Wisdom of the Body

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.

Breathing and Soul Talk

Psyche can be translated as soul, as well as mind … and is related to pneuma which, in addition to soul or spirit, can mean breath. Logos: discourse, or rhetoric, or … talking.  So, we can also think of psychology as the discussion of what’s in one’s soul, the breathing of soul talk.

What does your soul have to say? What is the quality of your breathing?

Often, people come to psychotherapy because they experience a ‘troubled mind’. This is surely an indication of imbalance, a need to seek assistance. Others wish to know and understand themselves and their experiences more deeply, to have a greater awareness of what’s in their unconscious — what drives their behavior — often, in order to make changes. Still others are motivated by goals, in order to achieve their potential, or to realize ultimate well-being.

One’s breathing can also reflect as well as influence one’s subconscious, something well recognized in Eastern philosophies. Specific breathing exercises, and a general focus on the breath, can have powerful benefits — but more on this in a later post.  It’s a very good metaphor for what happens in the process of psychotherapy, as we breathe out whatever is troubling us — what we don’t want — and breathe in what we do want in our lives, our selves.  And as our mode of being changes, so does our breathing pattern.

Soul talk. And the therapist will breathe in synchrony with you, to gently guide you to where you want to be.

Psyche meets Soma; East meets West

I’m often asked, “What does ‘Integrative Psychotherapy’ really mean? Is it just an eclectic collection of therapies? Or some New Age invention?”

I’ve developed this work as the culmination of my broad training and experience in several fields, and in a wide variety of medical and healthcare settings. It’s well supported by evidence-based healthcare practices. It brings together Eastern and Western concepts of physical and mental health, therapeutic models and methodologies from both ends of the mind-body continuum, in order to consider the whole person, in order to assist in the restoration of a state of balance.

This approach to well-being in fact represents the very balance that it’s meant to facilitate. Western psychology, and the Eastern Taoist principles of mental health as evidenced in classical Chinese medicine.  Meditative and breathing practices — mindfulness — drawn from Buddhism, and cognitive-behavioral methods from science. Health psychology and its focus on mental-emotional aspects of physical health and illness, and transpersonal psychology with an emphasis on states of consciousness beyond the individual. “Power therapies” to treat trauma, and nutrition and therapeutic exercise to support them.

Physical…mental…emotional…spiritual…metaphysical. Logical-analytical thinking out of ancient Greece coupled with abstract-holistic cognition of ancient China. Yin-within-Yang-within-Yin-within….

And, psyche means ‘soul’ and also relates to pneuma, meaning ‘breath’.

One of the least understood areas of medical science is that of the human mind, and in particular, emotions. We know that there is cellular memory, that tissue can reflect and even contain emotional content, that fluid levels can fluctuate according to mood, that one can control certain bodily processes by mental focus, and that the solar plexus represents the body-brain. And more. We are not people who have bodies; we are our bodies, every bit as much as the mind that we call ‘Self’. We can’t separate the two. Western philosophy and science made a terrible mistake in doing so, and recently has been attempting to achieve some measure of reintegration; in the East, this distinction was never made. Western scientific thinking has also brought great progress to our understanding of human behavior, and the contribution of Eastern philosophies is unquestionable.

It’s time to put the pieces back together.

Psyche and soma … East and West.

This is Integrative Psychotherapy.

Welcome Message

Welcome! This page represents my clinical practice in Integrative Psychotherapy, located in the Central district of Hong Kong Island and housed within Balance Health, a multidisciplinary natural health clinic. I am available for appointment.