Updated: Apr 6, 2018
Illness as a communication tool
Illness is the body’s ultimate communication tool as nothing throws us into crisis as effectively as
illness. If we stop and think about the limitations we experience and the range of emotions we feel when we are ill – fear, frustration, love, hope, conflict, despair, life and death- we recognise the truth in this statement. So, illness affects spirit and body. The conundrum is that the focus of our modern healthcare system is to cure symptoms, or excise dis-ease rather than understand the symptoms as signs of deeper suffering or imbalances.
Dis-ease: a Manifestation of mind-body-soul
Dr Michelle Mars, Phd, states that ‘Psychosomatic medicine is concerned with the origins, meanings and underpinnings of disease and cannot easily be made sense of under the reigning biomedical understandings of health and illness. The key sticking point is the integration of the suffering of the soul into the health equation’ where not only physical, but mental and emotional suffering are identified as the source of disease.
Consider, for example, how often emotional stress is cited as a trigger for eczema, cold sores or
psoriasis. Mars’ research identifies the commonly held belief in the connection between stressful life events and skin diseases, ‘From a psychosomatic approach, skin disorders can be understood in terms of repressed expressions of anger and hostility, in particular the expression of anger. The skin and central nervous system share an embryological relationship, as well as several hormones, neurotransmitters and receptors. It is therefore not surprising that a link between the skin and psychological diseases has been noticed and described.’
Armouring the Body
Mars goes on to suggest that ‘a skin disorder could be an [protective] armouring of the body’, and that looking to psychosomatic understanding of dis-ease can provide an opportunity for the affected individual to grow beyond the symptom. While not widely accepted in mainstream culture if, like Mars, we look to the relationship between mind and body it makes logical sense. ‘Depression, anxiety and anger are common in individuals with skin diseases. In skin disorders the skin’s natural protective function is turned into a form of armouring. Psychological pain such as depression, anxiety and stress are somatised and expressed via the skin… Dethlefsen & Dahlke (2002) suggest that behind every form of defence is a fear of getting hurt…Understanding skin disorders from a psychosomatic perspective provides an opportunity to look below the skin to the source of the suffering.’
Written on the Body
As any kinesiologist will tell you, awareness itself can be transformative. Often when the client identifies the issue underlying the symptom, energy is shifted and pain released. This notion is supported by the basic premise of psychosomatic medicine that symptoms provide a map for the therapist to work with and are not just obstacles that need to be removed. In fact, focusing only on healing the physical hurt may obscure the message and deflect dealing with the ‘deeper psychological and spiritual reasons we feel pain’.
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 Mars, M, “The suffering of the soul in medicine: Psychosomatic medicine, depression, anxiety, anger and the skin”, ATMS, Volume 24, Number 1, Autumn 2018
 Mars, M, 2018
 Dethlefsen, T and Dahlke, R, “The healing power of illness : understanding what your symptoms are telling you”, 2002, Pavilion Books
 Mars, M, 2018