by Richard Boyd, Body Mind Psychotherapist, Energetics Institute, Perth, West Australia
Last month we discussed the relationship that a person has with themselves through their bodymind connection in my article Relationships Are About The One We Have Between Our Body and Mind. The fact is that humans are a totally interconnected reality which Ken Wilber would call a Morphogenetic field or consciousness.
Our bodies are then one dimension to our reality which is capable of reflecting and expressing the other dimensions of our reality. In modern medicine we now find a class of disease and study which is known as Psychogenic medicine or how mental based issues manifest and express through the body as conditions or illness. Likewise the field of psychosomatic medicine is the recognition of how our emotions, especially when repressed, can likewise trigger bodily illness and conditions.
Last month we considered how the relationship we have between our bodies and our mind, and the part our emotions play in mediating this interconnecting reality and in playing a primary part in the relatedness that an adult person tends to have with others. This month we look at some of how the blocked and distorted thinking and emotions can wreak havoc in the bodymind.
When the bodymind system becomes out of balance it will seek to signal that reality through one of its pathways or channels. We have these channels in both somatic or bodily directions as well as in our emotional, mental and energetic planes of existence. Our bodies give us vital clues as to the unresolved emotional and mental issues we carry.
There appears to be a logic, a system, or an operating system in our subconscious being, or possibly at the genetic level, which has a set or ordering principles by which certain issues manifest in certain ways and in certain parts of the body according to these rules.
For instance it can be said broadly but definitely that the right side of the body manifests issues to do with the masculine principle. This may be related to our own self beliefs around our masculine parts of our self identity, or it could be woundings, hurts and traumas inflicted upon us throughout our childhood by male caregivers. Our back is the outwardly projecting masculine defensive covering that protected us when we were hunching and loping in our evolution and serves to hold and express rage, anger, and other masculine feelings.
Likewise the left side of the body contains and holds the same but from the feminine aspect of ourself, and from the feminine caregivers who raised and influenced us. Likewise the front of the body being exposed and vulnerable from us having stood upright in our evolution now exposes our receptive vulnerable feminine feelings of love, eros, grief and tenderness through our chest, abdomen and frontal belly/groin region.
This primary map starts to show where there may lie subconscious beliefs, conclusions, attitudes and feelings about the Self, whether that be self-forgiveness, self-hatred, or self acceptance/love. We know that the body is often covered up by clothing as a form of defence but we can also through anxiety also start to put on weight to form a protective blanket around ourself.
We find this protective putting on weight has two primary drivers emanating from the subconscious which creates this outcome. Firstly there are those who were not held and nurtured enough as children who have unresolved needs of nurturance and being held. This abandonment and deprivation issue can be compensated by the body putting on a soft puppy fat covering around the trunk and limbs of the body which creates a form of self-nurturance.
The second version is the defensive posture caused by not wanting the body to be seen or to be seen to be attractive. This stance is not uncommon with childhood and adult sexual abuse survivors but it is also true that the other extreme may manifest where the body become sexualised, is dressed and shown provocatively, and the sexual embodied nature of the person over-develops.
Certain muscular and postural conditions can also develop which serve as blocks to the formation and flowing discharge of painful or unacceptable emotions. We often see tight and chronic muscles constricting the breathing of the diaphragm, chest or belly regions, whilst the neck, and trapezius muscles emanating from the occipital at the back of the head, clamp and restrain the expression of sobbing, of anger, and create a stiff or rigid form of countenance to these parts of the body.
Chronic tensions in musculature in the back and neck will often see the resulting formation of migraine headaches where the referred pain emanates in the frontalis muscle or front forehead area, or behind the eyes, or across the face or in the head. Chronic muscular holdings in the oral Masseter and TMJ muscles are associated with bruxism or grinding of the teeth at night.
The cause of bruxism is often found to be a block against speaking up, or speaking the truth, or releasing anger verbally, for the fear of punishment or rejection that is held as a belief in the subconscious. Likewise the baby that had early oral feeding frustrations with the mother may develop a block to longing for the suckling by creating an oral based block, which will later be seen in an over bite, and underbite, weak chin, or bruxism.
Given we are more than just a body as we have feelings and emotions which cannot just be ascribed to our bodies then other forces may also cause us illness in the body. Many people feel within themselves the movement of what they describe as spirit. This is cross-cultural and has been reported in all ages by people of all walks of life.
That reality is what is called a personal aspect of spirit which some might call a soul. In Shamanic and numerous spiritual traditions we are warned of a form of physical illness in the body which merely is a representation of "soul sickness" or spiritual sickness.
This aspect of the human condition cannot be empirically measured nor found but the clinical effects of a spiritual based intervention as a remedy to such illness has long been observed as a real and tangible solution for those afflicted in this way. This is a contentious area as psychology relegates religion and spirituality to the domain of false belief.
While doing so psychological studies all point to the authentic adoption of a spiritual path or religious adherence as being a strong creator of resilience and positive mental, physical and emotional health in believers. It is often denounced as a sort of placebo effect but whatever the cause its effect is very real in the body of those who suffer spiritual emptiness, guilt or value conflicts.
Depression is one of those bodymind illnesses which can reflect the inner emptiness of the person who has lost meaning and purpose in their life and now suffers bodily as a result. In clinical practice I find that depression them amplifies the negative beliefs that grow and fill the void of the emptiness within.
In this way I notice that human beings are a vessel which is self filling and finds its own equilibrium. Even in a developed sense of emptiness something will in-flow to fill the void, whether that be a set of negative beliefs, a black mood, an addiction, or a despair. We are always energetically flowing whilst alive and so we are always in the ocean of feelings even when we would be emotionally numb to them.
The in-filling process of negatively charged moods, emotions and beliefs is a poisonous turn for the human condition. I have noticed that cancer sufferers all have previously adopted a negative belief system that resonates somehow to the theme " If I have needs you will abandon me", or "I am not OK as I am and so are not lovable". These beliefs have also been noted by other writers are somehow being potential cancer causing agent, linked to self negation or self hatred.
It is as if we attack ourself through turning our anger inward against ourself. We know that anger is a "fight or flight" emotional stance and that the Autonomic System "fight or flight" stance releases a series of "fight or flight" hormones and substances into the body which are designed for burst mode release only.
If we sustain this mode of being and living these same substances become the basis for a form of toxification of our bodymind system and have been linked long term to other medical conditions such as Arterialscolosis, Heart Attacks, Insulin Diabetes issues, and weight gain. Cancer is thought to have a possible link to these same conditions.
The other aspect of the cancer issue is the many cancer patients had a prior history of depression leading into the time when they were diagnosed with cancer. The linked histories appear significant when one considers the other aspects of how depression affects body chemistry changes as mentioned.
The overall issue is how we express, suppress or have repressed our emotional life into our bodies. In our society we yet do not fully understand the significant role of emotional toxicity to our physical, mental and emotional health. It is not uncommon for clients to abandon therapy at the thought of working with their emotions despite the fact they have tried everything else as therapy, or they face significant illness or life relationship issues.
No one likes to expose and express emotional states like shame, guilt, grief, anger and rage. Image and being in control is now more important for many than healing. Likewise I get clients who have just done a 3 to 6 month bodily detox, or whom have done colonics for 6 months, or whom has a strict regime of good foods, nutrients, and yoga/exercise. However their blindspot is the dimension of emotions and how they link to their thoughts and behaviours.
For some people they have completely disowned their emotional life and do not see the point to re-connecting to it for any reason. We each have a choice of expression or repression in this area of our life and repression by ourself, or the suppression by another of our voice, our truth, or our emotions, is a precursor to depression. The key words of that sentence even have a linked construct(expression/repression/suppression/depression).
Emotions are considered by neuroscientists as one of the 5 core organisers of experience and reality in the bodymind. They are not like our wisdom teeth which are to be pulled out as we grow up as they get in the way or cause us inconvenience. Emotions are a vital part of moment-to-moment experience that creates the basis to feel alive and find that elusive state of happiness, which in and of itself is at the end of the day both a state of being and a core emotion.
Part of the 4 noble truths of Buddhism is that we all are motivated away from suffering and towards happiness or those things which we perceive will bring us either. It is our ignorance that sets us up to fail to discern the truth of what is the true basis of each. The abandonment of one's emotions as a form of "away motivation" will just as likely lead us into the jaws of suffering as one of life's cruel tricks.
Our bodies are story boards of our life journey from the moment of conception till this moment. This ongoing process of storyboarding occurs through the agency of our emotions mediated through our nervous systems, brain, and other pathways. We each are the artist and the canvas to our own story.
Emotions are the colour in the palette which bring our story alive. We are a drab and grey picture when we lose or disown that emotional part of ourself. Worse still this choice or outcome invites illness and issues into the canvas of our body that may create serious life issues if not dealt with at an emotional level.
At the end of the day it is our choice. There is an emerging body of statistics that finds correlation between lifestyle choices and the formation of certain illness types as a result of those choices, and what those choices represent as compensations for the other disowned or neglected part of the self. We cannot ignore this new information.
The science of Epigenetics reveals how the epigenetic effect creates our bodily outcome and our bodies are a storyboard of our Epigenetic response to the forces and influences of the time in the womb, at birth, and through the rest of our lives as a dynamic ongoing process until our death.
The bodymind is "plastic" to use a term borrowed from neuroscience. That means while our basic bodily structure is pretty much set the underlying Epigenetic mechanisms inside every cell are still at work in every moment. It is here that we can change the Epigenetic expression of our cells so the basis for the self comes from a DNA stance of wellness and not trauma or illness.
In other words we are in every moment in a relationship to ourself that we engage with our mind, body, thoughts, feelings and spirit. We should understand this point carefully and consider how what I think, what I feel, what I watch, listen to or engage with via proximity, contact and bonding, affects myself in ways not necessarily apparent, but real all the same.
Working on the relationship you are having with yourself via your emotional states and its expression via the belief systems that you have taken on over time, is a valuable gift of self love that you can give yourself. People with major illness or minor recurring illnesses would be recommended to investigate the possible emotional and mental cause of their symptoms.
A trained bodymind psychotherapist is well suited to this work and the results can literally be life saving, whether that be defined in terms of actual life or in terms of one's quality of life.