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  • Writer's pictureMary Helen Robert, LAc

BodyMind - without separation

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

For years I have been drawn to books and articles about mind-body medicine.  I have to say that it seems somewhat strange to hyphenate mind-body, implying that they are somehow separate.  I love that Dr. Candace Pert uses BodyMind - "No hyphen, to emphasize its unity."  For the rest of this post I will do the same.  

“Most psychologists treat the mind as disembodied, a phenomenon with little or no connection to the physical body. Conversely, physicians treat the body with no regard to the mind or the emotions. But the body and mind are not separate, and we cannot treat one without the other.” Dr. Candace Pert 

My studies began many years ago when my BodyMind was screaming at me to pay attention. I realized I didn’t know how to pay attention to, nor understand the information being delivered.  The more I read and explored the more it all began to make sense.  I began to see how so many of us (myself included) develop interesting relationships to our pain, dis-ease, discomfort etc...  When we experience pain or dis-ease of any kind it is our BodyMind's way of telling us to look deeper. The BodyMind is amazing in this way - it really wants to heal itself and is expertly designed to do so.  Sometimes we listen to what the BodyMind is trying to tell us, but most often we ignore these messages.   

“Emotional competence requires the capacity to feel our emotions, so that we are aware when we are experiencing stress; the ability to express our emotions effectively and thereby to assert our needs and to maintain the integrity of our emotional boundaries; the facility to distinguish between psychological reactions that are pertinent to the present situation and those that represent residue from the past. What we want and demand from the world needs to conform to our present needs, not to unconscious, unsatisfied needs from childhood. If distinctions between past and present blur, we will perceive loss or the threat of loss where none exists; and the awareness of those genuine needs that do require satisfaction, rather than their repression for the sake of gaining the acceptance or approval of others. Stress occurs in the absence of these criteria, and it leads to the disruption of homeostasis. Chronic disruption results in ill health.” Dr. Gabor Maté

One example that we see everyday is the fight-flight-freeze response.  We’ve all heard of this - how it is designed to be temporary - for an acute danger.  However, once that immediate danger has passed we can remain stuck - to varying degrees.  Our nervous system can remain in this state of fight-flight-freeze for longer than is necessary.  In turn, this creates a cascade of events that can wreak havoc on the BodyMind.  We all respond/react to this in different ways and it's one reason I think auto-immune diseases are prevailing.  Our BodyMinds are literally attacking themselves and our hectic, fast-paced, stressful lives (and how we react to them) are the venomous miscreants.

So, what we must do is retrain our nervous system - teach it that yes, somewhere, something is triggering this danger response but the threat is now obsolete.  We are safe. There are many therapies/practices that do just this.  No one technique is for everyone and I have found that I rely on a few different modalities. If you would like to learn more I implore you to do so.  It's not particularly easy or familiar work, but it will change your life. I can assure you this.  See reading/reference list at the end of this post for further reading as well as some local (Chattanooga) workshops and resources.

“Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past. The mind needs to be reeducated to feel physical sensations, and the body needs to be helped to tolerate and enjoy the comforts of touch. Individuals who lack emotional awareness are able, with practice, to connect their physical sensations to psychological events. Then they can slowly reconnect with themselves.” Bessel van der Kolk, MD

If you read my last post, some of this might sound a little familiar. Repetition is where real change happens after all and like I said, it all goes back to paying attention.  When we pay attention we can see how past traumas surface in our present lives and are usually cyclical.  I have symptoms that arise every January/February that stem from the onset of a potentially serious and scary illness during that time - a period when I was confronted with fear in a way for which I was not at all prepared.  When we pay attention we realize that time of year that we "just don't like" has a much deeper meaning - perhaps it was when we lost a loved one or dealt with a serious healing crisis of our own?  When we identify these patterns and connections we can help abate their intensity by taking heed on the front end.

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” Bessel van der Kolk, MD

Reading/Reference List (in no particular order):

  • Dr. Candace Pert - "has been called “The Mother of Psychoneuroimmunology”, and “The Goddess of Neuroscience” by her many fans.  To her colleagues she was an internationally recognized neuroscientist and pharmacologist who published over 250 research articles and was a significant contributor to the emergence of Mind-Body Medicine as an area of legitimate scientific research in the 1980’s." "Why do we feel the way we feel? How do our thoughts and emotions affect our health? Are our bodies and minds distinct from each other or do they function together as parts of an interconnected system? In her groundbreaking book Molecules of Emotion, Candace Pert provides startling and decisive answers to these and other challenging questions that scientists and philosophers have pondered for centuries.

  • Dr. Gabor Maté, A renowned speaker, and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté is highly sought after for his expertise on a range of topics including addiction, stress and childhood development. Rather than offering quick-fix solutions to these complex issues, Dr. Maté weaves together scientific research, case histories, and his own insights and experience to present a broad perspective that enlightens and empowers people to promote their own healing and that of those around them. Click here for books by Dr. Maté.

  • Dr. Peter A. Levine received his PhD in medical biophysics from the University of California in Berkeley and also holds a doctorate in psychology from International University. He has worked in the field of stress and trauma for over 40 years and is the developer of the Somatic Experiencing method. Click here for books by Dr. Levine.

  • Bessel van Der Kolk, MD - "has spent his career studying how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences, and has translated emerging findings from neuroscience and attachment research to develop and study a range of potentially effective treatments for traumatic stress in children and adults." "Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives."

  • Robert M. Sapolsky - This renowned primatologist's "acclaimed and successful third edition of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers features new chapters on how stress affects sleep and addiction, as well as new insights into anxiety and personality disorder and the impact of spirituality on managing stress. As Sapolsky explains, most of us do not lie awake at night worrying about whether we have leprosy or malaria. Instead, the diseases we fear-and the ones that plague us now-are illnesses brought on by the slow accumulation of damage, such as heart disease and cancer. When we worry or experience stress, our body turns on the same physiological responses that an animal's does, but we do not resolve conflict in the same way-through fighting or fleeing. Over time, this activation of a stress response makes us literally sick. Combining cutting-edge research with a healthy dose of good humor and practical advice, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers explains how prolonged stress causes or intensifies a range of physical and mental afflictions, including depression, ulcers, colitis, heart disease, and more. It also provides essential guidance to controlling our stress responses. This new edition promises to be the most comprehensive and engaging one yet."

  • John E. Sarno, MD "Dr. John E. Sarno's groundbreaking research on TMS (Tension Myoneural Syndrome) reveals how stress and other psychological factors can cause back pain-and how you can be pain free without drugs, exercise, or surgery. Dr. Sarno's program has helped thousands of patients find relief from chronic back conditions. In this New York Times bestseller, Dr. Sarno teaches you how to identify stress and other psychological factors that cause back pain and demonstrates how to heal yourself--without drugs, surgery or exercise."

  • Dr. Joe Dispenza - "As a NY Times best-selling author, Dr. Joe has written You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter (Hay House, 2014), which explores our ability to heal without drugs or surgery, but rather by thought alone. He has also written Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One (Hay House, 2012) and Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind (2007), both of which detail the neuroscience of change and epigenetics. Becoming Supernatural is Dr. Joe’s fourth book. His film appearances include HEAL (2017); E-Motion (2014); Sacred Journey of the Heart (2012); People v. the State of Illusion (2011); What IF – The Movie (2010); Unleashing Creativity (2009); and What the #$*! Do We Know? & Down the Rabbit Hole, extended DVD version (2005)."

And for those in the Chattanooga area:

  • Dr. Dave Aitken/The Tonal Spine - "Specializing in Network Spinal Analysis and Somato Respiratory Integration, Dr. Dave Aitken is Chattanooga's first dedicated reorganizational healing practitioner committed to improving the function of your nervous system so that you can live a life of true health and vitality.  Following an extraordinary healing journey of his own, Dr. Dave committed his life to Network Spinal Chiropractic and founded The Tonal Spine in 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee."

  • Holli Richey is a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and a psychotherapist practicing in Chattanooga, TN, USA. Holli’s philosophy of healing is based on our need for wholeness. From her own path of healing, Holli has developed a deep appreciation for plant medicine, mindfulness, and mind/body/spirit medicine. Holli’s therapeutic focus is in rekindling people’s intimate relationship to life in all its wholeness: nature’s beauty and mystery, food in its nourishment and challenges, personal relationships in their pleasure and pain, emotions that provide us powerful information of our perception of life; all of which points us to our empowered self. Holli studied pathophysiology, biomedicine and the therapeutic use of medicinal herbs at the Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute), graduating with a Masters of Science in Herbal Medicine. A growing body of research and Holli’s own observations have shown how emotional patterns have a powerful impact on health and illness, which led Holli to study at the University of Georgia as a Clinical Social Worker to develop an ecological therapy of the whole person, mind-body-spirit, which utilizes herbs, psychotherapy and stress management/mindfulness practices to help people find insight into and relief from their anxiety, depression, chronic illness, trauma and pain. She’s continued with her training in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy through intensive study with Zindel Segal, PhD and Susan Woods LCSW at Omega Institute, and with Ron Siegel, PsyD from Harvard Medical School. Holli is skilled in working with Complex Traumatic Stress Disorder , somatization disorders and dissociative disorders. Effective modalities in which Holli has received additional training are Advanced EMDR with Dolores Mosquera and Kathy Steele, Somatic Experiencing with Peter Levine, and Interpersonal Neurobiology with Dan Siegel. Holli is a member of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. Holli lives in Chattanooga, TN where she provides herbal wellness consultations and psychotherapy. To schedule an appointment call (423)240-4578. Or, if you would like to set up a nature walk in your neck of the woods, Holli leads walks in urban and suburban areas because plants growing up through sidewalk cracks and manicured lawns can also be edible or medicinal.

  • Tyler Orr is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC/MHSP) and National Certified Counselor (NCC) dedicated to offering holistic and experiential assistance that exceeds the boundaries of traditional talk therapy. He offers an interactive, here-and-now, body-centered approach to counseling that integrates mindfulness, nonduality, somatic and attachment focused EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing® techniques. Tyler’s office is located at the Chattanooga Center for Mind-Body Therapy in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Click here for information on how to make an appointment. Presently, Tyler is only accepting new clients with pain and somatic symptom related issues. 

  • The Center for Insight Medicine is Southeast Tennessee's first Insight Medicine clinic, specializing in holistic approaches to the diagnosis & treatment of chronic pain, functional syndromes, & medically unexplained symptoms.The Center for Insight Medicine is different - everything we do aims to treat more precisely by diagnosing more accurately. And unlike many other clinics, we spend the time to do so.If you're interested in having a better understanding of your symptoms and why they've persisted, you want treatment that leaves you in control and feeling empowered, and you're willing to get back to a place where it's easier to feel healthy.....then you are ready for INSIGHT.

  • Workshops at Rising Fawn Gardens - "Beautiful hiking trails meander across the farm — alongside the creek that flows quietly past Cureton Mill, through the open, breezy fields, to the ridge that shapes the backbone of Rising Fawn Gardens. As you walk, you’ll see the vibrance of nature and the life it holds — trees and wildflowers, birds and deer. Along the top of the ridge, the “Green Mile” offers breathtaking views far beyond the property lines. Whatever your reason for visiting, we hope you’ll find a moment to discover these well-loved paths."


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