Generally speaking, we tend to think of our bodies and minds as separate systems and believe they function, for the most part, independently. Yet instinctively we know that is not the whole story. For instance, can you remember the last time you had an interview for a job? Or went on a first date with someone you were really trying to impress? In either case, no doubt you wanted to appear calm and collected, but at the same time you were feeling self-conscious and nervous. Can you recall how your body felt? Self-consciousness will tighten your buttock muscles (so you are literally sitting on your tension), you will sweat more than usual, you may feel slightly nauseous, and you'll probably fluff your words, just when you want to appear suave and confident.
In other words, our emotions affect us physically. It might be easy to understand that a scary thought gets our heart beating faster, but it can be harder to realize that loneliness, sadness or depression can also affect us physically, and when it comes to more complex emotions or illnesses few of us consider our emotions to have any relevance.
In Woody Allen's movie Annie Hall, Diane Keaton wants to know why he isn't angry. "I don't get angry," Allen replies, "I grow a tumor instead."
Deb remembers having an upset stomach when she was a child and her grandmother asking if she was having a problem at school. What she knew instinctively, we are at last beginning to prove scientifically: that there is an intimate and dynamic relationship between what is going on with our feelings and thoughts, and what happens in the body.
Illness is very real, accidents happen, and medicine can really help. But the role of the mind and emotions in our state of health is a vital one, and by understanding this relationship we can plat a greater role in our own wellbeing. It is only a part of the overall picture, but it is the part that is invariably overlooked or ignored.
If we separate either a machine or an organism into its component parts, it can't function. Each piece has a role to play, even if it is a very small role, and even if only one part is malfunctioning it affects the whole. Recently our car broke down. After it was fixed, we were told that it had been just one small wire that had caused the problem, yet the engine could not function properly without it. In the same way, if we ignore the role our feelings and thoughts play, we are ignoring one of the most important parts that make up our whole being.
Understanding the body-mind relationship may not cure your physical difficulties, but by learning the language of symptoms and illness you can discover what is being repressed or ignored in your psyche and emotions, and how this is influencing your well-being. From this vantage point, you can discover that there is an extraordinarily intimate two-way communication going on between body and mind that affects both your physical state and your mental and emotional health.
Can you see how your body reflects your mind? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday by checking Become a Fan at the top.
Your Body Speaks Your Mind A four-week webinar (online course) with Ed and Deb Shapiro, to learn how repressed, denied, or ignored thoughts and feelings are linked to specific body parts and illness. Starts Sept. 12, but you can join in and download classes anytime
Meditation: The Best Friend You Will Ever Have A four-week webinar (online course) with Ed and Deb Shapiro on discovering the greatest friend you could have: meditation. You can join in and download classes anytime. A free introduction on Sept. 20 and a four-week webinar starting Sept. 27.
See our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Byron Katie and many others.
Deb is the author of the award-winning YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND, Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages That Underlie Illness.
Our three meditation CDs: Metta -- Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi -- Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra -- Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com.
For more by Ed and Deb Shapiro, click here.
For more on emotional health, click here.