The Immune System and the World

I’m taking a course on how to work with immune disorders in hypnotherapy, and I love the instructor’s discussion of the body as a community of cells striving for harmony. This community, just like our external communities, can spiral into disorder—interestingly, in very similar ways. The immune system’s primary role is to identify “self” and “non-self” and then to attack what is non-self in order to protect what is considered self. In human communities, we learn to recognize what is “like us” and “unlike us” and, often presume that anything “unlike us” is dangerous and thus needs to be attacked, discredited or otherwise rejected or nullified. Even more, the body’s immune system can lose its ability to identify “self” and non-self”, and the resulting misidentification can be the basis for autoimmune illnesses, cancers, and other diseases. This is also, of course, echoed in the external world—today’s politics is a prime example.

I have heard splices of the following quote, but never the whole thing. It’s as true now as it was in 1623 when John Donne wrote it:

No man is an island, entire of itself;

every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the lessor,

as well as if a promontory were,

as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were;

any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am in involved in mankind;

and therefore never send for whom the bell tolls;

it tolls for thee.

The takeaway being that no matter what it is that you are rejecting, whether the annoying neighbor across the street or across the world, or your Aunt Mildred’s extra-generous hips, there is no such thing as being apart; we are all a part of a whole—a whole body, a whole community, a whole world. To reject a part of your own body or mind, to banish your neighbor for believing or living differently than you, to relish the death of an “enemy” that you have never met, diminishes you. And me, because I am guilty of this, too.


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