Mind & Body

Psychology: Connection between mind and body

 | July 26, 2012

Much has been written about the connection between mind and body. In psychology’s earliest beginnings maladaptive behavior was believed to be “possession” by some malevolent force. Treatment ran the gamut from icy cold baths to exorcism.
Down through the centuries, in an attempt to make meaning of the psyche and the mystery of the human experience, many models have evolved, each one seeming to build on the one before.
Until recently the focus of psychology has been outside in—our experience has been described as a reaction to an outside event. If we felt demeaned or upset we blamed someone or something for our feeling. Some therapies would attempt to go back into our history to find the source of such a reaction. Other therapies would attempt to reframe our thinking.
The language used to explain our behavior or experience has led to a division of our mind/body continuum into separate parts, each one seeming to have its own function. The heart is represented as the seat of our emotions and feelings. We need only listen to a love song and we have the sense of “a broken heart” or a “hard-hearted person.”
The gut is perceived as the seat of our intuition or deeper knowing. We’re constantly being told to “listen to our gut feeling,” to “trust our gut instincts” as if it had a separate intelligence.
In some traditions a profound suspicion of “thinking” developed as it was perceived to be detached from the body and often void of feeling. It was seen as a cerebral interpretation of a deeper physical experience.
Over the past few decades, however, there’s been progress in understanding the body/mind continuum. It’s been observed that this living organism cannot be separated into neat little segments but is in fact a beautifully interactive and interconnected communications network. Our cells have memory. Our brain has plasticity and can grow and reshape itself. It’s as if we’re just beginning to tap the potential available to us.
Part of this evolution of information about the human experience is the revelation that we can only have an experience through thought and that we can only know that experience through the feeling accompanying the thought.
In other words, I can’t experience a beautiful sunset without having a thought about it. I can only know that thought, however, by the feeling that accompanies it. In order to have an experience of anything, a delicious meal, a sad movie, a beautiful song, I must have a full mind/body experience of it. I can have neither the feeling nor the thought without the other. How amazing is that!