(this is a reprint of an article in my old blog)
in healing the soul in the age of the brain, psychiatrist elio frattaroli states
the hippocratic oath says simply “i will follow that system or regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, i consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.” there’s nothing in the oath about relieving suffering because hippocrates understood that suffering may be a necessary part of the healing process.
frattaroli talks a lot about certain types of emotional challenges being signals to wake up to what causes us inner conflict.
this is an interesting perspective. many of us are familiar with the idea of certain types of physical discomfort being flags for “something’s going on.”
i remember the story of a mother of three teenage boys, who had a lot of neck pain. it turned out that she had moments of literally experiencing her children as a “pain in the neck”.
or i recall a client in whose presence i often felt drowsy – until he literally had a spiritual awakening.
it’s interesting to take the route of also seeing psychological discomfort or pain as a sign. frattaroli likens some instances of depression to the canary in the mines, which tells us that something’s rumbling underground.
if the response to that is to do nothing but take medication it is like forcing the canary to stop issuing their warning calls and instead stay in the cage and keep on singing – until a catastrophe happens.
i don’t know that this perspective always works. to paraphrase a freudian saying, sometimes a depression is just a depression.
i also don’t know how far one would want to take the idea of inner conflict. if joe is depressed because of how bad his ex wife used to treat him, i’m not sure that we need to add a story about inner conflict (“his need to be treated well conflicted with his experience in his marriage”).
but when an unpleasant emotional experience arises, such as depression, anxiety, phobia, etc., and it doesn’t soon appear clear what it’s all about, i think it’s useful to explore what inner conflict could be at the root of it.
freud would approve of that. because a cigar sometimes is … well, to paraphrase mae west, “is that a cigar in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”
(btw, frattaroli’s web site has an interesting video about his ideas about the sopranos.)
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