The Disease Diathesis

By John Diamond, M.D.

The origin of every disease is multi-factorial, but nonetheless, I believe that this is the most basic etiological factor that must be corrected. Any therapy that does not eradicate the desire for the illness can never be a true cure, only ever symptom relief. In fact, it could be argued that the desire for illness is its first and most basic manifestation – it does not lead to the disease, it is itself its core. And furthermore if the diathesis, the desire, is corrected before clinical manifestation, then true prevention has taken place.

As an introduction to this concept of disease diathesis I have decided to use amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as an example, mainly because the diathesis seems to be fairly simple to understand. As I have delineated in my book Life Energy, each acupuncture meridian has a particular positive and negative emotional attribute.1 With the liver meridian it is happiness and unhappiness. We feel happy when fortune – lady luck, our mother – smiles on us. And one particular point on the liver meridian is related to a very specific state of unhappiness: a yearning to be reunited with the mother and the doing of some activity, or in a sense the non-doing, so as to bring this reunion about.

I have found this particular yearning for mother, this Liver 7 problem, in the half dozen or so cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that I have seen. I cannot, of course, say that it is present in all cases, and this is offered more as a suggestion for further research than an empirical fact. Of course there are many patients with a Liver 7 problem who never developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – but the ones I examined all did want to become paralyzed, for they all had the disease diathesis. Perhaps some of them, if left uncorrected, would have gone on to develop it, but I stress there are many, many other factors that also must fit into place for this disease to appear. But, nonetheless, it is my strong suspicion that without the desire for the illness, the specific disease diathesis, it would not occur.

How does this specific desire for paralysis relate to yearning for the mother? It is part of the nature of a paralyzing illness to have to be looked after and mothered, the patient progressively becoming a smaller and smaller child, and then a baby to be nursed until death. In a most tragic way, the yearning for the mother is fulfilled by this most incapacitating disease.

Here is the best example I can give of this particular diathesis. A woman of sixty had been adopted and had therefore spent her whole life yearning for her natural mother. She had (seemingly) coped with this yearning fairly well until she was strongly encouraged to engage a private detective to find her mother, on the off chance that she was still alive, for she would be about eighty. The mother was soon located in a nearby village. Rather than approaching her directly, the woman had her husband, a very astute lawyer, write her a letter, as unthreatening as possible. Every day the woman opened her mailbox, anxious for a reply, yearning for it. After a week it arrived. She remembered clearly how excitedly she tore open the envelope and held the letter in her left hand – she was very certain of this – as she read the reply. It could not have devastated her more. It read, “Whoever told you about me should have his tongue cut out.” Within a week the first signs of paralysis appeared in her left hand.

The desire for the illness I regard not only as being a predisposition to it but as itself being the earliest form, the anlage of the illness.

I have just received a greeting card from a man I saw but briefly twenty years ago when he had been “given” by his doctor only at most a year or two of life. In a short time together we did many things, including music and art, and especially helping him to happiness (liver meridian), and more. When I first saw him he had given up completely, slipping into paralysis, into ever more needful infancy. He spent his days in front of the television set, smoking and drinking, increasingly nursed by his girlfriend. All that has gone now, all the yearning has gone. He is now in perfect Health. He has done so much for himself to raise his Life Energy, and without even knowing it he has especially helped himself by overcoming his disease diathesis.

There is, I believe, a diathesis, a desire, a pre-disposition, for every major illness. And the true cure, and even more importantly the prevention, will come about only when this is acknowledged and overcome.

Life Energy: Unlocking the Hidden Power of Your Emotions to Achieve Total Well-Being. New York: Paragon House, 1985.