Bodymind is a compound of body and mind, which in the disciplines of humanistic psychology and spirituality, researchers in the second half of the twentieth century had begun studying in order to move beyond the dualist conceptions of body and mind towards a unified and interrelated concept of a bodymind. The term is related to the older concepts psychosomatic and somatopsychic.
Perhaps the leading exponent of an earlier dualistic theory of body and mind was René Descartes, the 17th century French philosopher best known for his statement “I think, therefore I am”, who established as his deepest and most lasting philosophical legacy the thesis that mind and body are really distinct—a thesis still called “mind-body dualism”. He established that he had a mind without needing to assume that he had a body. He reached this conclusion by arguing that the nature of the mind (that is, a thinking, non-extended thing) is completely different from that of the body (that is, an extended, non-thinking thing), and therefore it is possible for one to exist without the other. Descartes offers two versions to support his thesis, firstly:
- I have a clear and distinct idea of the mind as a thinking, non-extended thing.
- I have a clear and distinct idea of body as an extended, non-thinking thing.
- Therefore, the mind is really distinct from the body and can exist without it.
And in a second argument:
- I understand the mind to be indivisible by its very nature.
- I understand the body to be divisible by its very nature.
- Therefore, the mind is completely different from the body.
These arguments give rise to the famous problem of mind-body causal interaction still debated today: how can the mind cause some of our bodily limbs to move (for example, raising one’s hand to strike something), and how can the body’s sense organs cause sensations in the mind when their natures are completely different?
The present day understanding of bodymind both in a psychological, therapeutic as well as in a medical sense is that:
- · The body, mind, emotions and spirit are dynamically interrelated.
- · Each time a change is introduced at one level, it has a ripple effect throughout the entire system.
Bodymind therapy combines the strengths of “talk” therapy with bodywork, such as touch, postural alignment, or movement education and exercise to increase body awareness, also known as mind-body or somatic therapy. It helps people become deeply aware of their bodily sensations as well as their emotions, images and behavior. Clients become more conscious of how they breathe, move, speak, and where they experience feelings in their bodies.
The body holds all experience – including physical stress and emotional injury, as well as delights and exuberant experiences – stored in the body cells which informs and directs here and now responses to life events through the stored pattern of expectations and “rules about reality” acquired so far.
Using the body as the gateway to awareness, buried feelings and memories can surface, freeing from old patterns and energy blocks that keep us feeling stuck and unable to live life to its fullest. Our mind may avoid certain emotions and memories, but our body remembers it all.
Human growth and self-development
Herbert Benson, MD, has pioneered in bodymind research, focusing on stress and the “relaxation response” in medicine. In his research, the mind and body are one system, in which meditation plays a significant role in reducing stress responses (Benson 1972).
Jack Painter Ph.D., (1933–2010), a pioneer of the human growth work, developed a conception of ‘bodymind’ in the 1960s. As professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Miami he engaged with many of the people who were later grouped together in the ‘Human Potential Movement’. He personally explored many different approaches –Zen, Yoga, Gestalt (with Fritz Perlsand Marty Fromm), Rolfing (with Bill Williams), Reichian therapy (with Raffale Estrada Villa) and many others. In the process Painter became increasingly interested in integrating influences and aspects from different approaches into an effective and coherent method of personal growth, self-development and healing, stating however that :
“the form of bodywork which I created is not an eclectic combination of techniques I experienced or learned — it is a singular approach to the whole person”.
From the seventies on he developed Bodymind Integration approaches like Postural Integration©, Energetic Integration and Pelvic-Heart Integration. Bodymind Integration combines working with the physical, energetic and cognitive as well as the emotional processes in the bodymind. The International Council of PsychoCorporal (Bodymind) Integration Trainers (ICPIT) carry on and develop Postural Integration and Energetic Integration.
Anthropologists Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margaret M. Lock have developed a concept of bodymind for medical anthropology to provide a basis for research that is not limited by the view that the body and mind are distinct from one another
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