Have you ever experienced pain or an illness that just wasn't going away with physical medical care? There are many scenarios I can think of here. Perhaps you have chronic migraines and your prescription medication just isn't working. Maybe you live a busy life and tend to get colds or the flu easily and are unsure why.
There are many reasons why we tend to go to our primary care physicians or other medical specialists to treat problems in our bodies. And often this is necessary. However, sometimes it also misses the whole picture of what is happening in our mind and spirit. Our bodies are highly sensitive and intelligent instruments that store our deepest thoughts, reactions, beliefs, and feelings. Our bodies protect us when we are otherwise having trouble protecting ourselves. Consider how, if you have a tendency to overdo, your body might react by physically slowing you down with an injury or illness. When our minds push us too far, the body might react by catching a bad cold, ensuring rest and a moment to regroup.
Given the culture that we live in and common beliefs that are instilled from a young age, it's not surprising that we tend to look toward localized physical solutions for illness, pain, and injury. We live in a society that promotes achievement, hard work, fast paced living, and high stress environments. There is almost always some external pressure to "do" versus "be." On top of that, taking care of a our mind and spirit can be stigmatized and called crazy. And we often have deeply held beliefs and fears inside of ourselves about what it would mean to meet the needs of the mind and spirit. We may fear our emotions - either that we could be ruled by our emotions if they are acknowledged, or that we would have to make a lot of changes to our lives if we acknowledged how we really felt. Or we may not have much conscious awareness of the desires and needs of our spirit with so little time to reflect.
If you're reading this and say "ah, that's me!," remember that we are all on a journey and facing some variation of a disconnected mind/body/spirit. No one has it all figured out. The first step is to acknowledge what your body may be trying to tell you if you are facing an ailment that is presenting physically. You might have begun the journey of pursing holistic medicine, through acupuncture, massage, yoga, and/or herbs. This is a fantastic step toward listening to and opening up the body. Once the body is being connected to in these ways, it will often share more information that can come through as thoughts, memories, and emotions. This is a great time to engage in psychotherapy to connect with your mind and spirit!
If you come to psychotherapy curious about what your body is trying to communicate, we'd likely explore a few things:
- Meaning and beliefs: What is the meaning that you give to your symptoms or ailments? What do you believe that they might be trying to tell you?
- Values: What is most important to you in life? Have you been making the time to focus on and pursue what is important?
- Emotions: How do you feel about connecting to what your body is telling you? How do you approach your emotions in general? Are there emotions that you fear having? Are there emotions or grief to be released?
- Behaviors and actions: What steps can you take to integrate your mind/body/spirit? How do you take action given the information that your body is sharing? What changes would be helpful to make?
What are your thoughts about the mind, body, spirit connection? What do you think are other barriers to seeing ourselves and our health in an integrated way that acknowledges our deepest desires and fears?