The writings of Galen, Marcus Aurelius’ personal physician, were brought to light by the French Greek scholar Veronique Boudon Millot, a researcher at the Sorbonne in Paris. An excerpt from those writings read – “Do not somatize the pain, do not transfer it to the body because the spirit has power over the body and can make you ill.”
Psychosomatics is not a modern concept, if we consider that Hippocrates, the founder of Western medicine, who lived between the 5th and 6th century BCE, outlined: “the humoral theory,” according to which our body is governed by four humors: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm, which in turn derive from the four natural elements, viz. air, water, fire, and earth. When they are balanced, there is the life force, which is nothing but a healing force, whereas when the spirit or vital breath, pneuma, suffers, the body becomes ill.
When the body is suffering, it experiences different types of physical sensations such as chest tightness, a feeling of gastric emptying, difficulty in breathing, fatigue, in some cases dry mouth as well as hypersensitivity to noise. Such sensations worsen when the suffering is not expressed. The externalization of emotions is the adaptive strategy to prevent stress that might lead to cardiovascular or inflammatory diseases. According to the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, in mourning after the loss of a partner or a dear one, the impact of pain on physical and mental health can make you ill if you don’t openly express your emotions.
Furthermore, stress can alter the immune system and broad inflammatory conditions. Psychologists can help survivors, spouses, kids, friends, or relatives in grieving without negative impacts on health by using specific behavioral methods. Introvert people, who tend to not openly express their feelings, show higher levels of inflammation than those who express them more. There are numerous studies that prove how kind words can ‘heal pain’, as in fact when the soul suffers in ‘silence’, the body becomes ill. It is also true what Seneca wrote: “Small is the pain that speaks, the great one is mute”. Thus, suffocating feelings cannot be the way to deal with pain. The consoling voice of the people that we trust is soothing like a mother calming her baby, and positively impacts and strengthens our immune system.
Suffering penetrates deep into our soul and weakens our defenses, exposing us not only to bacterial infections but also to mental illnesses, making us losing focus and awareness.
“But the real, tremendous truth is as Pavese said: “suffering serves no purpose whatever.”
In conclusion, anyone must not give in to suffering or pain, but rather gather strength and courage by finding indispensable means to come out of it.
This article was also published in Italian and can be read on Sud Reporter and Prof Giordano's Italian Blogsite.
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