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Found an interesting psychoanalyst on psychosomatics

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Time2be, May 16, 2018.

  1. Time2be

    Time2be Well known member

    Just a bit from my reading of Joyce McDougall, who was a reknown psychoanalyst. Some of her work is on psychosomatics and she says some interesting things in her book "Theaters of the mind". I ordered also her book with the title "Theatres of the body" - this might be even more to the point.
    She says that psychosomatic symptoms are the effect of emotions that are not felt (at all!!) and which the patient is not able to recognize as such. Usually, she says, this pattern is already established during infancy. Parents that never address a child's tension and bewilderment, rage or other emotions make it difficult, if not impossible for the child to develop psychological tools to manage with a situation of deep insecurity etc. The child will learn the externalisation of the tension, and as adults we do that also, e.g. when we smoke, drink alcohol or with binge eating. But also the psychosomatic disorder is a sort of externalisation. It is not classical repression she says, but rather a replacement that erases all signs of an inner conflict. Instead of emotions the psychosomatic symptoms take over. She goes on "I think that in such situations (psychosomatic crisis) the body defends itself as if it is threatened by a biological disease and the body uses by mistake the same strategies as for survival." (my translation, I only have the German version at hand right now). I find that very interesting because this would explain the physical reactions. Survival strategies are fight and flight reflex etc. I don't think that she says something totally new, but I like the links she is spinning between psyche and soma.
    Here a link to her obituary :
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/oct/24/joyce-mcdougall-obituary (Joyce McDougall obituary)
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  2. Time2be

    Time2be Well known member

    Just an addition: the idea that the pain is self defense of the body against the mind or psyche seems to be quite intriguing. I for my part have a tendency to think of the body as the attacker, but defense and attack are easily confused and mixed up.
  3. Caulfield

    Caulfield Well known member

    Very interesting; thank you for sharing! I 100% agree about the body defending itself as if it's threatened by a biology disease in many of these cases - beautifully worded.

    This is one thing I don't necessarily agree with, and it comes up quite a bit in TMS discussions. I think it's definitely possible for psychosomatic symptoms to pop up after directly feeling and being aware of specific emotions. One example is a migraine coming on or Raynaud's flaring up when someone gets into an argument or become self-conscious. I know my nerve pain heightened and still comes back (to a much lesser degree these days!) when I actively feel fearful or angry. Perhaps our subconscious has a deeper or maybe even an alternative interpretation of these emotions, but I do think we can consciously feel the emotions that bring on TMS in some cases!
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
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  4. Time2be

    Time2be Well known member

    oh yes, Caulfield, TMSer are aware of some emotions and sometimes these emotions are pointing into the right direction - to were the problem is situated. That's right, I also have feelings and know that they are related to pain. But I must say that I often cannot say precisely what the feeling is other than feeling anxious or disturbed. I don't think that she claims that TMS people don't have a clue about their emotions and can never feel them. We learn to feel and express them. But many (including me) are very astonished about what is covered underneath the very rational and reasonable appearance. She also deals with severe cases of alexithymia. These patients have almost no vocabulary to express feelings. I guess they are somewhere in the autisme sprectre. For me the idea of the body in defense is an eye opener. I'll keep you informed if anything interesting pops up from the new book
    I think what Sarno means is that no matter how far we got in uncovering our subconsciousness we never will be able to uncover the whole. What is hidden is also not always a specific trauma but a mode of reaction. Scrutinizing yourself for 'one' reason for your pain, like looking for this one trauma, sounds a bit Hollywood psychoanalysis for me. Like in the classic Spellbound with Ingrid Bergman as psychiatrist. At least it makes more sense to me that the body learned certain ways to react and these ways are deeply engraved and can be actualized by triggers. I see several steps in healing TMS and some might not have to go through all the steps:
    1. the knowledge that you don't have a severe disease but just some psychosomatic reaction is enough for some. They calm down and the symptom disappears
    2. Looking into your emotions, writing it down etc. is healing for some. This is integrating parts of your psyche that had not been recognized before. For others this is not enough.
    3. A process that has the goal to reorganize your body and nerve system. Step 1 and 2 help, but to change the bodily reactions time is needed. You simply need to establish new circuits that could overrule the old ones. In a more humanistic language: you need to develop a different understanding of yourself. I think that Alan Gordon's program is addressing step 3 (of course including the other steps).
    Does this make sense? I am kind a stuck in step 3, sometimes still struggling. And try to be patient :)
    Caulfield likes this.
  5. Lizzy

    Lizzy Well known member

    This sounds very interesting! Maybe this is a bridge between pure Sarno and the more soothing approach.

    I know what causes some of my symptoms. For instance, I found out that my estranged father is dying and my big toe has hurt to various degrees now for almost 6 months, depending on news I hear. Thankfully, most of the time it only hurts when fully bent, and doesn't stop any activity. However, other symptoms are a mystery as to specifics.

    If we could better understand the specific type each of our TMS symptoms are, maybe we could make better progress. Soothing might work for my toe, but maybe I also have a repressed rage causing other symptoms that won't respond to soothing? Hmm.....

    Thanks Time2be! Very intriguing!

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