Have you ever had a period of your life where you were experiencing a heightened amount of emotional stress, only to notice that it was accompanied by some type of physical symptom? Maybe you are usually a good little sleeper, but found yourself tossing and turning? Or maybe you found yourself having to use the bathroom much more than usual? There’s a growing consensus in the scientific community that the traditional distinction between mind and body, which is the basis of much of Western medicine as practiced today, is incomplete. Trauma experts have begun to document how emotional stress is not just a psychological phenomenon, but is also stored physically in our bodies.
This is a radical shift from how people have traditionally thought of therapy. You’ve probably seen that more traditional idea of therapy in the movies; a character goes to a therapist’s office and sits on a fancy couch surrounded by books. Maybe they lie down. And they always do the same thing: they talk about their problems. Meanwhile the therapist sits there stoically, maybe taking notes or asking them questions in a neutral, clinical tone of voice. This is a clichéd version of what therapy is, but it continues to hold a lot of currency. Talking aloud about our mental health problems with a clinical professional (sometimes, even for years and years), the popular idea goes, is the best cure!
But if we cannot separate the mental from the physical, would it not be the case that talking about our problems is only the tip of the iceberg? And if that stress is also physically stored in our bodies, and literally manifests as any number of health problems, how can we rely solely on talk therapy to heal ourselves? The neglect of how stress is stored in our physical bodies is a neglect to help people fully heal. None of this is meant to disparage talk therapy, which can have enormous benefits. The point is rather to broaden the tool kit for healing so that each individual’s unique, personal problems can be treated in the best way possible!
A big part of this comes from a growing understanding that trauma is not just limited to big-T traumatic events like car accidents or natural disasters. It also takes on many, less obvious forms, in instances like neglect and verbal abuse. Overall, then, we can say confidently that very, very few of us enter adulthood without some amount of trauma. That trauma manifests simultaneously both as mental and physical health issues; separating the two is useless!
Let’s try a brief exercise right now to give you a better understanding of this radical shift in looking at mental/physical health problems. All you need is yourself, some paper, and something to draw with. If you feel comfortable doing so, close your eyes. If not, no worries, just try to rid yourself of distractions and get as comfortable as possible. Start to listen to your body. What is it telling you? Try to single out one area that is bothering you. Maybe you have a slight headache, an achy neck, back pains, abdominal or stomach pain, or a general sense of fatigue and a lack of energy. It could be any number of things! Just observe, don’t judge yourself for how you’re feeling, and make note of what it is that you’re feeling.
For a few moments, focus on a part of your body that you have identified. If it feels right, you can even put a hand on the area and say “I’m here”, to remind yourself to think about it with curiosity and without judgment. Now, with your paper and pen or whatever you will be drawing with, draw something–anything–that comes to mind when you think of that area of your body and how it feels. It’s best not to overthink it too much. Draw whatever comes to mind intuitively. And don’t worry about the artistic quality of the drawing; though if that’s something you’re interested in working on in artistic detail, have at it! This brief exercise is one small step designed to help you start noticing what’s going on in your body more often.
Traditional talk therapists and doctors are essential! But unlike a doctor who will just write you a prescription, or a therapist that will just have you talk and not broach the topic of bodily symptoms, we take a mind, body, spirit approach. Often we need that extra practice or modality to bring us to our peak potential! Intuitive Readings NYC are a great way to tap into the wisdom of our minds, bodies, and spirits. You’ll amazed at the emotions held in your body – call and find out!