From Cell to Self
“It is an incredible journey from cell to self.” – Christopher Vaughan
Just as people have uniquely identifying characteristics, like fingerprints and facial features, every cell in the body has a “face” in the form of distinctive membrane markings. When one cell encounters another, it “reads” these markings to determine where a cell came from, what its function is and, most importantly, to distinguish a “self” cell that belongs from an intruder that must be destroyed.
The primary task of the immune system is to orchestrate immune cells to respond to the alarm whenever a “not-self” cell is detected. In autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Grave’s disease and type I diabetes, the immune system mistakenly perceives “self” cells as “non-self” and attacks. It is this failure of self-recognition that stimulates the release of inflammatory chemicals at the site, which triggers swelling, pain and other symptoms.
According to the late Dr. Jeanne Achterberg, a pioneer of international acclaim in mind-body medicine, particularly in the fields of psychoneuroimmunology and imagery in healing, cell self-recognition and failure in self-recognition is paralleled in the psyche. In her work with patients over the span of 30 years, she encouraged people with autoimmune disease to explore how they have lost or failed to recognize their true selves.
In keeping with Dr. Achterberg’s philosophy, here’s a simple exercise with which to travel this avenue of self-discovery. Although this exercise presents an excellent journaling opportunity, all that’s essentially required is being present with yourself. To begin, place yourself in a comfortable position in a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed for at least 30 minutes (you can do it). Then reflect on the following:
How do I recognize myself?
How am I recognized by others?
How have I lost myself?
What aspects of myself need attention to help me recognize myself again?
Inspired by “Secrets of Your Cells: Discovering Your Body’s Inner Intelligence,” by Sondra Barrett, PhD.
Image: Patricia Ariel
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