Body vs. Mind or Body and Mind?


loody Descartes and his mind-body split! The problems that have arisen from the idea of dualism are huge. More and more I am coming round to the idea that we are not made up of three separate entities: mind, body and soul, as Descartes proposed in the 17th Century. Rather, that we are mind and body (and soul?). We are 'embodied' people. We are made up of brain, heart, lungs, legs, hair and so on, as one complete whole. Our bodies are not simply robots which we inhabit with our minds. We are whole beings, each organ and part relying on all the others. Because of this oneness of mind and body, our bodies give us signals about our lives if we listen to them.

As an example, I am aware that my psoriasis is linked with stress in my life. I also know, on a biological level, that it is the result of skin cells over-producing skin. I have been given treatment for the symptoms (dry patches of skin) in the form of a steroidal cream. It works for the time that I use the cream. As soon as I stop, the psoriasis returns. When I go on holiday, and allow myself to relax, the psoriasis reduces.

So my body gives feedback signals to the whole in the form of psoriasis. If I listen to that feedback and reduce my stress, the psoriasis reduces, and hence my body no longer needs to send out these warning signals. This same feedback between body and mind can be seen when we feel anxiety as butterflies in our stomach. It is often the case that my body knows how I feel about a situation before I am aware of it. I enter a situation, and slowly become aware of the nerves in my stomach, sweaty palms and dry mouth: "Oh, I must be feeling anxious about this situation!" I say. I feel annoyed that it takes me so long to recognise this and yet my body knows, if only I listen to it. I am drawn to a comment made by Gendlin (2003) in his book on Focusing.

It would appear that my body knows me better than I do! Maybe I should listen to it more. It is, after all, part of me. Or rather, it is me.


Gendlin, E (2003): Focusing: how to gain direct access to your body's knowledge; RIder Books.