The Cancer Personality: Who Gets Cancer?
W. Douglas Brodie, MD: In dealing with many thousands of cancer patients over the past 28 years, it has been my observation that there are certain personality traits present in the cancer-susceptible individual. These traits are as follows:
1. Being highly conscientious, caring, dutiful, responsible, hard-working, and usually of above average intelligence.
2. Exhibits a strong tendency toward carrying other people’s burdens and toward taking on extra obligations, and often “worrying for others.”
3. Having a deep-seated need to make others happy. Being a “people pleaser” with a great need for approval.
4. Often lacking closeness with one or both parents, which sometimes, later in life, results in lack of closeness with spouse or others who would normally be close.
5. Harbours long-suppressed toxic emotions, such as anger, resentment and/or hostility. The cancer-susceptible individual typically internalizes such emotions and has great difficulty expressing them.
6. Reacts adversely to stress, and often becomes unable to cope adequately with such stress. Usually experiences an especially damaging event about 2 years before the onset of detectable cancer. The patient is not able to cope with this traumatic event or series of events, which comes as a “last straw” on top of years of suppressed reactions to stress.
7. Has an inability to resolve deep-seated emotional problems and conflicts, usually beginning in childhood, often even being unaware of their presence.
Typical of the cancer-susceptible personality, as noted above, is the long-standing tendency to suppress “toxic emotions”, particularly anger. Usually beginning in childhood, this individual has held in their hostility and other unacceptable emotions. More often than not, this feature of the affected personality has its origins in feelings of rejection by one or both parents. Whether these feelings of rejection are justified or not, the individual perceives this rejection as real, and this results in a lack of closeness with the “rejecting” parent, followed later in life by a lack of closeness with spouses and others with whom close relationships would normally develop. Those at the higher risk for cancer tend to develop feelings of loneliness as a result of their having been deprived of affection and acceptance earlier in life, even if this is only their perception. They have a tremendous need for approval and acceptance, and develop a very high sensitivity to the needs of others while suppressing their own emotional needs.
They become the “caretakers” of the world, showing great compassion and caring for others, and will go out of their way to look after others. They are very reluctant to accept help from others, fearing that it may jeopardize their role as the caretaker. Throughout their childhood they have been typically taught “not to be selfish”, and they take this to heart as a major lifetime objective. All of this is highly commendable in our culture, but must be somehow modified in the case of the cancer patient. A distinction needs to be made here between the “care-giving” and the “care-taking” personality. There is nothing wrong with care-giving, of course, but the problem arises when the susceptible individual derives their entire worth, value and identity from their role as “caretaker”. If this very important shift cannot be made, the patient is stuck in this role, and the susceptibility to cancer greatly increases.
As already stated, a consistent feature of those who are susceptible to cancer appears to be that they “suffer in silence”, and bear their burdens without complaint. These burdens of their own as well as the burdens of others weigh heavily upon these people through a lifetime of emotional suppression. The carefree extrovert, on the other hand, seems to be far less vulnerable to cancer than the caring introvert described above.
How one reacts to stress appears to be a major factor in the larger number of contributing causes of cancer. Most cancer patients have experienced a highly stressful event, usually about 2 years prior to the onset of detectable disease. This traumatic event is often beyond the patient’s control, such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a business, job, home, or some other major disaster. The typical cancer personality has lost the ability to cope with these extreme events, because his/her coping mechanism lies in his/her ability to control the environment. When this control is lost, the patient has no other way to cope.
Major stress causes suppression of the immune system, and does so more overwhelmingly in the cancer-susceptible individual than in others. Thus personal tragedies and excessive levels of stress appear to combine with the underlying personality described above to bring on the immune deficiency which allows cancer to thrive.
The Cancer Personality: How Inescapable Shock Causes Cancer
For the majority of people, coping with stress and highly stressful or traumatic events or conflicts is dealt with, with relative ease. Although those in this larger group feel the devastating effects of stress, stressful events, trauma, and conflicts, including grief and loss – stressful events are seen as part of life’s challenges, life’s ups and downs, and they are for they most part anticipated and not completely unexpected. These people are able to move on with their lives quickly afterwards.
Those susceptible to cancer, are highly vulnerable to life’s stresses and trauma, and feel unable to cope when life throws a curve-ball their way. These people are perfectionists and live in fear of conflict, stress, trauma and loss and are deeply frightened of negative events “happening” to them. And when faced with a highly stressful or traumatic event they have not anticipated, which inevitably happens during their life, react adversely and are unable to cope.
They experience Inescapable Shock and remain deeply affected by the experience. They have difficulty in expressing their inner grief, their inner pain, their inner anger or resentment, and genuinely feel there is no way out of the pain they are feeling inside. And because their mind cannot fathom what has happened, and remains in a state of disbelief or denial, these inner painful feelings are continually perpetuated, shooting up stress levels, lowering melatonin and adrenaline levels, causing a slow breakdown of the emotional reflex centre in the brain, and creating the beginning of cancer progression in the body.
When faced with a major trauma, the cancer personality feels trapped and unable to escape from the memory of the traumatic experience and the painful feelings of the experience. Stress hormone cortisol levels skyrocket and remain at high levels, directly suppressing the immune system, whose job it is to destroy cancer cells that exist in every human being. High stress levels generally means a person cannot sleep well, and cannot produce enough Melatonin during deep sleep. Melatonin is responsible for inhibiting cancer cell growth. This means cancer cells are now free to multiply. Adrenaline levels also skyrocket initially, but are then drained and depleted over time. This is especially bad news for the cancer personality.
Adrenaline is responsible for transporting sugar away from cells. And when there is no adrenaline left, sugar builds up in cells of the body. Viral-bacterial-yeast-like-fungus then inhabit normal cells to feed on this excess sugar, breaking the cell’s (oxygen) krebs cycle. This means normal body cells cannot breathe properly because of low oxygen and mutate during the dividing process into cancer cells. Cancer cells thrive in a low oxygen state, as demonstrated by Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg. Cancer cells also thrive on fermented sugar for cell division, and this is provided by the viral-bacterial-yeast-like-fungus that ferment and feed on sugar in the perfect symbiotic relationship.
Put simply, too much internal stress causes a depletion of adrenaline, leads to too much sugar in the body’s cells, resulting in the perfect environment for cancer cells to thrive in the body.
For the cancer personality, the news of being diagnosed with cancer and the fear and uncertainty of death represents another Inescapable Shock, creating another spike in stress hormone cortisol levels, and a further drop in melatonin and adrenalin levels. There is also a further breakdown of the emotional reflex centre in the brain that causes cells in the corresponding organ to slowly breakdown and become cancerous.
Learned helplessness is a key aspect of the cancer personality when facing a perceived inescapable shock, and is a strong causal factor of cancer. Researcher Madelon Visintainer took three groups of rats, one receiving mild escapable shock, another group receiving mild in-escapable shock, and the third no shock at all. She then implanted each rat with cancer cells that would normally result in 50% of the rats developing a tumour. Her results were astonishing.
Within a month, 50% of the rats not shocked at all had rejected the tumour; this was the normal ratio. As for the rats that mastered shock by pressing a bar to turn it off, 70% had rejected the tumour. But only 27% of the helpless rats, the rats that had experienced in-escapable shock, rejected the tumour. This study demonstrates those who feel there is no way out of their shock / loss are less likely to be able to reject tumours forming within their body, due to high levels of stress weakening the immune system. [Seligman, 1998, p.170]
Click here to continue: How Unresolved Trauma Causes Cancer in specific organs of the body.