I shared last month that the more recent years in my healing journey have been about exploring the mind-body-spirit connections. The first of these connections that I started to recognize in myself is that of mind and body. This started first by acknowledging that my body is not just a machine with my mind at the controls. My body is a separate part of me. It works in connection with my mind (and spirit), but it can respond to thoughts in a myriad of ways. It can also communicate quite directly to my consciousness, if I will only listen to it.
This is not to say that addressing the “mechanics” of my body is not an important aspect of healing. I have specific physical injuries that need physical treatment. The hypertonic muscles of my pelvic floor required physical therapy to heal. Just as the atrophied and enflamed tissues of my vestibule required hormone treatment to recover. For some people, these physical treatments are enough to bring them back to good health. But for me, my physical pains are connected to more than just their physical triggers. I have been going to physical therapy for seven years now and, while I acknowledge there are more “mechanical” aspects to healing from chronic pain, I believe full healing will only come when I address the broken connections between my mind, body and spirit.
Let’s take my two primary causes of pelvic pain as examples to explore what a mind-body connection might mean. Hypertonic (or overly tight) pelvic floor muscles are related to the body’s way of bracing. When you slam on your brakes to avoid an accident, you may notice that your pelvic floor tightens in this way of bracing for the impending impact. But this bracing or tightening of your pelvic floor can be caused by more than just a physical circumstance. And subconscious triggers can be just as impactful. There are plenty of psychological or emotional triggers that make you feel unsafe and cause this same physical reaction in your body. Similarly, hormones can certainly be affected by a physical trigger such as taking birth control pills, but they can also be affected by feelings or emotions. I’m sure you have heard that too much stress is bad for your health. And one of the primary reasons is because stress triggers an increase in cortisol (often referred to as the stress hormone). So why wouldn’t other emotions have similar impacts?
This mind-body connection can be positive as well. Meditation, mindfulness, and positive thinking are all ways that harness this connection to bring healing to the body. We may not be able to consciously tell our muscles to relax or our hormones to rebalance, but we can communicate to our bodies through our minds. Simply by changing our thoughts to be positive and hopeful, we are sending a message to our bodies that is essentially saying, “you are safe.” This is not a one-time fix, but as our perspectives shift and we truly start living in a positive state of mind we allow our muscles to release and our bodies to heal.
And just as our minds communicate to our bodies in these subtle but powerful ways, our bodies also communicate in their own methods. Physical symptoms are often our bodies’ way of telling us something is wrong. Sometimes we can “fix” one physical issue just to have a completely different issue manifest itself later. As I previously quoted from Dr. Gabor Mate, “receive whatever medical treatment makes sense to you…but also ask the question, what is my body saying no to that [my mind] didn’t say no to.” Beyond these more extreme responses, I am learning that my body can also communicate to me in subtle ways. In my next post I plan to share some of my personal experiences of how I have received clear messages by tuning into my body. Stay tuned.