The study of mutual interactions between the Nervous, Endocrine and Immune Systems, seems to outline more and more clearly the primary involvement of the psyche in the genesis and over the course of cancer.
The fact that patients are taken by surprise by the “terrible evil” often in a moment of their lives characterized by success, following a period of enormous effort, is paradoxically a confirmation of the process that is ongoing in cancer: self-destructive unconscious forces are working.
Studies carried out over recent years tend to identify some psychological aspects of the individual affected by cancer, attributes which might increase the risk of this disease. It would concern people with a reduced capacity of introspection, with an inability to express their emotional life and a tendency to mask or minimize them. Individuals that have a strong need to convey a good image of themselves and have a positive image of the world. In relationships with people and the outside world they tend to deny conflict, developing a strong tendency toward assertiveness and complacency towards authoritative people. Their behaviour seems even to be characterized by rigidity. Due to these emotional dynamics, coerced in their expressiveness and authenticity, they tend to develop some depressive aspects.
These “psychological traits” are explained, from a biological point of view, with a reduced activity of the Immune System, in addition to some alterations in the regulation process like in the Endocrine and Central Nervous Systems.
But what is cancer from a psychoanalytical point of view? It is an extremely complex issue to which we have tried to give some answers, although not exhaustive. Cancer represents a malignant psychotic nucleus inside the person, as if there were an evil, a suffering, an anger which can find no expression through words but may only be expressed through the body. It is malignant because it wants to hurt the person and tries to take possession of his life.
Cancer has its own independent development with respect to the rest of the body. The Immune System which up to a certain day protected the person, distinguishing malignant from benign cells and eliminating the latter, at some point exchanges the enemy for a friend, feeding him so as to make him grow. He feeds a suicidal part of the person and teams up with the traitor of the individual.
Cancer is a body disease which puts at stake very archaic anguishes of life and death.
The entire social environment in which the patient lives gets involved with the terrible experiences that this disease provokes.
But cancer, although a cruel condition, may be a disease and cure at the same time.
There is a need of an alliance between medicine and psychology in order to cure the person.
Given that cancer is the manifestation on the body of an unimaginable experience of despair, the tumour growth personifies on the one hand the advancement of a slow process of suicide triggered by some self-destructive aspects of the individual and on the other hand the incapacity of the person to deal with these forces, hidden until then. Now that these forces have become visible through the disease, they can be recognized, treated, elaborated and cured.
After the medical treatment, absolutely necessary for the body, I think it is essential to welcome the individual’s despair and carry out a therapeutic work on the dynamics of his inner world, the dynamics of his relationships, inviting him to come to terms with his unconscious self-destructive sides in order not to succumb to them anymore and thus be able to reborn into a new life.
A person with cancer will have to face a hard time in expressing his aggression, will have to deal with what he suffered in silence, finding himself in this way overwhelmed by an enormous amount of anger and impotence. An aggressiveness which originated in the ancient relationship with the world and today manifests itself by turning against the individual himself. An individual that needs to work on the emotional dynamics of his inner world which he carries unconsciously, but that have partially expressed themselves in cancer. What has happened in terms of the body must find a correspondence on the psychic side of the patient.
Moreover a psychosomatic view of man is beginning to be accepted amongst doctors who are traditionally organicistic, whereby diseases only have a biological origin.
Cancer cannot only be seen as a disease to be cut away with medicine or to be destroyed with radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but it needs to be faced as a troubled side of the emotional world of the person.
Sometimes the cure, solely oriented on the body and not taking into due consideration the psychological part of the disease, may lead, as happens, to relapse.