The origin of psychoanalysis is precisely related to the research and discovery of the psychic cause of organic diseases which carry out a function in relation to the entire life of the patient.
A person who is unable to feel his own mental and emotional trouble, expresses same through his body.
I think that it is necessary to reformulate the “disease” concept beyond the mind-body dichotomy.
People often live a dissociation between mind and body, feeling that they “own” a body rather than “being” it.
I believe that the treatment of a person requires an integrated work on the body and mind where the focus of attention is the person itself in the unique expressiveness of his suffering.
Therefore it is not a question of treating a symptom, but the person as a whole.
A doctor is indispensable to identify medical illnesses, treat them or exclude them, but if one neglects the psychological aspects of the disease I think that the medical treatment will only do half the job.
As a psychotherapist, my work with people afflicted by body symptoms and diseases always starts with a few questions, representing the premise for the search of the specific meaning of that symptom in the life of a person.
The body symptom does not have a predefined symbolic meaning: it is only through the reconstruction of the emotional history of the patient that one can give them a sense.
How did the person get ill? Why one disease rather than another? Why in a certain organ? Why at a particular moment of his life?
Body and psyche communicate secretly: whatever cannot be expressed in words is expressed through the body.
Unconsciously, in fact, and without the possibility of any control, our body talks in its own language, different from the mental one to which we are used: it forgets nothing, stores, preserves, remembers and expresses itself.
It tells us about the fears, anguishes, needs and desires of the individual together with his relational history.
The body tells what has happened, what the individual cannot find the words to express or what he thinks no one will listen to.
The human being starts to be aware of existing in the world through the awareness of his body.
The body is the newborn’s first channel of expression.
Body diseases resend exactly to the archaic stages of the person’s infancy: body and mind are inextricably linked in an undeniable reciprocity.
Coexistence between body events and symbolic meanings of the mind is lifelong.
Emotions have a direct effect on the organic functions and vice versa.
In people with a tendency to manifest their unease and suffering through their body prevails a massive and defensive use of denial and dissociation: an emotion which cannot be faced has been encapsulated and confined far away in order not to invade and overwhelm the mind of the subject.
This defensive use of denial and dissociation may have different origins: the person may be lacking an emotional literacy which should have taken place during the primordial relationships between the child and original environment. As a kind of emotional alphabet, it should have taught the child to give a name to his emotions, recognizing and expressing them.
If this step did not occur, the entire emotional world of the person remains alive, but hidden, apparently unattainable until it finds an expressive outlet in the body.
The physical symptom then emerges like a clandestine, becoming the body expression of something which can no longer remain silent.
And, from then on, the body will be the stage for emotions and relations that build up the inner world of the person.
This running will continue to repeat itself until the person is able to get in contact with his emotions and build up a bridge towards his inner world, a bridge linking authentic, ancient, emotional experiences and their emergence at a conscious level.
In this way, the symptoms may be considered and finally expressed and translated into words, a first essential step in order to face and elaborate them.
Or, even more, with discomfort and disease the body becomes the speaker of a personal experience urging to find a meaning and elaboration.
The biological mechanisms which lead to disease are therefore the expression in itself of a healthy function: they are symbols to be deciphered.
Unless, in the long run, the psychophysical syndrome has not determined in the body permanent functional consequences, it can regress during a psychoanalytical treatment because in the therapeutic relationship the entire emotional world of the patient will be brought up from its origins, and a few relational experiences at the time prevented or which never occurred may be relived or even happen for the first time.
As a psychoanalyst, I have often associated the body of patients afflicted by body diseases to the tale of Pinocchio: a real, authentic child, but closed in a wooden body which does not suit him, rigid and from which, after a long growth process, he will free himself.