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Stress and AIDS: Potential Connections

Shealy and Myss consider the specific stress factors present in our physical and social environment in which AIDS is manifesting. Our present society is deep in the midst of a massive emotional/psychological crisis, visible for example, in widespread substance abuse patterns, high suicide rates, and breakdowns of family structure.

They note that the first cases of AIDS were reported in the 1970s. The stress factors related to AIDS that were not present on our planet prior to 1970s are the very real threats we face as a species, to the continuation of life on earth, with the planet becoming uninhabitable either through nuclear devastation or ecological disaster. They write that we are living within a critical time zone for life itself. No one exists outside the boundaries of these crises. Whether or not we consciously feel the sting of this fear does not interfere with its ability to affect us. AIDS too, is a global problem. It is not contained within the boundaries of any nation but spreading throughout the planet. It is becoming the first full-scale planetary epidemic.

Myss describes the predominant characteristic of people who develop AIDS as a "victim consciousness." She believes all of the other emotional and psychological characteristics of such people are a result of "victim consciousness," that she defines as the perception of oneself as so completely lacking in personal power that one continually fears being taken advantage of or hurt in some way. It means living in the belief the world is an unfair place and that it is mostly unfair to you. To some extent we all know what it is like to feel victimized, we all have areas wherein we do not feel adequate, capable, or qualified. When a situation arises that activates our lack of power, it is not uncommon for us to respond by becoming defensive or panicked. Considering the violent texture of our present world, it may be impossible to avoid some level of this feeling. However, most of us would not view the whole of life as a brutal and unfair experience.

Myss'experience with people with AIDS is that they view life - that is, being alive - as a deeply threatening experience, and that the common psychological territory they share embodies a type or quality of powerlessness that comes from believing that who and what they are is simply not acceptable within our social environment. She has found that the self-image of being a powerless person exists even among the affluent with AIDS, and it comes from feeling that no matter what you achieve, no matter how successful you might become, no matter how loving and sensitive you are, nothing you can accomplish will help you to change those things about yourself that are simply not acceptable within the present social environment. It is almost impossible for anyone who suffers with this self-image to feel good about life and safe in this world.

Myss asks "why AIDs now? Does this disease hold a symbolic message?" The factors of stress present in our world - the potentials of nuclear devastation and ecological disaster - relate not only to the victim consciousness upon which AIDS thrives, but to the planet itself.

"It may be that the earth, a consciousness that is as alive and vital as we are, is suffering from AIDS as a result of the same oppressing victim consciousness that is threatening all of humanity. In a desperate attempt to purge humankind of the need to prey on life, AIDS has manifested through our collective consciousness as an opportunity to release our human pattern of the need to victimize life - a pattern that can no longer exist on a planet that has come into the nuclear age. Perhaps it is for this reason that the groups of people who are most susceptible to AIDS exhibit in common a profile of acute victim consciousness: they embody, at a human level, the identical stresses of the earth, and therefore they appropriately carry the message that the victimization of any form of life must cease lest the planet become uninhabitable either through nuclear devastation or ecological disasters."

Similarly, in The Global Brain, Peter Russell looks at cancer as a metaphor for our times. In a healthy body, cells interact interdependently to support the body's wellbeing. A cancer cell is one that begins to act only in its own interests of expansion, completely losing sight of the wellbeing of the whole body. This runs parallel to the behavior of individuals and nations over the past century, forsaking, even exploiting, relationships with others - individuals', nations', and the earth's resources, driven by a desire to dominate and a pursuit of short-term and self-interested goals. (continues)


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