to the nearest door. We don’t leave these difficult situations because doing so might bring about a worse situation or cause us to lose face. The decision to remain in a situation of fear and high tension is a conscious decision on our part; we believe we understand why we are staying. The unconscious and the body, however, are confused by this behavior.
Imagine a child standing in front of a parent or teacher who is yelling angrily, scolding him. He may be extremely frightened, but he does not run because leaving the situation would result in an even more unpleasant punishment. The unconscious and the body respond to the high level of tension as though it were a physical threat. They seem to decide that because the child is not running away, the tension that is being produced is from inside the body rather than outside. They then begin to search around for some possible cause of the tension. Let us further imagine that the scolding is taking place in a field of clover. In its search for an offending agent, the body may discover the protein molecules of the clove’ in the bloodstream, and because there seems to be no other cause for the tension, it may decide that this molecule is the source of the problem. This seems reasonable because a half hour ago, when the bloodstream was free of this protein, there was no tension. It draws the erroneous conclusion that the protein molecule is causing the disturbance. The body’s way of responding to offending molecules, such as those of drugs, viruses, or bacterial products, is to form antibodies against them.
When we are infected with a virus or bacteria, the antibodies that are produced serve to inactivate the foreign protein molecules and also to act as a tag that attracts white blood cells. The white blood cells then gobble up the antibody-antigen complex, as the combination is called, and remove it from the bloodstream, like tow trucks taking away illegally parked cars. In the case we are describing, however, the protein molecule of the clover pollen is not actually a threat to the body, and nature has not provided a mechanism for completely inactivating the molecule. Instead the body can form only incomplete antibodies if it attempts to defend against the molecule.
The incomplete antibody only partially reacts with the molecule, and, as a result, a new molecule is formed, consisting of the combination of the protein molecule and the incomplete antibody. Ironically, the original protein molecule is thus converted to a substance that does cause an irritative reaction in the body. This reaction is characterized by the release of a substance called histamine. Histamine causes tissues of the body to become hot and swollen. It causes irritation of nerve endings, and the result is itching and malfunction of the organ to which it has been released.
Let us return once again to our naughty child. As he is being scolded he is crying, but trying to hold back the tears. The muscles of his forehead and those around his eyes are tightly constricted, and you might notice redness in this area. If we now take a look at his internal mental image, we find that, along with the emotional tension, there is an incoherency and spasm associated with this area of his body. The unconscious may then decide that the cause of his problems is located in this area. It immediately begins to search the upper respiratory tract for possible dangers. As it does so, it finds the clover protein on the surface of his mucous membranes. It then alerts the lymphatic system, which attempts to produce antibodies. This is an incoherent response.
Only incomplete antibodies can be formed. Of course the scolding lasts only a few minutes, but the allergic response is remembered by the body. When, a few weeks later, the child walks out into a field of clover, the body recognizes that the protein is present once again. It remembers the amount of tension associated with the presence of this molecule in the past, and the allergic response is activated. Although the child is walking peacefully through the field, the body begins to respond by sending the incomplete antibodies to the nasal mucosa. Within minutes the child’s nose is running and he is sneezing.
Each time he is exposed to this antigen, the response grows stronger as the body tries harder to attack the invader, and the response is soon noticed by his parents. When this is brought to the attention of his doctor, he is diagnosed as having hay fever based on the results of skin testing. (Skin testing is performed by injecting small amounts of various proteins underneath a person’s skin and then seeing to which ones the body reacts. Those injection sites that show redness, swelling, or itching indicate the protein to which the person is allergic.
The child is then treated with an antihistamine, which serves to block the effects of the histamine, and cortisone, which prevents the allergic response on the part of the body involved, in this case, the nose. A symptomatic cure is effected. The boy now remains allergic to the substance, and his only means of preventing problems is by taking these drugs. Is it any wonder that as a teenager the boy does not associate his hay fever with emotional problems?
Perhaps an actual example will help make this even more clear. Bob came to my office because his hay fever allergy of many years’ duration had become so strong that he was unable to drive past a field of hay without severe symptoms. An exploration was performed in which I asked his unconscious to go back to one minute before the allergic reaction began on several occasions in the past. It turned out that in each memory, he was passing a field of hay. His reactions included stuffiness of the nose, redness of the eyes, and the production of tears.
Finally, his unconscious was requested to take us back to one minute before the very first time that this reaction had taken place. He described the following story.
“I’m about three years old and my father is asking me if I would like to go for a ride to visit my grandfather in the country. I am sitting next to him in the car, and we are riding past many fields and farmhouses.”
“We are pulling into the driveway of my grandfather’s house.”
At this point Bob began to show signs of fear: his forehead wrinkled and his eyelids fluttered furiously.
“What do you see right there?”
“I see many bales of hay piled up in the yard. In front of them is a red tractor. Standing next to the tractor is something that looks like a man but is very frightening. It is dressed from head to toe in a grey suit, and instead of a head there is a huge cylindrical metal mask with a glass plate where the eyes should be. In its hand it’s holding the end of a long wire coming from a machine making lots of noise. From the end of this instrument there is a blinding light.”
At this point Bob began to cry and to show signs of great fear.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I think it’s a monster with a death ray, and I’m hiding on the floor of the car. My father, grandfather, and the other men around are laughing at me. I feel very embarrassed, alone, and frightened.”
Bob’s signs of fear became even stronger.
“What’s happening now?”
“My father and grandfather are opening the door of the car and they are dragging me out and calling me a coward and laughing at me. They are forcing me to look at the monster next to the bales of hay.”
At this point the tears were running freely from Bob’s eyes, and his nose had begun to discharge large quantities of mucus. His face over the area of his sinuses was red.
After erasing the image it was possible for Bob to become completely relaxed and to realize, with his adult mind, that what he was seeing was simply a man welding two parts of a tractor together. As a child his unconscious had picked up the tension and incoherency in the eye and nasal areas and attacked the protein molecules of the surrounding hay; thus his hay fever ‘had begun.
Following a few days of reconditioning himself to various memories of reactions to hay, as well as various memories of feeling embarrassed and forsaken by people who loved him, his hay fever almost completely disappeared. His mind had been allowed to review a period of irrational fear and to reconstruct the memory along rational lines so that there was little need for the production of antibodies against hay protein.
Similar explorations and results have been obtained with allergies to food as well as to physical contact with various substances. Explorations focusing on attacks of sinusitis have produced similar findings and results. In each case a situation of high emotional tension was associated originally with the contact of a certain portion of the body with a foreign substance. Of course not everyone who has has a high degree of tension in a hay field will develop an allergy to hay. Whether this happens depends also upon the person’s genetic makeup, emotional history, past contacts with this molecule, prior tension-producing events, and so on.