BODY MIND CONNECTION, MEMORY AND CHANGE
Learning about memory and how sometimes it is frozen and cannot be retrieved and other times it is reviewed and retold so many times that it changes with each telling.
Understanding this helps understand repressed memory and trapped feelings as well as false memory and healthy adult reflection allowing fragmented experience to become a story that has an ending from which we can move-on.
THE BODY MIND CONNECTION
Most people will appreciate that there is a body mind connection in so far as what you think has an impact on your body and what you do has an impact on your mind. This happens at so many levels.
There is the brain directing the activity of the hands and feet to make us mobile and gesture. And in the opposite direction we see, hear, smell, touch and tasks and it triggers thoughts and feelings.
There is also the effect of drink, drugs, fatigue of the body having an effect on the mind. And the effect of anxiety or stress on our motivation and physical abilities.
Mental toughness is often cited as a key for high performance in sport and yoga and mindfulness are often noted as physical exercise that bring mental control and a sense of mental wellbeing.
THE MIND AND OUR REACTIONS AND RESPONSES
Many people are familiar with the fight, flight or freeze instinctive reaction to fear as well as the sage advice to pause, take a deep breath, think and instead respond in a more controlled manner. This is so much easier said than done, but another great example of the body mind connection.
Learning from trauma and instances of PTSD there are cases where the fear of an event has triggered a physical response even though the event did not happen. For example a person who was so convinced that they were going to be run-over that they lost the control of the limbs despite not actually being injured.
There are also cases of phantom limbs where after amputation people still feel the limb even though it is not there.
There are also instances so traumatic that the mind simply cannot comprehend or recall the event even though the body is able to re-live and repeat the feelings of pain, sickness, fear. This combination of recurring feeling without remembered reason can be particularly challenging and distressing.
Freud noted peoples compulsion to repeat patterns as if seeking to address, complete and resolve the matter. I wonder if there is a parallel with Karma and the idea of re-living lessons until we have learned our lifes purpose and can move forward.
TRUE MEMORY AND AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY
It is interesting that smell, hear, touch and taste can invoke really strong and vivid memories which may be really deep and a long time ago. And yet story telling is always a recent and edited memory. It may have happened 10 or 20 years ago but it was last retrieved, updated and made sense of many, many, many times since then.
The curious effect is that the story perhaps lacks some of the smell, hear, touch and taste detail because that has been over-typed and replaced by the new meaning, new interpretation, new telling.
By contrast the untouched memory in deep-freeze or denial is still perfectly preserved if only it could be accessed. In some cases access comes in the form or flashbacks and panic attacks, but without the controlling narrative to explain the story to bring it to a close or conclusion.
It is important to resolve not relive the trauma.
In these circumstances coaching or supporting the body mind re-connection carries significant responsibility to create a safe environment to help understand the events and let the necessary narrative emerge to end the story.
SAFETY IN BREATHING
The act of exhale helps the parasympathetic nervous system- breathing out helps us calm. Especially if we have a long pause before the next inhale. This allows us to access thoughts and feelings which may be distressing but within a body and a context which feels calm and safe.
In this environment we are better able to respond rather than react, to explore and understand rather than panic or rage. I wonder if is it this that makes yoga and mindfulness such powerful tools for coping with stress and the ability to accept thoughts and feelings without experiencing those thoughts and feelings.
THE RHYTHM OF DANCE
It seems that regaining control over your mind often starts with retaining some control over your body. As well as yoga and mindfulness, Pilates, martial arts and even dance can also help reconnect us with ourselves.
A NEW TRIBE
Doing things, in a safe group, is a great way to reconnect with yourself and the world. Veterans seem better able to connect with their feelings when in a group with those of similar experiences. This is natural, we all have a sense of belonging to some form of family, community, gang or tribe.
Ironically (and perhaps sadly) that running back to the familiar can be dysfunctional. Victims will often return to their abuser. Even rats will habitually return to a familiar home irrespective of how safe and secure that place is.
The challenge in these circumstances is to build a new home, find a new community, create a new group to belong to. This is why reformed alcoholics and drug abusers are often only able to turn their lives around when they leave old friends and bad habits for new groups and healthier pastimes like running: – sometimes replacing one obsession with another albeit healthier passion.
The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma
The Peter Attia Drive Podcast