Sofya Vitalyevna Zelenkova is a psychotherapist, practicing psychologist, and specialist in psychosomatics, and the author of books.
Since we are interested in S.V. Zelenkova’s views on psychosomatics, in this article we will look at her book “All Diseases are from Nerves… All of Them!” (Irkutsk, 2016).
This book is dedicated to the issues of practical psychosomatics.
In the first part, the author explains her understanding of practical psychosomatics: it is psychotherapeutic work, as a result of which physical diseases are cured without the use of chemical medical drugs. The psychologist explains this by the fact that during psychotherapeutic work, a person’s thinking, way of emotional response, and attitude towards oneself change and become fixed. At the same time, there is a change in life strategies to more effective ones.
Zelenkova agrees with the axiom “Body and soul are one” and claims that emotion is the key concept and tool in treating diseases. In her opinion, it is a person’s emotions that determine the type of their physical reaction in different situations. The psychotherapist believes that expressing emotion in situations is health, while suppressing emotion results in disease.
Mechanism of Occurrence of Psychosomatic Diseases
S. Zelenkova very accessibly explains the mechanism of the occurrence of psychosomatic diseases. Thus, she writes that for the realization of one or another emotional reaction, the human body produces certain hormones and releases them into the blood. These hormones do their job even when a person suppresses the expression of their emotions. When a person suppresses their emotions for a long time, biochemical intoxication (hormonal overdose) occurs at the biochemical level, and they become ill.
If a person expresses their emotions, then the excessive accumulation of hormones in the blood decreases, as well as their effect on the body. On the body, this manifests as the disappearance of symptoms and the passing of the disease.
The psychotherapist proposes a classification of psychosomatic reactions of the body.
The first group includes such common psychosomatic reactions that are short-lived and pass by themselves when the conditions causing them change (blushing of the cheeks and ears with a feeling of shame passes when the situation causing this feeling passes).
The second group contains various types of psychosomatic disorders:
- Conversion symptoms (when a repressed emotional conflict is transformed into somatic, bodily symptomatology): pseudodeafness, pseudoblindness, numbness of fingers, a feeling of a lump in the throat, classical hysteria, etc.
- Functional syndromes (or somatoform disorders, or organ neuroses). In such forms, real disturbances in the functioning of specific organs accompany various emotional (affective) states of a person: cardioneurosis, hyperventilation syndrome, irritable stomach syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, psychosomatic cystitis, etc.
- Psychosomatosis (or actual psychosomatic diseases) – these are manifestations of a primary bodily reaction to a conflict situation: obesity, weight loss, bronchial asthma, duodenal ulcer, hypertension, thyrotoxicosis, neurodermatitis, ischemic heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
Emotions and Psychosomatic Ailments
In the main part of her book, S. Zelenkova gives a detailed description of each unexpressed emotion leading to psychosomatic ailments. For example, let’s consider the paragraph dedicated to unexpressed sadness.
Psychosomatic Diseases of Unexpressed Sadness
Sadness – grief, sorrow, self-pity, and pity for others, or “natural reaction to the loss of love” (A. Lowen).
The functions of sadness are: unifying function, expression of a request for help, and the function of revising the situation.
Sadness is caused by such activators as separation, disappointment, failure to achieve a set goal.
Next, the author highlights social settings that prevent a person from expressing sadness.
The psychotherapist offers a special exercise “Let’s Be Sad,” which gives access to moments of sadness in the past and allows expressing this emotion.
S. Zelenkova also lists bodily expressions of sadness: sadness, melancholy, depression, heaviness in the heart or even in the whole body, emptiness, mental pain, etc.
The psychologist elaborately focuses on the facial expressions and physiology of sadness, on hormonal changes in the body when expressing sadness, as well as on bodily manifestations of unconscious sadness.
The psychology of sadness, according to the author, is explained by the fact that when adults do not create artificial barriers between a child and sad experiences, such positive qualities as empathy (the ability to sympathize) and altruism develop in them.
Among the diseases associated with unexpressed sadness, S. Zelenkova includes the following: tearfulness, intestinal inflammation, heart diseases, ulcerative colitis, sinusitis, rhinitis, bleedings, conjunctivitis, chronic lung diseases, liver diseases.
Child Psychosomatics according to S. Zelenkova
The psychotherapist believes that psychosomatics in children is a consequence of their stay in the parental (ancestral) environment, which means that work should be done, first of all, with the parents.
Ways of Healing: Psychotherapy of Psychosomatic Disorders according to S.V. Zelenkova
Psychotherapy of psychosomatic disorders, as the author writes, includes two approaches:
- Changing the physical component through sensations leads to a change in the psychological component (walks in the fresh air change, i.e., improve mood, or, conversely, sitting for a long time in an uncomfortable position worsens the emotional state);
- Changing the psychological component through awareness leads to a change in physical sensation: a person’s mood affects the body’s reaction (Washing dishes with the conviction that it is a heavy duty causes such physical sensations as heaviness. But, if a person perceives washing dishes as a meditation of purification, washing away negativity, then he will feel relaxation, lightness).
If a person sees the connection between the above-mentioned components and understands the mechanism of the appearance of certain physical sensations, then he can train, consciously working with the components and choosing the necessary positive content for himself. Such work is designated as “working on oneself.”
Dr. S. Zelenkova notes that psychotherapy will have a good result if the patient is previously taught grounding, centering, and breathing techniques. And only then does she lead the patient to understanding, awareness, and feeling. Also, S. Zelenkova uses practices aimed at expressing feelings: Three-Part I-Statement, various exercises (for example, the aforementioned exercise “Let’s Be Sad”).
As for working with children, S. Zelenkova firmly believes that psychotherapy of children should begin with the psychotherapy of parents (the clan). Otherwise, a cured child, returning to the usual environment, will get sick again after some time.
S.V. Zelenkova also has other books and publications on psychosomatics: “Allergy and Tolerance,” “Psychosomatics of Borders,” “About Fears,” “Time to Forgive,” “To Be Sick?! Why?” and others, which can also help you understand the psychological causes of psychosomatic ailments.
Who seeks, always finds!