The mind-body connection is powerful. I often disassociate from my body because it is usually emotionally painful to be inside of it. One of the reasons I do this is that I somaticize my symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s important for me to remember that my mind and body are, in fact, connected. The disassociation I engage in has to do with the fact that my emotional pain becomes intertwined with the physical pain I experience and I can no longer tell the difference between the two. What this means is that I feel emotions within different parts of my body. This is painful to me in a multitude of ways. I’ve been so anxious that I pushed my neck out of alignment. At that point, I was in excruciating physical pain and intense emotional distress. I’ve learned that pain isn’t something that I necessarily need to run from, but rather sit with and embrace. I can be patient with feeling pain because pain is a message that is being sent to my body and mind. Pain is telling my mind and body that something needs to change. It’s communicating that my system needs to adapt.
We don’t know a lot of things about the brain, and we are still researching and learning them with time, but we do know that there is a profound connection between our brains and our physical bodies. Our brains tell our bodies what to do and how to feel. Sometimes I forget that I am not just a head or brain, I am attached to a physical body that grounds me to the earth. There are things that I can do to remind myself that I can stay in my body. There are exercises that help me, such as somatic exercises. These are things like going to acupuncture or even having a dance party in the kitchen with my kids. I know that sounds kind of silly but it does remind me that I have a body that can move and communicate positive things to my mind. When you dance your endorphins are engaged and you start to feel great.
My reaction to disengage from my body because of emotional pain is normal. Disassociation is a common reaction to trauma. When you experience a traumatic event you can check out, and many trauma survivors do this. When you are unable to connect with your body, it’s generally because your mind has gone elsewhere in order to protect yourself.
This is actually a defense mechanism. It’s not something that is intentional, but rather a way to prevent oneself from feeling further pain. People are not seeking out ways to feel pain, because pain is something that we avoid instinctually as human beings.
The mind-body connection is fascinating to me. I believe that the way that we think impacts our physical and emotional health. That is why Traditional Chinese Medicine is valuable because it integrates mind and body together. Western medicine focuses on the physical body but neglects the mind. In Western medicine, mental health is seen as something separate from physical health when in reality they are integrated. We need to shift our thinking and focus more on the fact that the mind and body are connected. When we do this we will be healthier as human beings.