Since its origins, medicine has defined itself within two conceptual poles: on one side the body is considered to be composed of several independent and separate parts, focused on the study of a specific symptom, located in an organ or tissue; the second, oriented to a holistic view, for which the origin of the disease is identified in the body-mind unit.
Although the second seems a more recent approach and the concept of "psychosomatics" has only existed for a few decades, its origins are much older. Hippocrates himself, who is considered the father of medicine, conceived of the body as a unit regulated by the psyche and the soul. More than two millennia later, with psychoanalysis this assumption evolves and the disease is recognized as a symbolic expression of psychic processes. Groddeck (1917) believed, for example, that symptoms constituted the bodily signs through which the unconscious communicates the existence of a psychological block to the outside: the stigmata of an unresolved and non-rationalized emotional conflict. In particular, when a part of our being is rejected it hides in the shadows (see the Shadow Monologues), producing an imbalance that will seek an outlet, thus becoming a symptom in the body.
In this perspective, the disease is therefore closely related to our excessively rigid positioning on a certain polarity. The more extreme our positioning, the more likely it is that the body "brings out" the opposite polarity in which we have positioned ourselves.
Through the symptom, the person can experience what they did not want to consciously live and can regain their completeness. The human body can, therefore, be considered as a system of representation. Thanks to the body we are able to connect to our origins, to the mechanisms of adaptation that have guided our evolution. It can help us to connect to the ancestral roots, to the beliefs that ensured the survival of the clan, to the cognitive patterns that we use to interpret the environment in which we act.
If the "shadow behavior" is at the origin of the symptom, stress is the trigger. Stress is a mechanism necessary to sustain life and, if occasional, it is functional to the achievement of certain goals and it is a survival strategy. On the other hand, when it becomes chronic, the defense functions decrease and the organism will be susceptible to contracting a disease. Psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology (PNEI) explains how emotional impacts translate into physical symptoms through our immune system, in close collaboration with the nervous and endocrine systems. He explains that an energetic mobilization takes place in the body when a psychic conflict or stress occurs. For this reason, far from considering the symptom as a personal enemy, it must be considered as an "ally" that warns us that something is missing. We need to change the pattern of wanting to get rid of it at all costs, and begin to consider it as an element that can help us develop an understanding of ourselves.
There are many ways to be able to understand what our body is trying to tell us. For example, we can ask ourselves if our symptom is preventing us from doing something or, if it allows us to accomplish what we previously could not. We can analyze when stress has arisen in our life, and what can be the metaphorical connection to the organ in which the symptom occurs.
This approach is not intended to replace the conventional paradigm that considers symptoms as a result of certain material causes. But it’s interesting to reflect: if we put a coin in a vending machine to get a bottle of water, the cause of the bottle to be released is certainly the coin (material cause), but also the need to drink (emotional cause). We therefore have the possibility of integrating, once again, both polarities to have a more complete analysis available.