Samuel J. Mann MD, is an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Hypertension Center of The New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
You would hardly think that a revolutionary idea could come out of such a well established medical institution, but Dr Mann's work is certainly groundbreaking.
As a hypertension specialist, Dr Mann sees thousands of people with every variety of high blood pressure. Eventually, he began to notice a pattern that did not accord with the common view that stress is linked to this common condition.
"Even patients with severe hypertension did not seem more emotionally distressed than others," he writes in his book, The Hidden Cause of High Blood Pressure: How to Find the Right Treatment (Thorsons UK, 1999). "If anything, they seemed less distressed. Their high blood pressure appeared to be more related to what they did not seem to be feeling than to what they were feeling."
In Dr Mann's view, blood pressure fluctuates, and there have been extensive overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment of millions of people. Anger or stress can elevate blood pressure temporarily, but do not actually cause hypertension. "It is our hidden emotions, the emotions we do not feel, that lead to hypertension and many other unexplained physical disorders," he says.
To deal with hypertension at its core, it is necessary to bring those hidden emotions out into the light, into consciousness, and to deal with them. For those who are under the care of a physician for hypertension, incorporating this new information can help the physician select a more appropriate drug, if required, to match it to the cause of the condition.
Although, in many cases, there are contributing factors to hypertension such as genetics, obesity and a high salt consumption for countless others, their illness may be driven mainly by repressed feelings due to traumatic experiences. It is generally not easy to deal with such emotions, and the process can be painful, but it may be well worth it.
I can testify to the validity of this approach. In the summer of 2000, I read about Dr Mann in a free newspaper distributed around my New York neighbourhood. This seemed to be a surprising case of synchronicity as, at the time, I was grappling with some sudden episodes of extremely high blood pressure as high as 220/120 mmHg. I was unable to sleep at night or, at most, slept for only two or three hours, a completely new development for me. I also had trouble concentrating.
As someone who resists taking conventional drugs, I consulted a physician and took some anyway. I also visited my usual alternative practitioners a chiropractor, a homoeopath and an acupuncturist, who helped a little, but it wasn't enough.
After reading the article on Dr Mann, I bought his book, read it, and went to see him. With his encouragement, I started looking at the kinds of hidden emotions I could be harbouring. It didn't take me long to realise that the place to look was in my repressed or perhaps preverbal memories of the three years I spent during World War II in Budapest, when I was two to five years old. I was there with my mother (my father was away at the front), and we spent many nights in cellars and basements with 30 or 40 strangers, hiding from the bombs and grenades. In terms of emotions, I knew there was something there, but I had no memory of it.
One day in August, after a weekend of sleeping one night out of three, I found myself again with a 200/100 mmHg blood pressure, so I went for a walk in the park, barefoot in the grass, which I had taken to doing in my attempts to destress myself. Thinking about the war years and how I'd felt during the sleepless night before, I realised that my night wakefulness was quiet and watchful. I was not thinking, worrying, tossing or turning. I was simply on high alert.
I then remembered my mother telling me about the time we stayed in a cellar/basement, when she, and another young woman there, were summoned upstairs by the occupying soldiers for a party. She had to leave me alone in that dark cellar with strangers, none of whom cared about what happened to me. I suddenly became aware of a profound terror the kind that only a 3 or 4 year old could feel that my mother might never come back. I knew even then that, if she didn't return, I was dead.
I had no home, no family, no friends, nothing it was only her and me and, without her, I was lost. I must have stayed awake all that night waiting for my mother to come back and now, in my sleepless nights, I was reliving that night. I lay on the grass and cried, reliving and releasing that old terror.
After some time spent shaking and crying, I finally got up and went home. Then I checked my blood pressure: it had gone down as low as 137/82 mmHg in one hour! I knew I was on the right track.
Since then, my blood pressure continues to go up and down, and I still have a lot more spiritual work to do but, at this time (November), it seems to be hovering around normal with no medication. I've had a harrowing four months and it's not finished yet, but
I am certainly on the path to clearing out my old emotional baggage, thanks to Dr Mann's revolutionary insights.
Find out more about Dr Mann on his website: www.healinghypertension.com