If we suffer from, say, recurring bronchitis, asthma, colitis, constipation or diarrhoea when we’re stressed or destabilised, what do we have to do with it ?
Surely we’re under the impression that we’re not for a lot in this (except of course if we’ve being smoking 3 packets a day for 30 years and suffer from lung cancer …) and that the disease “falls” upon us.
So “catching a cold”, “be in bed with flu”, “be diagnosed with cancer”, what power do we have over this ?
Our body was designed by mother nature for both change (grow, getting old) and homeostasis (maintain the various elements necessary to life such as, for example, keep our body at 37°C wether it’s -5°C or +40°C outside). It is also true at a psychological level (change and grow in maturity and maintain psychological consistency).
This balance can be more or less heavily disturbed for our body when we dramatically change our living hygiene (food diet, alcohol, drugs, sleep …) and for our mind when some of our life experiences have shaken or damaged your psychological consistency (disruptions in attachments, unfinished mournings, abuse …).
There are 4 ways to “psychodegrade”(1) a psychological suffering:
- 2 sane ways : to talk and imagine (dreams and all artistic creations)
- 2 damaging ways : to act out and to somatise.
In all cases, it is about steaming off some of the pressure that the person feels from unclear pain(s). The fact that the (unconsciously) chosen way is painful, limiting, difficult, troublesome … is secondary to the meaning (purpose) given to it by that person (lower the pain).
In other words, meaning takes precedence over comfort.
And if that person would do nothing, the (unconscious) danger would be even greater.
So, to somatise, what is it after all ?
- It is “saying” with the body what is not said with words or the imaginary.
- It is (paradoxically) protecting oneself against an event greater danger.
- It is (also paradoxically) about finding a painful way out of a psychological pain.
Therapy is here available to :
- allow words and encourage imaginary.
- help the person to listen to his/her body and lower the stress (as stress is a major illness generator).
- help the person to see and accept his/her part in this manifestation and that is good news because if we accept the fact that we have a part in building the somatisation then we have the power to help unbuild it (up to a certain point)
- help the person to reclaim power over his/her life.
To speak (or dream) one’s pains and miseries helps not to mark them in the body and allows escaping from the feeling of powerlessness related to endure these pains and this does not exclude medical treatments of course.
(1) this term was forged by Alain CRESPELLE, Transactional Analyst, on the “Biodegrade” model.