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Systemic Solutions: Relationships & Health
Can relationships make you sick? Martyn Carruthers

Online Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy

Emotions often seem to underlie diseases ... and relationships underlie emotions.
Can relationships make you sick? We help people untangle their relationships
and rebuild their health.

Mission & Remission

As I was developing what I later called Soulwork systemic psychology, many people told me that as their relationships improved, their disease symptoms spontaneously lessened or vanished, even symptoms that we did not discuss.

Medical tests sometimes showed that blood chemistry and even eye prescriptions improved as people managed their emotions and solved relationship problems. Many people described pains, headaches or digestive problems fading away.

As my experience grew, those symptoms made more sense. If disease symptoms serve a function in unhealthy relationships, then as relationships improve some people seem to heal their symptoms!

Spontaneous remission seems to be related to responsibility and motivation. I have long been fascinated with people whose disease symptoms vanished, and I interviewed many. I wanted to know what they did and how they did it.

remission, spontaneous:
A spontaneous diminution or abatement of the symptoms
of a disease.
KMLE Medical Dictionary

Relationships & Disease: Who Makes You Sick?

In relationships, closeness refers to intimacy - good feelings - about someone. For example, people often feel close to their partners and family members. But what does it mean if a person feels closer to a parent or past partner than to a current partner?

Try asking yourself, "Exactly how close do certain people feel?" Your mother, father, partner and ex-partners for example. You may even feel that some people seem to be too close! Who do you hold in your heart, for example?

A fascinating way to understand relationships is to map your emotional reality. And this map can intuitively indicate health problems. What might you say if you feel a parent on your back? An ex-partner in front of you? A dead baby in your heart?

You asked me where I felt my mother was, and I said, "In our kitchen". You asked again and suddenly I could feel her right in front of me. I realized that I look at the world through my mother' - through her opinions and beliefs! London

Do any of your relationships seem distorted or enmeshed? Do you perceive friends, colleagues, movie stars or fictional characters as replacements for family members or idealized partners? Do you daydream about relationships with past lovers, actors or even fictional characters?

How about your close relationships with family members? Do you perceive a child as a partner, or an employee as a child? When this occurs, you may be motivated to relate to certain people as if those people were someone else.

I discovered that my abdominal problems might be a weird compensation for
my mother's abortion ... and that her abortion had also affected my partnership,
my miscarriage and indirectly, my son's chronic sadness.

Common relationship entanglements occur when parents feel confused between their partners and their children. (See Mother-Son and Father-Daughter problems.) Families offer many possibilities for confused relationships.

Systemic Coaching: When Disease Makes Sense

Many people seem to block their own success with their relationships.
We can help you solve emotional and relationship issues.

If you feel blocked by one or more relationships, a useful starting point is to examine your goals, relationships and entanglements.

Relationship Clarity

Your success will likely reflect your relationships. In a human relationship system, the success or failure of one member impacts other members. We respond to the actions of other people in our systems.

For example, if one member perceives another adult as a child, or as a substitute for a parent or sibling, that transference will affect that person's behavior. (If two people both perceive each other as substitutes, we call that a transference loop).

Consider partnership - if a partner perceives the other as a parent - then that partner may act childishly, expecting the other to be a caretaker. If a partner perceives the other as child - then that partner may demand the other's compliance.

Your Relationships

Our systemic solutions include evaluating the unconscious benefits of disease symptoms - benefits that often reflect relationship issues.

1. Do disease symptoms express a crisis?

A disease may be a way of coping with exhaustion or stress. For example, a migraine may justify taking a day or two away from work.

2. Do disease symptoms express inner conflict?

Some disease symptoms seem to reflect conflicts. People with long-term conflicts (e.g. "I don't want to stay home looking after my mother") may experience stress-related diseases, such as digestive problems or hypertension.

3. Do disease symptoms express relationship bonds?

A disease may represent a shared limiting belief. Changing relationship beliefs may alleviate mental or physical symptoms; (e.g. I am only loved when I am sick)

4. Do disease symptoms express emotional trauma or abuse?

We help people alleviate the consequences of abuse and trauma. If a person withholds the emotions related to a traumatic experience, we often find that disease symptoms may form in the location of the body in which the withheld emotions are held.

5. Do disease symptoms allow similarity to role models?

Changing role models may alleviate symptoms based on imitating other people. Is a problem similar to that of a parent or a favored teacher? (E.g. Some students of Milton Erickson, a famous American psychiatrist afflicted with poliomyelitis, developed polio-like health problems).

Please consult a medical doctor about medical conditions.

Although many helping professionals recognize the importance of diet, exercise and drugs; they often ignore relationship problems and negative emotions. We can:

  • support healthy behaviors, such as diet and physical activity
  • support for disease management and professional health care
  • provide possibilities for improving relationships and emotional stability

Do you want to change emotional problems or relationship issues?

Online Coaching, Relationship Counseling & Systemic Therapy

I thought you were just another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 2004-2018
All rights reserved

If you like our work, please link to us. If you know someone who might benefit,
please mention or

For online help, email us at:

Soulwork systemic coaching in America & Hawaii


Soulwork systemic coaching in England, Wales & Scotland

Soulwork systemic coaching in Croatia & Serbia

Soulwork systemic coaching in Poland



Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you hope for? Know your goals and stop sabotaging yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Learn to develop your inner resources
Do emotions block you? Relationship problems and mentor damage
Do your beliefs limit you? Change limiting beliefs and end dependence
Do you feel connected? Resolve identity issues to recover lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents better manage family problems
Do you want team success? Team leaders and their teams develop together
Do you have complex goals? Specialty coaching, counseling & therapy

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 1996-2018  All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was primarily developed by Martyn Carruthers to help people solve emotional problems and relationship conflicts to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work - email