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, 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 as having 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 play a greater role in our own well-being. 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 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.
Your Body Speaks Your Mind: A 4-week webinar (on-line 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 September 19 but you can join in and download classes anytime
Meditation – The Best Friend You Will Ever Have: A 4-week webinar (on-line 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 September 20, and a 4-week webinar starting September 27.
Deb is the author of the award-winning Your Body and Mind Relationship Revealed: Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages That Underlie Illness.
See our latest book: Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, with forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, and with contributors Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Byron Katie and many others.
Our 3 meditation CDs: Metta—Loving Kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com.