At the end of my last post on healing, I write:
Healing on any level is healing. I don’t distinguish among psychological, emotional, mental, physical, physiological, relational, spiritual healing because your body does not know the difference. Your body is integrated. More on this next time.
Here is the more…
You are a person with a mind, heart, body, and some would say a soul or a spirit. Among other things, your mind generates thoughts, memories, images, and ideas. We could say that your heart generates much of the emotion we feel (which is why we use the term “heart felt” to describe a way of showing emotion). Your body—housing your organs, tissue, bones, fluids, various types of cells, and a ton of bacteria—perceives with its senses and generates sensations. Each and every part of your body functions as part of a larger whole organism.
Quite often we talk about our thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations as though they are happening in isolation, but every part of our experience is happening within the context of our entire self. Each part of our body is connected to other parts such that it ends up that every part of our body is interconnected. Every shift or change that happens in the body thus has a ripple effect throughout the entire body.
For instance, as an emotion or feeling arises in reaction to something painful that’s happened, we simultaneously have sensations. In fact, the sensations help us to identify that we are feeling an emotion and which specific emotion we are feeling. Thoughts are often present, too, as we feel our emotions. Memories or images can arise. Our body might have an impulse or urge to move as we hang out with these feelings, sensations, and thoughts. Our breathing might shift. We might feel a sense of heaviness in some parts of our body and perhaps lightness somewhere else in the body. We might want to express something verbally—a sound, words, a song—as we hang out with the feeling, sensations, thoughts, etc., that we’re experiencing. There are many different things we experience in so many different ways in the body in response to just one thing that’s happened.
Allowing yourself to connect with what you experience emotionally, sensationally, mentally, and physiologically for some minutes with awareness shifts your whole body into a full-body experience, allowing your body to process or digest the experience you’ve just been through. This is important to do not just for painful experiences but also pleasurable experiences. This is how we sense our aliveness and how we heal and recover.
Because emotions, thoughts, sensations, are interconnected, healing from physical and emotional pain involves the same process of being present with our whole mind-heart-body experience. If inexplicable physical pain is something you face regularly or daily, it’s important to learn how to take yourself through this process for anything in your past that may not have been fully processed or digested already. This might include grief,—in fact, there’s a great article on this that just came out on this, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36213249 –trauma, and stressful events or situations. Often it’s hard to identify what actually might be unprocessed because what generates pain is subject to be hidden from consciousness. You may need to work with your defense mechanisms first before you are able to bring light to what’s hidden under the veil of consciousness.
Working with all of these dynamics can be challenging on your own. I typically recommend psychotherapy in conjunction with mindfulness training and bodywork to guide and support you in working to bring greater consciousness and healing to that which may be generating pain—emotional and physical—in your life. Eating healthful regular meals, as much as possible given any gastrointestinal symptoms; staying hydrated; and getting enough rest/sleep, exercise, and social interaction; and working collaboratively with your providers to ensure that your medications are being managed effectively are also critical to healing.
Healing is a process. Just as every experience has a ripple effect on our bodies, every step you take towards greater healing has a ripple effect towards beneficial change on the body. Sometimes all it takes is one small step in the right direction, and you’ve opened the door to feeling a whole lot better. To read further about how to take that next small step, click here for the next blog post on working with your nervous system.