There is a sting and a stigma for some people in the term ‘psychosomatic.’
“Give me a break with your complaining. It’s just psychosomatic.”
“Come on, there’s nothing wrong, it’s all in your head.”
But blushing is psychosomatic. An erection is psychosomatic. Sweating when you’re nervous. Butterflies in your stomach on the first day of school. Crying. Laughing. Getting a cold when you’re stressed out. Not getting better because you’re grieving the death of someone you love. An orgasm is psychosomatic–hopefully.
In all of these experiences, the psyche–let’s define it for the present as the ocean of thought, feeling, and will inside us that we call ME–is affecting the body. Psyche on soma. Soma on psyche. (Soma is Greek for body.) Feelings are in the body. And in the psyche. No: they are in the psychesoma.
But even to put it this way is to start with a distorting assumption: that a self is put together from a psyche and a soma, like a vinaigrette is put together from some vinegar and some oil.
What we encounter, what we are, is a whole person. It can be useful in our thinking to dis-integrate a person into a psyche and its soma, as we can dis-integrate the heart from its blood. But neither term is alive without its partner. If we do not re-integrate after dis-integrating, what is lost is the life.
Taking apart without putting back together–analyzing without synthesizing–is like getting into a great song, studying it, outlining its harmonic structure, tracing its rhythmic development–and never listening to it again. (This recalls what sometimes happens in the doctor-patient relationship: We go for the appointment, explain our problem, and then become a specimen for analysis, never to be listened to again.)
In exploring a human being, we need to see the whole first, then move to parts that thinking can identify, and then back to whole. Like studying light by using a prism to divide it into its rainbow of colors, and then back to the whole, the experience of light.
“Come on, it’s just psychosomatic.”
There’s no ‘just’ about it. Being human is being psychosomatic.