Our bodies are very wise indeed. Homeostasis — balance, stability — is our natural state, and the body has numerous mechanisms to correct imbalances, though they can be defective or become overwhelmed and require intervention. The prevailing medical model of psychology identifies ‘chemical imbalances’ at the core of many syndromes, and typical treatment includes prescription medication.
Our body’s homeostatic mechanisms are one form of body knowledge. ‘Gut instinct’ is another, and a common human experience. So too is the physical experience of emotion, depicted in words such as ‘broken-hearted’, ‘belly laugh’, ‘heartfelt’, and indeed, ‘gut instinct’. Posture and movement patterns can say much about a person’s emotional condition and personality; breathing can reflect as well as influence emotional states. We have facial gestures and body language to indicate our thoughts as well as feelings, and guarding patterns — areas of our bodies chronically held tense against emotional experience, past or potential.
When we receive body-oriented therapies such as massage, osteopathic manipulation, or acupuncture, emotional content and/or memories can emerge. Clearly, there is a strong connection between our bodies and our minds — in fact, perhaps the distinction itself is a false one.
How can we benefit from this?
Somatic psychology is an approach to mental and emotional health that includes and even emphasizes our bodies. Through specific techniques, we can scan our bodies for areas of discomfort or other sensations, and access the knowledge and wisdom, the thoughts and emotions, being held there. Often, by going through a process to first identify and then explore this content, we find that it shifts or even resolves. We ask our bodies what’s going on–without judgment but with a gentle curiosity–and our bodies tell us. And tell us, and tell us. And we find that we have changed.
There is so much to be gained by reuniting body with mind and soul, and by learning how to listen to the wisdom harboured there.