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Any Connection Between Psychotherapy and Psoriasis?
from Cynthia T.

Ed,  In your response to Mike B.’s letter in the May-June update, you wrote, “For reasons it would take another lifetime to unravel, I grew up with many strong socio-psychological defense mechanisms. I was the one who was relatively cool in a crisis, hard to make angry, existing within a very narrow emotive range. As I’ve grown older and lived through lots of personal crises, these youthful defense mechanisms have started to unravel.” You sound like me and many of my friends who have been through psychological counseling. Have you?

I’m curious about that, but my real reason for writing is to ask if you can share at least a little more about that. I’m personally and professionally curious about the psoriasis/psychology connection. If you HAVE undergone therapy with a psychiatrist you probably believe, now, that a whole assortment of childhood experiences contributes to your mental health later in life.

Finally, do you know anyone or correspond with anyone whose psoriasis improved as a result of professional therapy with a psychiatrist? –Cynthia T.


Ed’s response: I’m not undergoing any kind of psychological therapy. My only occasion of placing my toe in that water was just prior to my second divorce when my soon-to-be X-wife informed me that her shrink would like to have a session alone with me. I still have nightmares about that session. I know, that means it was either very good or very bad.

But, with respect to my childhood, see if any of this is useful: What distinguished my childhood (from earliest memories at age 3 until I left home at age 17), was my father’s constant and constantly-frustrated attempt to turn me into a “man.” This has nothing to do with sexual proclivity. It was about social behavior and expectations. “Men don’t cry,” was the first of his rubrics I learned to satisfy. The act of “not crying at all” eventually effected all the emotions that stimulate crying. I learned not to cry when in pain by concentrating on the pain (including his spankings); not to cry when I was refused a desire by getting angry, instead, and then repressing the anger; not to cry when overcome by compassion, sadness, grief or remorse.... You get my drift. Over the years there were many ‘rubrics,’ but the other ones I remember were “too much reading, not enough sports” ... “must learn to fight” ... “men don’t write poetry or perform in school musicals.” I do not think my father was a villain for trying to teach me these things. I remember thinking to myself, in boot camp at age 17, while many of my co-recruits were curled up in corners bawling their eyes out, sobbing themselves to sleep at night, how lucky I was to have received my father’s man-up training.

At the same time I was learning how to become a man from my father, I had a mitigating influence. My grandfather (my mother’s father), had been a circuit preacher while my mother was growing up and, by the time I got to know him, was an established preacher in a Rocky Mountain community in Colorado. I spent a good part of my summers up there during my school years. In him I saw a man who visibly possessed those anti-manly emotions but still emoted strength and “rightness.”

In retrospect, I think I was lucky to grow up between these two men; more so because they got along with each other. The dichotomy on display during that upbringing led to the choices I’ve been able to make as an adult. I like to think most of those choices have been well informed (with the obvious exceptions being my first two wives).

I don’t remember any FlakeHQ correspondence that deals directly with a possible relationship between psoriasis and psychotherapy. You may find some meat, however, in the significant number of email exchanges in the archives about “depression.” Keyword search for “depression” from any “search” field on the site (upper right on most primary pages) and you will get a longer list than is represented in the Archives. -Ed

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