Types of Chronic Conditions

Where you are on the thick-to-thin boundary spectrum is an indicator of what type of illnesses you’re prone to. We’re not talking all illnesses but the type that science has shown are most directly related to our thoughts and feelings. These include:

Asthma and allergies

Chronic fatigue syndrome




Irritable bowel syndrome

Migraine headache

Phantom pain

Post traumatic stress disorder


Rheumatoid arthritis


These are the twelve – the “Dozen Discomforts” – that the book primarily addresses. You’ll learn about their correlation with boundary type, the supporting evidence and, most importantly, which alternative therapies are most likely to bring you relief.

In this book, the word “disease” is never used. We choose instead to characterize the each of the Dozen Discomforts as an “illness,” “chronic condition,” or “health condition.” The operating assumption is that they’re rooted in the bodymind, shaped (albeit unconsciously) by personality and influenced by one’s characteristic way of feeling. A “disease,” in contrast, is an illness (even a run-of-the-mill illness, such as a cold) that is not conditioned by personality type and the way feelings act within the bodymind. Anyone can catch a cold, and everyone wants to get rid of it. The most serious diseases, such as leukemia, smallpox, AIDS, malaria, cancer – are something our bodies fight precisely because they are alien and threaten our survival.

The Dozen Discomforts are different. They are very much of us, even if we do not wish them to be. They are somatically and psychically part of our being. They will not be resolved through standard medical interventions (drugs, radiation, etc.) that treat them as alien. Instead, their meaning – their relationship with oneself – must be understood and drawn out. Through the complementary and alternative therapies described in this book, the aim is for these 12 conditions to be integrated and transformed rather than overcome.

Conditions as ‘Thick’ or ’Thin’

One’s boundaries are formulated by nurture as well as nature. While nature may predispose some of us to be especially thick (low reacting) or especially thin (high reacting), genetics are not the whole story. How we handle stress – and our susceptibility to the Dozen Discomforts – is also influenced to a great degree by early life experiences, especially the caregiving we receive.

Recent evidence points up the decisive nature of childhood trauma for four chronic illnesses: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraine headache, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). See the following articles:

“Past Trauma May Contribute to Bowel Disorder” (HealthDay)

"Abuse History Affects Pain Regulation in Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome” (ScienceDaily)

“Adverse Childhood Experiences Linked to Frequent Headache in Adults” (ScienceDaily)

"Embattled Childhoods May be the Real Trauma for Soldiers with PTSD.” (MedicalXpress).

“Chronic Fatigue Has Genetic Roots” (Nature.com)

"CFS Linked to Childhood Trauma” (WebMD)

“Childhood Trauma Raises CFS Risk” (WebMD)

“Childhood Adversity Increases Risk for Depression and Chronic Inflammation" (ScienceDaily)

While the evidence suggests that IBS and migraine are thin boundary conditions and CFS is thick boundary, it becomes clear that intense, emotional experiences can reverberate “under the radar” throughout one’s life. The precise mechanisms differ according to the way feelings operate within us. Thus, boundary type is predictive of which of the Dozen Discomforts you’re prone to.

In only one case – depression – is boundary type not a factor. Anyone can become depressed. The whys and wherefores, though, can teach us a lot about how feelings work.

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