What’s the mind-body connection’
We don’t need to perform a complicated scientific experiment to have a thought or a feeling and experience its effects on our physiology. Think of lifting your arm and it will move, think of the happiest day of your life and you immediately will feel that some of those feelings re-enlivening your whole being in the present, if you think of a situation that upset you greatly most sure you will experiment the darkening of your mood all together .
Mind and body are not only connected , they are unified as Henry Dreher says in his book Mind-Body Unity.
Certainly we cannot equate compassion with serotonine or joy with dopamine or say that happiness is just brain waves. Neuroscientist Candace Pert and immunologist Michael Ruff have shown some of the functioning of the psychosomatic network.
But is this affecting our health? and to which degree is the mindbody connection responsible for our illnesses or good health?
This idea has made it into the mainstream paradigm, and by now everybody agrees that stress and relaxation are very much part of how we get ill and how we heal.
Then we run into this very simplistic prescription that a positive attitude is necessary to cure from an illness. There is lots of evidence against that superficial understanding. On the contrary all emotions are necessary and support health.
The whole network is the basis for the internal healing system , a intelligent function in charge of homeostasis, balance among different parts, that is guided by emotions and their biochemical substrates
The psychosomatic network shows on the molecular level how the emotions are a bridge among mind and body, and in order for the communication to succeed we need all the emotions , not just the positives.
In fact it is not that simple to distinguished what is one or the other , for example neurons and white cells produce the same substances. The nerves system not only produces the same substances that the immune system , but also they talk the same molecular language.
And that’s true also in the endocrine, gastrointestinal, reproductive, cardiovascular system, all of them are producing common substances and talk the same molecular language.
The letters or the sounds of this common language are the neuropeptides and their receptors that are cellular messengers , vibrant molecular units of information that flood the body , delivering messages and providing the communication that creates the unity that we experiment as being ourselves with a mental , emotional and physical dimension.
It is this flow of information that is the healing system with its million years old ability for psychophysical regeneration.
This information flows across every organ, tissue, cell ,DNA and is literally facilitated by the emotions.
Pert and Snyder with very sophisticated techniques for mapping peptides and its receptors found its distribution throughout the brain and body.
Those molecules travel throughout the body and by locking in their specific receptors of the cell they transfer the messages of the information carried and produce changes on the membrane and the nucleus and turn on and off genes, send to work or rest etc.
There are concentration of those receptors for these molecules in the emotional areas of the brain and also along the gastrointestinal tract (gut feeling, instinct, intuition)and also the pancreas, the testis , the kidneys and many other cells , special relevance have the receptors in immune cells.
This creates a whole new understanding of the role of emotions in health. Before it was thought that the neurotransmitters were in the brain ,working only in the neurons transferring information at the synapse and that it was that that created our mental states.
Now we know those exchanges happen all over the body, among different systems, and are the basis of mindbody interactions.
For example when we feel fear, one neuropeptide , cholecystokinin, locks in the gut receptors and change the motility of the intestines, and we know we are afraid and the body prepares for defense.
We may think we don’t need emotions, but it is the means the body uses to unify itself to respond coherently . All is regulated by those molecules. Emotions affect not only our psyche but our physiology.
It is impossible to separate mind and body, they have evolved together for millions of years and they work together. Makes sense isn’t it?
Our ideas, perceptions, believes, expectations shape our reality and the way we respond. But it can be different if we decide so, in fact the most important influence we can have over our body , is our expectations, what we think is going to happen and what we say to ourselves conscious or unconsciously that is going to happen, all the research on the placebo effect shows that.
That’s why it is so important to be able to see what believes are organizing our responses and the constant inner dialogues that take place in our minds.
Candace Pert affirms that the emotions are the organizing principle of our biology and our evolution.
Pain and pleasure help to survive by avoiding what destroy us and looking for what benefits us.The problem comes when we have distorted so much those organizing principles that not only don’t guide us but get us in trouble.
Regardless of this misleading distortions, we still need to feel and understand the language of our emotions. they are indicators and we need to inquire into the message they provide.
If we suppress or numb or don’t listen to them we are in trouble because they regulate all the system in the body.The valves in the digestive system and the heart , the surveillant activity of the immune system, the water retention…..all the global regulation across the body.
Don’t be afraid to feel any negative emotion, pay attention, listen to the message and take inspired action, let it orient you into the necessary response to reestablish homeostasis , balance, wellbeing.
Of course if you don’t take the intended action, the emotion will keep on knocking your door delivering the same news until you get num to it and begins our disconnection from this crucial informational system. And without this unifying flow our bodymind gets sick.
in summary: Reestablish the flow, start to feel whatever is there , receive the message , take action on it.