The MIND/BODY CONNECTION in the writings of the Rambam (1138-1204): “It is known…that internal psychological movements (ha’hafalos nafshiyos) bring about dramatic physical changes in the body, clearly visible to all. We find verification to this in the following: Take an individual with a generally strong/healthy constitution (adam chazak ha’binyan), whose voice is strong and pleasant, and whose face is illuminated with light. If something, some greatly distressing event occurs suddenly, his face will fall and lose all its luster, the light of his face will change, his posture will droop, and his voice will become raspy and thin/weak. If he wishes to raise his voice and speak with all his strength, he simply is unable to do so. He feels feeble, and he may even begin to shake uncontrollably due to this weakness. The pulse of his veins [blood circulation] will be feeble, his eyes will dilate, his eyelids will become too heavy to lift, the outer surface of his body will become cold, and he will lose any desire to eat. The physical cause behind all these symptoms: his natural body heat and blood has sunken and contracted into his body.
Conversely, take an individual who is weak, whose visage is off-color, and whose voice is weak. If something joyous happens, he will become stronger, his face will shine, his voice will become powerful, his movements quick/agile, and the pulse of his veins strong. The outer surface of his body will become warm and joy and happiness will become readily apparent on his face and in his eyes. All this will become readily apparent without any need to look deeper. The physical cause of all these: is the activation of his natural body heat, and the blood rising up to the surface.
The same is true of those who are anxiety-ridden (baaley pachad) on the one hand, vs. those who live with hope and anticipation [that things will always be better]. The same is true of those who are mistaken/confused in their thoughts on the one hand, vs. those who are successful in life. For there are times when a person can, as a result of his grief and bad luck, lose his eyesight. The face of a successful person, on the other hand, radiates, and the light of his eyes shines, to such an extent that the light of the day seems to grow brighter in his presence. This is all clear and does not require long explanations.
It is for this reason that doctors/healers warn us to pay attention to subtle internal psychological changes (tenuos nafshiyos), to constantly keep an eye out for them, and to make every effort to equalize them (le’hashvosam) while a person is still healthy, and in the event of any sickness as well. Indeed, no other treatment or physical procedure takes precedence over them. The doctor/healer should understand that the heart of someone who is ill is contracted/constricted, whereas the soul of a healthy person is expansive. He should therefore make it his business to remove psychological causes (hispaaliyos nafshiyos) that bring one to emotional stress (kotzer ruach), for this prolongs health, and in addition, it is first and foremost in the treatment of sickness.”— Rambam, Hanhagas HaBerius (Health Treatment), Shaar Gimel (end), pp. 32-33 (Hebrew translation by Moshe ibn Tibbon of Rambam’s letter to Al-Afdai, son of Saladin)— English translation by the wonderful Avraham Sutton.
Initial Post by Rav Doniel Katz