When examined closely, there is a very curious correspondence between how a septic system works and different states of consciousness. More than likely city dwellers don’t know about septic systems since they’ve never lived in locals where city services aren’t provided. So for these folks, a brief explanation is required.
Let’s begin with what the word septic means. It is taken from the Greek that means “putrefaction” and has a couple of significant uses. Septic systems are located in the country where there are no city services to accommodate discharged waste from houses. This waste flows into a large tank that ideally contains adequate bacteria—microorganisms that break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. The “cleansed” water then spills over and runs into a leach field in the yard where the liquids evaporate. So long as there are adequate bacteria in the main tank, all goes well. But when the quantity and quality of the bacteria are depleted or weakened, the solids don’t break down which then spill over, enter the leach field, backs up into the main tank, and over time the tank fills up with too much solid waste and the system fails.
Our consciousness system is quite similar to a septic system. Think of repressed traumatic stress as emotional shit that is suppressed into our subconscious. The “bacteria” that is supposed to bleed off this build up are stress-reducing activities. Among the most valuable forms are breathing exercises, meditation (particularly Zen), guided imagery, exercise, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and odd as it may seem: sex (which releases a hormone called oxytocin that acts primarily as a neuromodulator in the brain). Unless these activities become integrated into our every-day routines the emotional shit builds up, bleeds into our conscious state and gums up the works, just as occurs in a septic system where bacteria is compromised. The unfortunate result is a limited ability to handle minor, ordinary stress and this becomes a downward spiral that can end badly.
People who become gummed up with infection can, and do, die from septic shock. The death rate for those so infected is between 25-50% and results from a compromised immune system. Diseases such as peptic ulcers, cardiovascular disorders, migraines, and hypertension have been associated with persistent distress, with medical care professionals estimating that nearly 70% of doctor visits are directly related to ongoing stress. Septic shock (as well as these other consequences) is a serious condition that is indirectly related to accumulating stress. How that occurs works like this: Stress is an everyday experience that suppresses our immune systems. Why does stress buildup occur? Often times, in attempting to get on with necessary functioning, victims of trauma, suppress the experience(s) and related emotions into their subconscious where they leak out in the process of living. The capacity to handle building consequences of stress seems to be limited. And unless we work hard to develop lifestyles that allow us to vent emotions associated with building stress, we become both emotionally and physically putrefied which leads first to impacting our normal functioning and on to death.
The idea that our mental/emotional state and our physical state being separated is, fortunately, being recognized as an archaic notion and scientists are finally coming to realize that there is no such division. The mind/body is a single entity with a clearly defined feedback loop. What affects us emotionally, affects us physically and vice versa.