Your body is your box
Updated: Mar 3
For millennia, wise men and women have been arguing over the duality of the mind and body, Rene Descartes being the most famous philosopher to proclaim that they are, in fact, separate entities. Today, those of us in the mental health and wellness field accept and insist that they are indivisible, and in this old post from my BeACKO&N Facebook page I explore that connectivity, inspired by the complex work of artist Dustin Yellin.
"The human body is the best picture of the human soul." Ludwig Wittgenstein, linguistic philosopher
"And I think that's the way you change the world... Is you sort of redefine your insides and the box you're living in." Dustin Yellin, creator of the Psychogeographies series of sculptures, a quote from his recent TED Talk
They both suggest that our body is the solid incarnation of our soul: in Wittgenstein's case it is in the form of a picture, and in Yellin's a series of giant microscope slides that together form a box [look at his sculptures, and you'll see exactly what he means]. So can we really "redefine" our body to redefine our soul?
A modern movement in the field of psychotherapy embodies [pun completely intended] this very idea- that our body displays a myriad of imprints left by our own inner experiences as well as those absorbed from the world around us. It follows, then, that to gain insight into what is happening inside of our psyche we can simply ask the body to show us the way, and then ultimately, in order to address the psyche's ailments we can simply change the body's response to them.
This certainly is a very 'top-down' approach, seemingly out of place in our field; we are stereotyped as the psychological equivalent of "American Pickers," clawing our way through your unconscious until we find something long forgotten that we estimate to be of value, which we then re-package and re-present to you. But we have worked hard to re-define our field since the times of the vital but outdated Dr. Freud!
This new approach is known as "Mind-body techniques," and what it does in practice is avoid directly targeting thoughts and emotions. Instead, it challenges us to explore our 'body map' and locate our troubling thoughts and emotions in the flesh, as it were. You might be faced with a question like, "Describe to me where your anger is inside of your body," or, "What is your posture telling me right now?"
By using techniques such as mindfulness focused on bodily sensations, for example, we are able to bypass the assortment of conscious defences, and help people alleviate their psychological disturbances by helping them alleviate the physical incarnations of these disturbances first. By adjusting your posture, or using the power of suggestion and visualisation to change the physical expression of your jealousy, or by adjusting your breathing to lessen your sensation of fear, you will instantly feel differently inside of your body, which will then enable you to think, feel and act differently too.
The Curious Corner: Have a look at Yellin's Psychogeographies; what would your own 'body box' look like? What has your body stored up over the years? If there are painful, sad, or fearful points on your body map, how and where do you 'feel' them inside of your body? How would you act differently in your relationships and in the world at large if you were able to "redefine" and even lessen the sensations caused by just one of these points?