The tendency towards viewing the body and mind as individual and distinct from one
another stretches back to the seventeenth century to the philosopher Descartes, one of the
founding fathers of modern medicine. He made an agreement with the Pope and the
Roman Catholic Church, (in order to obtain bodies for dissection and research), that he
would leave the realm of mind, emotions and soul to them and focus solely on the more
tangible, mechanistic, concrete physical arena. Until relatively recently this perceptual
approach has dominated science, as have the mechanistic postulates developed by Isaac
Newton around that same time.
Such structural philosophies have flourished and have contributed to the current practices
of specialization and division in science, business, medicine and culture. A huge number
of technological advances have occurred within the structure of the traditional paradigm,
though more recently a functional limit to this viewpoint seems to have been reached. We
are beginning to feel the consequences of such a narrow, non-systemic approach, and
ecological problems and complaints from patients as wanting to be seen as a whole
person are just two examples out of hundreds where a wider, more global focus may have
prevented a problem.
We live in an interconnected, participatory Universe. The severed view of the mind and the
body that our society has embraced for so long is both inaccurate and detrimental.
Complete and compassionate treatment of an individual requires that the interdependent
nature of our bodymind be accessed, engaged and honored. It is imperative that we
comprehend the fullness and impact of this interconnected network of which we are a part.
We must recognize that no part of this vessel, (or this world for that matter), exists in
isolation. So that when an impulse or an injury occurs, (whether physical or psychological),
we understand that it will not have an isolated effect in only one area. And we will know that
in order to regain our wellness we must take into consideration the full extent of the
possible causes and consequences.
We can think of our internal environment as consisting of different, interrelated layers such
as the physical, emotional, cognitive, transpersonal, and spiritual levels. With our bodies,
as with the Earth, a toxin or injury introduced discretely into one area of the environment,
will eventually impact the whole planet. Waste dumped into the water gradually impacts
plants, animals, fish, the soil and the atmosphere. Similarly a blow dealt to our cognitive
body will, by design be felt in all of the other bodies. In this wider view we gain not only a
more complete knowledge of the outcome of injuries, we also gain access to the
wholeness of our healing resources.
Individuals seek physical and psychological treatment for a myriad of reasons, and we
often find that in both realms, the presenting symptoms represent only an outer
manifestation of what lies beneath. In medicine patients complain of such things as
headache, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress and back pain which can very frequently be
explained by psychosocial or stress-related factors. Neither doctors nor patients are
encouraged in our society to look beyond the physical discomfort into the emotions or life
choices that those symptoms have grown out of.
It may in fact take years, or even a lifetime, for emotional issues to manifest in the body with
enough frequency and intensity that we finally seek medical treatment. At present what
gets attended to by the patient and doctor during the visit are the symptoms, and this
attention often comes in the form of misguided medications and surgery. Our emotions,
and their free or inhibited expression, have biochemical correlates. If we are suppressing
our anger, or are depressed, or are in constant Autonomic Nervous System activation
(feeling that fight-or-flight reaction), the long-term effects of these states can contribute to
decreased immunocompetence and/or medical complications. When we get medical
treatment for physical symptoms that have such a myriad of complex internal causes we
are often missing the point. In many cases the symptoms manifest into our awareness as
pain, but are the outcome of an array of subconscious perceptions, structures and
The present physical discomfort is often the only part of the process that we are aware of,
even though the beginning of that problem could have originated months, even years ago.
Childhood trauma, unable to be processed then, often gets repressed or denied and has
the potential to manifest as somatic illness later in life. In the medical arena doctors
typically see patients because they are reporting some sort of physical pain or disease.
Psychotherapists encounter people whose pain and dis-ease has become manifest in
some sort of emotional, psychological or behavioral way. Often a client’s subconscious
worldview, as created in childhood and throughout their lives, contributes to any number of
internal or relational difficulties. And the accumulation of these difficulties over time have
created the perceptions of being trapped, overwhelmed, powerless, out of control, lost,
depressed, bitter, resentful and discouraged.
These presenting issues are often reactions to the symptoms, or outer circumstances
created in their lives, by underlying subconscious forces. And even though it is those
surface complaints and discomforts that bring them into therapy in the first place, it is not
what actually needs addressing. Therapists, as well as doctors, may make the mistake of
judging the presenting issues as the territory instead of the map. But hopefully if both types
of practitioners, and the individuals in treatment, are educated and committed, the deeper
issues, beliefs and causes can be discovered and worked with.
“Curing” the presenting issue is often only a quick fix. In many cases pain is the last
symptom to appear and the first one in treatment to disappear. If we misjudge the external
pain as the only problem, we may miss the opportunity for true, long-lasting healing.
mindfulness on the part of the client and the therapist can help to ensure that a holistic,
deep focus is maintained so that we can eventually experience the bodymind harmony and
balance that is our birthright.
The human bodymind has a natural ability to heal itself. Accessing and employing our
intention can facilitate the healing process by tapping into the various resources that we
carry within us. We have available to us an incredible wellspring of health potential. And
yet if this is true, why are so many of us suffering from mental and physical illness? Much
of our dis-ease has occurred, because over time our adaptations to, and perceptions of the
world, have interfered with our natural ability to access that endless supply of healing
Healing is not so much a matter of developing new avenues of treatment, as it is getting
out of the way of the bodymind and allowing it to do what it does naturally. By making sure
that our environment, our nutrition, level of rest, relationships, and job are providing healthy
support for our healing, we can ensure that our efforts are not being counteracted. When
we experience a physical or psychological symptom we can participate in and enhance the
healing process by being curious about what the “root causes” of those symptoms may be
and attending to those.
© 2007 JENNIFER H. WHITE, ROOT SYSTEMS INSTITUTE, LLC ~ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Exploring the Realm of the Bodymind
by Jennifer White
|Healing is not so much
a matter of developing
new avenues of
treatment, as it is
getting out of the way
of the bodymind and
allowing it to do what it
~ Jennifer White