Robert Frost, PhD

Applied Kinesiology has focussed upon only two sides of the Triad of Health—the structural and chemical sides. As a result, many who practice AK are at a loss when the causes of a patient’s presenting symptom is mental.

Although Goodheart recognized that health problems can have a mental cause, his background and that of most of the therapists who have developed AK was in the areas of structure and chemistry. He hoped that his early colleague, the psychiatrist Dr. John Diamond, would integrate psychological techniques with AK, but this did not occur as hoped. It is still true today that most of the therapists who practice AK have little or no training in psychology and are thus are not able to make adequate diagnosis and treatments on the mental side of the triad of health .

As the triad of health reveals, health problems can have structural, chemical and mental causes. And correction of one side of the triad of health can have profound affects upon the other two sides. If the cause of mental problems is a lack of a particular nutrient, supplying this nutrient can correct the mental problem. If the cause of a mental problem is poor posture or other faulty structural alignment, correcting these can correct the mental problem.

However, if the causes of a mental or any other kind of health problem lie primarily on the mental side of the triad of health, (including mental, emotional and possibly spiritual causes), having a structural treatment or taking a medicine (or supplement) that eliminates the symptoms will suppress the cause of the problem. Such inadequate corrective measures will 1) need to be repeated indefinitely and/or 2) be equivalent to turning off a smoke alarm while a fire still burns.

Symptoms can assist us to be aware that some aspect of our beliefs, our behavior, our expectations or some other aspect of our lives is inaccurate, incorrect, and in need of adjustment. For example, a pain may be caused by incorrect posture or a poor pattern of use such as always carrying heavy luggage with the same hand. Taking a drug may, at least temporarily, reduce the pain. But, suppressing the symptoms through such inappropriate treatment can eliminate the stimulus that could provoke needed change and personal growth.

Since modern medicine and most other therapeutic systems are typically oriented toward correcting problems by eliminating symptoms, suppression rather than cure is very often the result. The inappropriate application of any therapeutic method can result in suppression.

The Subconscious Storehouse of Innate Knowledge

The total information about how our bodies are structured and how they should function is stored in our genetic material, our DNA. Although we are not consciously aware of this “library” of knowledge, some portion our being below the level of conscious awareness uses it constantly to monitor and direct all the processes of our bodies. One could say that our bodies have an inherent wisdom. This portion of our being which directs body processes below the level of conscious awareness includes both the DNA, the autonomic nervous system and the ground system of regulation.

Not only the DNA, but also the information generated by reason of prior experiences is used to direct human function and behavior. For example, in a particular situation we may have suffered fear and/or pain. Subsequently, when similar appearing situations occur, we automatically react so as to avoid fear and pain. This reaction is both nervous and chemical and occurs below the level of conscious awareness. The impressions (memories) left by experiences, whether consciously experienced or not, appear to be stored both in the brain and in particular tissues throughout of the body. The exact neurophysiology is only partially understood. Except in cases of genetic defects, the genes supply accurate information for optimal health and functioning. However, the impressions left by experience (and the beliefs and expectations we created as a result) may be inaccurate and thereby be a cause of malfunctioning and even disease.

For all the functions of the human (structural, chemical and mental) that lie outside of the conscious awareness, I will use the term, the “subconscious.” By this definition, the subconscious includes the functions of the autonomic nervous system and the ground system of regulation and is thus responsible for the healing and the maintenance of health. Clearly this definition is more encompassing that held in many medical circles but will be familiar to those versed in Jungian psychology, Neurolinguistic Programming and many other healing traditions.

The healing process is influenced by mental-emotional states. It is well documented that patients who strongly believe that they will get well have a better chance of getting well than patients with a more negative attitude toward their own healing. The young science of psycho-neuro immunology is providing many examples of chemical changes produced in the body as a result of mental-emotional states. This implies that functions of the autonomic nervous system, including healing, is influenced by mental-emotional states.

Evidence indicates that on a subconscious instinctual level, we know what is wrong with us and what we need to correct the problem. For example, children with rickets like the taste of cod liver oil. Pregnant women with nutritional deficiencies are inexorably drawn to eat substances which contain the elements that their growing foetus requires. But most of us are so out of touch with our own subconscious wisdom that we don’t consciously know what we need to solve the problems of health (happiness, success, etc.). Stated in another way, most of us neither recognize nor respond correctly to behavioral impulses arising from our own autonomic nervous systems.

A German nurse worked as the local doctor in a rural village in Africa. Often women would stand in line for hours with their small naked children held on their hips. The nurse was amazed that the children never urinated on the mothers’ dresses. She asked one mother why her dress was never urinated upon. The mother responded, “When my child has to pee, I put him down on the ground.” The nurse asked, “How do you know when your child has to pee?” The mother looked at the nurse like she was mentally deficit and asked, “How do you know when you have to pee?” The African mother felt pressure in her own bladder, noted that she didn’t have to pee, realized that the sign she felt in her own body was the need of her child, and put the child down. This was the most natural thing in the world for the African mother. For the nurse, it was a miracle, an extrasensory perception.

Perhaps it is the constant focus upon training of the conscious mind and upon conscious endeavors that has caused modern civilized people to lose touch with the natural wisdom of the body. Whatever the reason, we civilized people are mostly lacking in awareness of what our bodies are trying to tell us. This point was delightfully depicted by a client during a diagnostic session using AK. As I muscle tested and gathered information, she asked, “If my body knows all this, why am I so stupid?”

Muscle testing provides a rather coarse tool for inquiring of the subconscious, for obtaining direct responses from the body. When you think of it, why should we have to press on each other’s arms in order to find out what we already know? Answer: Because we are so out of touch with our own subconscious wisdom that we no longer have conscious access to what we essentially know.

In this state, our body tries to communicate to our conscious mind through symptoms such as pain. A pain can be like a smoke alarm, alerting us that there is a “fire burning”; to the existence of a problem requiring our attention. But how can we correctly interpret our symptoms? AK derived techniques, when correctly applied as will be described later, can help us to determine and correct the causes of our symptoms. Before I knew of such techniques, I observed that the nature of our symptoms and the areas of the body where they occur can often help us to decipher the nature of the underlying problem. Knowledge of this kind of body language can be a valuable tool for any therapist.

Let me give an example from my clinical work with a patient in the medical office in Basel, Switzerland, where I worked for 8 years: From time to time, a patient had bleeding, infected, stinking sores all along the side of his tongue. All the medicines he received including antibiotics were ineffective in curing these wounds. After a few weeks they went away by themselves, only to return a few months later. I asked my patient, “When you have these sores, what can you not do; what are you prevented from doing?” He answered, “I can’t be around people. The wounds are not only ugly but my breath is so foul that people find it repulsive.” I asked him, “Do you take time for yourself and do things all alone?” He answered with irritation, “I have to work hard to support my family. And when I come home, the kids want my attention. When they go to bed, my wife wants my attention and then I have to sleep before going to work in the morning. So I have no chance for time for myself.”

I asked my patient if he took time for himself before he was married, and if so, what did he do? He answered that he played squash (alone) and read books. So I gave this prescription, “Play squash alone and read books.”.He said, “Do you think it could be that easy?” I answered, “It’s worth a try. Nothing else has worked and this seems to be what your body is saying. You symptom forces you to be alone. So take time alone and perhaps you won’t need this symptom.” The patient never returned. I chanced to see him on a tram many months later. He smiled, pulled a folded-open paperback book from the back pocket of his trousers and said, “I take time for myself now and the sores have never returned”.

Note that colloidal silver, echinacea or perhaps cat’s claw-una de gato (potent anti-infectants and immune system stimulators), which were not known or used in the clinic at that time, could have very likely been successful in preventing the outbreak of his sores. However, he would likely have had to continue taking them indefinitely and thereby would have lost the chance for learning a very much needed lesson. And, if I am right in my assumption that his symptom was a communication from his subconscious to his conscious mind, taking an effective remedy would be ignoring his own subconscious communication—a common medical and psychological error today.

When we are closed to receiving communication from (or via) our subconscious mind, we are out of touch with our own feelings. We don’t even know what we really want. As a psychologist, I’m so often amazed that my patients simply do not know what they want out of life. When I ask them what they want, the answer is most always, “I want that my symptoms go away!” I ask them if their symptoms are what they do not want. When they agree, I ask them, “Well then, what do you want?” In response, most stare at me blankly. They have no idea what they do want. Worse, through social conditioning and negative experiences, they have lost the ability to dream and hope/expect that the quality of their lives could significantly improve. It is not only in the field of AK that basic psychological knowledge is lacking. Most people seem unaware of basic psychological facts that could improve the lives of us all.

One of these basic facts is that our conscious awareness is only one part of our total self. By definition, the subconscious mind encompasses all parts of ourselves of which we are not consciously aware. This includes all the information encoded in our DNA which defines the structure and functions of our bodies including all healing processes. If the chemical processes involved in healing a small cut were typed on paper, they would fill a large library! Luckily we do not have to consciously direct these processes. This would be too big a job for our conscious minds. Even activities that we must consciously learn such as walking are swiftly turned over to our subconscious mind as habits, allowing us to attend to other pursuits. Imagine what it would be like if you had to consciously take each step like when you were a baby. You would not be able to do anything else at the same time. Thank goodness we all have a subconscious mind!

Within the subconscious mind are psychological patterns of behavior that have provided for our survival for countless generations. These archetypal modes of behaving include the nurturing and protecting mother, the successful hunter, the fighter, etc. When a particular archetype is active, hormones are released into the blood and we become biochemically prepared and motivated for specific types of activity. In the ideal case, the appropriate archetype becomes active and motivates our behavior as needed. An important part of psychotherapy may be assisting clients to disassociate with inappropriate archetypes and identify with ones more appropriate to their life situation.

In specific cultures at particular times in history, certain archetypes are more predominant than others. The archetypes may be observed in personal dreams and in the mythology of world cultures. Their psychic activity forms a much larger part of our personal behavior than most of us suspect. We think that we are individuals following our own personal course of action. In reality, most of what we do is determined by the archetypes that are currently active in our society and in each of us.

Our subconscious mind, in which the archetypes reside, is just as much a part of the totality of our selfhood as our conscious mind. In fact, it is much larger; more vast in scope. The conscious mind is like a small island upon the vast ocean of the subconscious. Any yet most of us define our self, that which we call “I”, as being only our conscious mind. In doing so, we ignore and thereby repress a great part of ourselves.

Our conscious mind has been compared to the masculine, Yang nature. It is projective, outward oriented, goal oriented, aware of one thing at a time (digital), quick to be aroused, active and then passive. The conscious mind thinks with words and numbers which have discrete meanings. By comparison, our subconscious mind is feminine or Yin in nature. It is attractive, inwardly oriented, timeless, aware of many related things simultaneously (analog), slow to be aroused and continuously active. The subconscious mind “thinks” with symbols that imply many different meanings simultaneously. Note that every individual person, male or female has both a conscious and a subconscious mind. Indeed many females today have a more highly developed conscious mind (which we have defined as a masculine attribute) than most men. So these definitions are not to be construed as sexist—defining women as only having feminine or Yin attributes.

These principles can be seen in the form and function of the reproductive organs—which physically define the difference between men and women. The male reproductive organ projects outward away from his body. When stimulated, it (he) is quick to be aroused, very goal oriented and interested in only one thing. If he obtains it, he is very active for a short time, and then passive for a long time. These are qualities of the masculine nature. In contrast, the main female reproductive organ is within her body. When stimulated it is generally slower than the male to become aroused, more dependent upon and interested in many aspects of the whole situation (mood, ambience, tenderness, feelings of being cared for and valued. etc.). Her arousal can last for a much longer time. And if the reproductive act is successful, she goes through continuous inner and outer activities to create and sustain a child.

The main tool of the conscious mind is language, constructed of letters, words and numbers. The centers for speaking and for understanding language are located only on the left side of the brain. Indeed many of the qualities we have defined as conscious-male-Yang have a connection with the functions of the left side of the brain. Similarly the functions of the right side of the brain are related to what we have defined as subconscious-female-Yin. Recent research into the function of the two sides of the brain has revealed a tendency toward the following separation of activities and qualities:

Left Brain Right Brain
controls the right side of the body controls the left side of the body
symbolically relates to the father symbolically relates to the mother
career home
willful activity, control spontaneous activity, play
science art
logical thought intuition, fantasy, dreams
drive to succeed desire to enjoy
separating uniting
focus upon details focus upon interconnections and meaning
ability to deduce details from a great quantity of information
ability to re-conceive the whole from limited information
words melody
rationality creativity
The cultural preference for the right side can be heard in the language in phrases such as “he has the right”, “That’s the right thing to do” and “Right!” meaning correct. The suppression of the left side can be heard in phrases such as “left out”, “linkish” (German literal meaning - “Lefty”) meaning uncoordinated and stupid. Left means “communist” or even worse!

In Western culture, the educational process emphasizes almost exclusively the right side (left side of the brain). Most all of what we call learning occurs through the use of letters, words and numbers—which are processed exclusively on the left side of the brain. Thus what we call education is training of only the left side of the brain. Seen in this light, it is no wonder that so many people display symptoms of being imbalanced. And as a result, most psychological imbalances require more attention to and development of the qualities of the left side of the body—the right side of the brain.

A man who is out of touch with his subconscious mind and ignores or more actively suppresses its communication (symptoms, feelings, intuitions, hunches, day dreams, night dreams) will not be able to lead a fulfilling life. He may obtain monetary success and status symbols (car, home, holiday, etc.), but deep and lasting joy will elude him. The story most of us had to read in high school of suicide of Richard Cory (that Paul Simon made into a song) is a example of the misery of many rich people. Worldly success is no promise of happiness.

A man who ignores or suppresses the communication of his subconscious mind will also tend to ignore or repress communication received from the women in his life. He just won’t be able to understand them, even if he wishes to. In my opinion, this is the psychological underpinning of the social problem of repression of females. Most women are still more in touch with their feelings than most men. However, this problem is not limited to men. In our culture, women are also trained to ignore the messages from their bodies, from their subconscious minds. The following is an extreme example of such a case:

During a session in my first year as a teacher of Alexander Technique, a female patient in Basel, Switzerland, came to me with peculiar symptoms. She awoke daily between 4 and 5 AM and vomited. After medical diagnosis found nothing organically wrong with her, she was sent to me. She had a colorless character with no specific desires or wishes other than getting rid of her symptom. One day she could find no baby sitter and brought her 5 year old daughter to the session. Her daughter sat motionless and said nothing for the during the whole session. Healthy five-year-olds do not normally sit still and quiet that long. This alerted me to a big control issue in the family and made me suspect that my client’s symptom might be caused by a neurosis. During another session, the client said, “Nüüt, nüüt”. I asked her what these words meant. She translated them into high German for me as “Nicht, nicht” (not, not). I asked her why she said these words. She answered that I had tickled her. Now, a normal response to being tickled is not utter without emotion, “Nüüt, nüüt” but rather to laugh.

She had her vomiting late in her sleeping hours, the time when her over-controlling conscious mind was at its weakest. The body language of her symptom was a forceful throwing back out of the body what had been pushed into it. From her behavior, she had obviously “swallowed” repressive social conditioning for her whole life. She had provided no conscious resistance to this life-constricting and life-denying training. By vomiting, her subconscious mind, which was active and without the normal restraints of conscious repression during sleep, seemed to be symbolically throwing it all back out. I would interpret her body language as saying, “I won’t take it anymore!” I mentioned that for her problem she should consider psychotherapy. She replied, “It is too late to change now”. I asked her way it was too late. She said, “Because I’m already thirty years old. I’m too old to change now!”

Many women simply accept the biblical (or some similar) injunction that they are naturally subordinate to men. This is the typical “wife syndrome”. In Switzerland where I have lived for many years, many of my married female patients report that their man earns the money and that he doesn’t ever even tell her how much. She gets a certain amount each month to run the household, buy herself and the children clothing, etc. Beyond that, he buys what he wants with no discussion with her.

Rebelling against this type of injustice, many modern women have learned to be successful in a “man’s world.” They have usurped the usurpers. A woman has to be far better than a man at the same work to be considered an equal, and many women are doing exactly that. It is very unsettling to men that women are able to be even more successful at traditional male activities than they are. Slowly, the efforts of these woman warriors is changing the landscape of male-female relations and obtaining the rights of women.

However, these females who can be better males than the males are not an example of archetypical or ideal femininity. Indeed, as a feminist university professor revealed to me, “I would much rather sit at home and enjoy the good life of pleasure and leisure. But I must do battle, in very unfeminine ways, to obtain and defend the rights of women.” Similarly, men who train for war (and thereby learn to ignore their feelings of compassion, etc.) are not an example of ideal masculinity.

As with women in the “battle of the sexes”, our subconscious will produce symptoms and syndromes as a kind of protest and corrective measure to our unhealthy lifestyle. Perhaps diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, rheumatism that plague us today are in part the communication or even the revenge of the long-suppressed subconscious mind. The language of our subconscious may be saying, “If you won’t listen to me and correct your ways (structural, chemical and mental), then I will make you suffer until you do. If you still won’t listen to me and make the needed changes, you will die.”

If this is true, how can we learn to understand our bodies when they speak to us in the language of our symptoms?

Muscle testing can be used to reveal the emotion behind the symptom, and who expresses/expressed the emotion to whom. Muscle testing can be used to determine when, with whom, and under what circumstances the problem started. When the nature of the problem has been located, muscle testing may be used to determine the corrective procedures to apply and in which order (priority) to apply them. But, as Goodheart stated, we can only test what we know.

There are many books that list the possible psychological causes of various symptoms. For such information, one may read the works of Louise Haye, Thornwald Detlefsen and others. Some of the apparent underlying factors that I have seen in my clinical experience are listed below. It is not to be implied that all problems have a psychological cause. But any problem that exists for an extended period of time will have an emotional and a mental aspect, whether these were original causes or not. In either case, determining and clearing the emotional/mental aspect of the problem can assist the healing process.

Possible Psychological Causes of Health Disturbances

It is not suggested that the following problems exclusively have the causes listed below. But, a consideration of the possibility of the listed causes may elicit therapeutically useful information that might otherwise be overlooked.

Back pain = Problems in the past that require re-evaluation. Symbolically, the past is that which is behind us. Anatomically, our backs are behind us. Situations which produce fear or pain often result in inaccurate interpretations. These incorrect interpretations of past experiences and the consequent expectations and decisions they produce prevent us from experiencing how good life can be. In such cases, our subconscious mind may produce a pain in the back to tell us of the need for re-evaluation.

Stiffness, inability to bend laterally = Decisions need to be made. You are prevented from going very far either to the right or to the left.

Skin problems = Problems with maintaining your personal distance. You cannot separate yourself from others effectively. Your personal barriers are too porous. You feel the pains of others as if they were on your own body.

Infections in general = Run down immune system. The psychological causes include stress, excess emotion and low self-esteem. Chinese medicine says that not only negative emotions can overly stress the body. Too much joy can also cause disease, but I have yet to find patients with this problem.

Flu = Need to take time off from daily activities and be inactive.

Candida = Too much sugar and milk in the diet. Such a patient needs to find “sweetness” and “mothering” elsewhere than in the food eaten.

Cancer = Inability to mentally and emotionally grow. The Weltanschauung (worldview) has become rigid. The only possible “inner growth” is in the form of tumors. In this respect it is interesting to consider that psychotic and schizophrenic patients (who have no fixed mental attitudes and little or no boundaries to inner growth) have only 20% as many cases of cancer compared to the average population.

Brain Tumors = A “toxic memory”, something shameful, illegal or otherwise “necessary” to hide that is held secret and perhaps so well repressed that it has become forgotten..

Symptoms that lie only upon one side of the body = problem with a life aspect symbolized by that side.
Right side of the body -> Left side of the brain, language, logical activity, Yang, male, father, career, willful activity, drive to succeed, focus upon details, ability to deduce conclusions from a great quantity of information.
Left side of the body -> Right side of the brain, symbols, rhythm, ritual, Yin, female, mother, personality, the home, creativity, sensitivity, focus upon interconnections and meaning, ability to re-conceive of the whole from limited information.

Applied Kinesiology has concentrated upon structural and chemical causes of dysfunction. Specialized Kinesiology has focused strongly upon the mental causes. Selected techniques developed by those in the field of Specialized Kinesiology and by the author can supply you with methods with which you will be able to determine the psychological causes of health problems, resolve them, and thereby eliminate their continuing negative effects.

Through the efforts of psychologists and other therapists using Applied Kinesiology techniques (Callahan, Durlacher,, a new field is emerging: Energy Psychology. Those who use Applied Kinesiology and are interested in the mental causes of dysfunction are also referred to the literature and trainings available in this new field.