Healthy Autonomy

Association for Promoting Healthy Autonomy e.V.

Search content

Isabella Gerstgrasser

Isabella GerstgrasserRheumatoid Arthritis – trying to understand the body and psyche connection

The majority of events in our lives do not suddenly strike us. Things happen one at a time. The onset of an autoimmune disease rarely happens unexpectedly. It is the result of a process consisting of lots of small destructive moments. Moments, which are linked to our early relationship experiences. We usually do not know the extent to which our lives and our current relationships are impacted by this.

Some words, some gestures hurt so much that they create a violent storm that can no longer be restrained, except with the language of the body. Those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis know this language very well: permanent inflammation, painful attacks, and an organism that derails repeatedly.

What happens? Through an autoimmune disease, the stressful consequences of traumatic experiences are expressed. Without our consent, we have been bound - very early on - to a survival mode that operates based on Either-Or. The sufferers then fail themselves, because they are unable to experience themselves as a whole human being - in all their facets and characteristics. This creates chronic pain and stress in muscles, tendons and joints. On top of that, the immune system and the psyche are in constant turmoil. Over time, a destructive inner dynamic develops which becomes self-perpetuating: The perpetrator-victim dynamic. We are dealing with an unconscious event that not only destroys health, well-being and relationships. It also bans us into a parallel identity and invents a pseudo-self, to which we cling to.

What helps? Only if we stop using the destructive principle of survival, if we abandon the desperate search for a substitute ego, if an authentic self is allowed to develop gradually, the exit from the destructive dynamic can be tackled. How we relate to other people, to ourselves and our body depends largely on the clarity of our perception, as well as on the extent of our trust in our own insights. A healing process often begins in later adult years, just when nothing else helps and when unbearable pain and life-threatening physical symptoms are understood as an invitation to take over the direction in our life.


Mag. Isabella Gerstgrasser, born in 1958, lives in Feldkirch/Austria, working as psycholocist and psychotherapist in her own practice. She is co-author in the book “My Trauma, my Body, my I”. She is a mother of an adult daugther. 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.