Sunday, February 19, 2012

We All Somaticize

One of the things we often overlook in our society affects the health of many people. We are quick to focus on major diseases and health conditions as they pertain to medical care. Yet, when it comes to understanding and comprehending somatization, the medical system often fails to see what is in plain view.

Somatization in a simple definition is when we take trauma or stressful situations and turn it into a physical reality. The physical symptoms are really nothing more than a physical manifestation of the trauma or stress. Often you hear people only talk about trauma, but in all reality, the build up of stress over time has the same effect on the body as a traumatic moment.

Consider the following example. Your home life is stressful trying to pay all the bills, keep the mortgage current, while your job has been nonstop. There is never a peaceful moment in your day or a moment where you can relax. The kids have demands upon your time, your significant other vies for your attention and you have to make sure the house is taken care of, meals are prepared and a whole host of other tasks. On top of that, even though you get home at night, your company issued smart phone keeps you engaged in work activities through text messages and email. You long for a vacation where you can toss your phone in an ocean, but quickly realize that the possibility of relaxation is nothing but a dream.

After awhile, your body starts to wear down and you may get a cold or the flu. You try to recover taking over the counter meds. The next thing you know your neck is stiff or sore, maybe your back aches or you just feel so exhausted that you can barely move. It could be migraine headaches, or a host of other symptoms that begin to show up. While it may be easy to see in this example that all the build up of stress has much to do with the physical symptoms, all too often we fail to make that connection. It seems like it is easier for humans to want a medical doctor to "cure" the problem, rather than making changes in one's life to get to the root of the problem. If you think this is not grounded in science, check out Dr. Sarno's book, Healing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection.

Consider another example. You have gone through your life try to navigate life as if there is more possibility than all you went through early in life. Maybe you are consciously aware of what happened or maybe some of these events were so horrendous, that you make a choice just to forget about them and go on with life. At least that is what you tell yourself. It is not until some other precipitating factor arises that may not have anything to do with the original trauma, yet it triggers and connects you to that moment. The next thing you know, you're experiencing pain, or phantom type symptoms throughout your body. You might experience a wide range of emotions from depression, anxiety and anger to the desire to withdraw from others. You begin to feel so much pain or horrible moments that you again, desire the medical community to take away the pain. Little do you realize that you are somatizing events from your past. It does not always matter that the pain showing up is a direct correlation to some event. Often we are fooled by the pain into believing it is something that it is not. Check out my book, Hope And Possibility Through Trauma to learn more.

The final example I'll share with you is consider someone that was involved in a car accident or witnessed some traumatic moment. Maybe in both situations, the medical community deemed you to be okay and that nothing really happened to you. Maybe you walked away from the car accident without a scratch or you were just a witness to some traumatic moment. You then go on your way, thinking that all is okay. Maybe it is years down the road when something may or may not click and the next thing you know, you are experiencing all kinds of physical symptoms. It makes no sense you think, why you went from someone that seemed to be healthy into someone that is now fighting for your life. Yet, it seems like there would be no connection. After all, you were not the one hurt. Little do we realize though that what we take in during these moments, is more traumatic than we want to believe. Think of it as if you could do a freeze frame and then view yourself. What would you notice about your body and what you were thinking in that moment? All too often, it is far too easy for us to minimize the impact of moments such as this example. More likely than not, unless we dissipate the stored energy that we would see in the freeze frame, it is there waiting like a ticking time bomb. Take a look at Peter Levine's book, Waking The Tiger for a more in-depth look into how the body processes trauma.

You see, we often minimize the trauma or stress that we have been through. It is easy to distance our self from it and act as if it does not exist. Deep within our mind body, we know that it does, but all too often we are shut off from this communication of awareness. We are numb to that which we feel inside and the source of this numbness alludes our conscious thought.

We can of course continue on in life acting as if these things do not connect or impact us. We may get a long ways into our life before they really catch up with us, but when they do, it may very likely drop us to our knees. Our body has the wonderful capacity to endure and experience a great deal of trauma or stress, but the longer we hold it in, the more we are destroying our body from the inside out. These things that we fail to let go of, become energy robbers that zap us of our strength and peace that our life should have the opportunity to experience.

You may want to read my blog post on Conversion (Somatoform) Disorder

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