Are you in need of some mind and body relationship counselling?
In this left-brain society it seems that we have become obsessed with thinking. We place great value on the mind and its ability to think, understand and rationalise. While there is nothing wrong with valuing the mind, it is rather dangerous to value it above all else. We have become so obsessed with our minds and with our thinking that our identity seems to be defined by who we ‘think’ ourselves to be– our ‘idea’ of ourselves. Describing yourself as ‘sporty’ or ‘artistic’ may be an accurate description but your mind’s tendency to categorise and label means that it then needs to take control over your body to ensure that your labelled identity is maintained. Thisunfortunately begins to ‘box you in’ and limit your potential – it also means that you might not get to do what you actually feel like doing!
For example, I had always labelled (i.e. ‘thought’) myself terrible at art but as I began working with my own mind-body connection I found that I had this inexplicable desire to paint a picture. I realised that the only thing stopping me from picking up a paintbrush was my own mind and its need to dismiss this seemingly nonsensical urge. My body wanted to paint and express itself but my mind was more concerned with ensuring that its previously decided label of ‘non-arty’ was maintained. When I did paint, I found that I was definitely no Picasso, but so what? I enjoyed it and my body was happy.
I have since shared this experience with a few people and they have described a similar experience. It seems that as we become more aware of our bodies we begin to recognise that our mind has been calling the shots in determining most of our choices and behaviours. If you think about it, it is probably true to say that the mind is in ‘control’ of your life and the body is just along for the ride. The mind is the ‘master’ and the body is the obedient ‘servant’ always doing what the mind wants it to do. If the body ‘misbehaves’– gets fat, pimples, frizzy hair or malfunctions with a symptom or illness, we get angry with it. It is like a naughty child that won’t do what its told.
But you are more than your mind. You have a mind, body and spirit and all of these aspects of your ‘self’ play different but equally important roles in maintaining your health and happiness. Your wellbeing arises from balancing all aspects of your ‘self’ without disparity or conflict. Your body has its own intelligence, its cells have an amazing capacity to respond to the environment and remember and store useful information for your physical survival, safety and enjoyment. If you are continually overriding your body’s intelligence with the mind’s fixed ideas and labels you’re limiting yourself and restricting your sense of freedom. How many times have you blamed someone or something for holding you back from doing something? Particularly when you have had a ‘feeling’ or impulse from the body to do it? What is actuallystopping you? It is actually your mind and its thoughts about the perceived barrier that are holding you back (the body wants to do it!).
The body is not the subservient slave of the mind, it is its partner. Consider the simple process of making a decision. It requires a combination of mind-body intelligence. The body provides us with a feeling or physical urge to do something and also a gut instinct about the best course of action. The mind logically evaluates the options to determine the practicalities and conceptual pros and cons. Together they combine perfectly to make a decision that feels good in the body and makes sense to the mind. Indecisiveness is a good clue that this process has gotten out of balance. Common problems I hear from clients are that they have ‘lost touch’with their intuition or gut feelings (body) and are stuck in a loop of over-thinking and over-analysis (mind). This is merely a result of the habit of valuing the mind more than the body – of simply thinking too much.
Being disconnected from the body doesn’t just create problems with decision-making, it contributes to the creation and maintenance of illness. Consider your mind’s attitude to illness. Think about the last time you were confined to bed with the flu. How did you react? Was your attitude towards your body understanding, loving and nurturing? Did you have gratitude for the great job it was doing in keeping you healthy by fighting off a virus? Did you appreciate its need to rest and recharge, to upgrade your immune system by creating antibodies to the latest round of bugs? Or did you bemoan its weakness? Complain about the inconvenience it was causing? Get angry or resentful that it was stopping you from doing something you wanted to do? Get frustrated that you always seem to get ‘whatever is going around’? Or perhapsyou decided to push it anyway, load it up with drugs and make it do more work or socialising. In the latter reaction the mind is master.
It is reacting to the body as a non-compliant servant of the mind and the consequences of this are two-fold:
1) It creates anger, resentment and resistance towards the body
Creating a resistance towards the body will obviously cause stress and stress will only increase or prolong the body’s symptoms or illness. Not very helpful, huh?
2) It ignores, represses or dismisses the body’s intelligence
The body’s biological intelligence (honed over many years of evolution) is designed to protect you and promote your survival. When it comes to keeping you alive it knows far better than the mind and its ability to react to danger is far superior. If we’d allowed our minds to determine when to pull away from a fire or run from a bear the human race would be extinct by now.
The body has a role to play and that role is to keep you alive and in the best possible physical state possible and this is all it is doing – at ALL times. It is only the mind that wants to assert otherwise. The creation of a symptom is not only a message from the body, it is most likely a result of an adaptation strategy to keep you functioning optimally. However instead ofviewing the symptom as a message and receiving this message so that a useful decision can be made to help the body and correct the symptom, the mind instead judges the symptom and either ignores, represses or dismisses it.
When the mind and body are working as partnerswe see the following scenario:
The body sends the message/symptom of fatigue to the mind – heavy muscles, low energy and yawning
The mind receives the message – “the body is fatigued”
The mind uses its decision-making power to determine and initiate a course of action – eat, rest or sleep, the mind and body carry out this action and the symptom of fatigue is switched off/the body stops sending the message.
Yet, when the mind is working as master and the body as servant, we see the following scenario:
The body sends the message/symptom of fatigue to the mind – heavy muscles, low energy and yawning.
The mind judges the fatigue – “what a lazy body! I have so much to do, I simply cannot rest now, what is its problem?!” and creates a reaction – annoyance, frustration. The body does not feel that the message has been heard and feeling even more fatigued due to the emotional resistance (annoyance, frustration) created by the mind, it turns up the symptoms and creates even greater fatigue in the hope the mind might hear the message. The mind judges the increased fatigue – “you’re kidding me! I have a deadline to make, I simply cannot stop, why does my body insist on letting me down?” and creates further anger and resentment and the cycle continues.
It has become quite easy if not second nature to resist the body and see it as an obstacle or hindrance to our success or happiness. After all, our earliest memories of being sick probably involved feelings of deprivation, loneliness or anxiety – it meant we had to ‘miss out’ on funthings or feel excluded from a group. Not to mention that we physically felt terrible. Our past experiences of believing the body has ‘stopped’ us from doing things and enjoying life has contributed to the mind’s ongoing judgement of the body as a disobedient party-pooper. But as we’ve seen the body is only ever looking out for you, it is never deliberately trying to hurt or harm you – because its only concern is you and your survival. Therefore it’s probably time to stop accusing it of being a downer and start appreciating it instead.
The funny thing is, the problems between the mind and body outlined in the second scenario above – not listening, judging, and screaming louder – are really no different to any problems discussed in a relationship counselling session! At the root of these problems is simply a breakdown in communication and an imbalance in the power dynamic. Regaining your health and wellbeing and getting back in touch with your intuition might be as simple asestablishing equal respect for the unique roles of the mind and the body and restoring non-judgemental communication between them. This will undoubtedly also involve getting out of your head, listening to your body and being patient and gentle with it. And of course respecting it and having gratitude for all it does for you. The basis of all good relationships!