A Guide to Psychology and its Practice -- welcome to 
                     the «Questions and Answers» page. Click on the image to go to a general Introduction 
                     with a complete Subject Index to this entire website.

and Answers


Website Menus

Page Contents: The psychological cause of illness.                    


I entered therapy partly to deal with a chronic illness, rheumatoid arthritis. My therapist believes that this illness is caused by repressed emotion. I think he believes that our work together can significantly improve my illness. This is difficult idea for me to swallow because:
1) I feel awkward discussing the fact that my illness is progressing rather than improving—am I not working hard enough? not measuring up? Plus I feel that he’s being a bit unscientific and a bit arrogant (as I told him).
2) This is not how I want to think of myself—so repressed that I brought myself a great deal of pain and aggravation. I’m not even saying his idea is not possible. Just that it doesn’t work for me as the story of my life. I think I have a disease. I think there are many reasons why. Bad stuff happens to everyone. Now I need to deal with it.

Because I think that dealing with any repressed emotion can only help my illness and help me make a good life, I think my therapist and I still have the same goal basically, so I think we can work together. I believe that our work together can really help me improve my life and maybe my illness. Here’s my question: Is it reasonable for me to tell my therapist that I’m going with my version of what causes my illness rather than his? Perhaps we can agree to disagree. What do you think?

The real issue here is not about who is “right” but about the definition of cause.

The fact is, there can be several causes of one thing. Rheumatoid arthritis can have a genetic cause, a chemical cause, and a psychological cause. Given that you cannot do anything about your genetics, and that medications may provide temporary relief but not a cure, it might be very helpful to do everything you can to alter the psychological aspects of your illness. In general, because repressed emotions are usually a key component of the psychological cause of anything, using psychotherapy to improve your physical condition requires that you learn to expand your emotional awareness.

In general, psychological healing for any illness requires finding the symbolic place of the healing. When emotional distress afflicts a person—especially in childhood—that person can feel alone and helpless and stuck, all because there is no one to whom he or she can speak who can understand. Therefore, without a place of safety to speak about the trauma, the pain will find its place somewhere in the body. Psychotherapeutic healing can provide a safe place where the emotional pain—the repressed pain—can be given a voice so that it can be understood. Then, feeling understood, the pain can leave its place in the body and take up its rightful symbolic place in the story of your life.

As for thinking of yourself as “so repressed that I brought myself a great deal of pain and aggravation,” well, join the club! We all have an unconscious, and we all are so repressed that we bring ourselves a great deal of pain and aggravation. We are so filled with disagreement that we disagree with life itself. When we encounter problems, we try to get rid of them, rather than understand them. Unconscious psychological conflicts rule the world—literally. That’s why the world is filled with hatred, violence, terrorism, and war.

Bad stuff happens, yes; but unless you “swallow” it (and “digest” it) psychologically, it will find its place somewhere outside your understanding. So, instead of disagreeing with your psychotherapist—and your own body—seek out that place where the healing wisdom of understanding is located.


 Back to the list of questions


No advertising—no sponsor—just the simple truth . . .

If this website has helped you, then
please help support this website

FOR THE SAKE OF TRUTH this website about the practice of Clinical Psychology does not accept any advertising.

Therefore, if my work has been informative and helpful to you, please send a donation in appreciation, even if it’s only a few dollars, to help offset my costs in making this website available to everyone without advertising.

Gratitude is joy to the heart!


Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
San Francisco
Contact Me




A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



Copyright © 1997-2017 Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
San Francisco


All material on this website is copyrighted. You may copy or print selections for your private, personal use only.
Any other reproduction or distribution without my permission is prohibited.



No advertising and no sponsor—just the simple truth.