Mind over matter? More on the mind/body relationship
March 9, 2010
Editorand#8217;s note: This is the second in a two-part series, visit sierrasun.com, search Klotzkin for the first installment.
Should I go to work even though I feel sick? Would that make me a weak person and an uncommitted worker? Should I avoid travel to see my parents because I have panic attacks every time I stay with them? Or should I just s**k it up and go? Should I tell the waitress that my order is not quite right, or should I just eat what Iand#8217;ve been served?
There is often a clash between our minds, which are saying and#8220;just get over it, just do it, be strongand#8217; and our bodies and emotions which are saying and#8220;this is too much for me, this is not good for me, no.and#8221; So, should we try to put and#8216;mind over matterand#8221; and and#8220;just do it?and#8221; Or should we listen to our bodies and say no, I canand#8217;t, itand#8217;s not healthy for me?
It is certainly easier for other people, at least in the short run, if we just do it. It is easier for our employers and clients if we show up to work every day and take no sick time, and easier for the waitress if we just eat what we are served. It also makes people upset and resentful to see other people listening to their body needs, when they ignore and judge those needs in themselves. Our culture reflects this and#8212; we esteem those who overcome physical and emotional challenges, who and#8220;tough it outand#8221; through pain and discomfort, and get the job done. But is it healthy for us to always choose mind over matter?
I donand#8217;t think so, because it means rejecting the needs of our bodies and emotions. Even when we reject and ignore those needs, they do not go away. We cannot starve them out of existence. They will just increase their screams and cries until we listen, or they will find devious and indirect ways of getting their needs met. Over time, we lose strength and power because we are not taking care of our selves, and we lose energy to our and#8220;warand#8221; against our own selves.
So, should we allow we listen to our bodies and emotions every time? This does not seem to be the answer, either. We have goals in our lives, from work to relationships to life interests and#8212; and commitments that go along with those goals. If we always choose matter over mind, we will have a very difficult time creating a full and rewarding life.
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So, how aboutand#8230;cooperate and compromise? Listen to your body as best as you can (it doesnand#8217;t speak English) and weigh its demands against your life goals. Be kind and compassionate about what your body is saying, and respectful of your commitments.
The important thing is to step out of the name-calling debate in which your mind calls your emotional and physically needy body a weak baby, and your body calls your mind a mean bully. This leads to fear and defensiveness, with each side becoming more entrenched and demanding. (You must go to work or you are a pathetic loser and#8230; But I canand#8217;t go to work or Iand#8217;ll die, But you must, But I canand#8217;t, etc.)
As you cease to engage in that conflict, you become more productive at arriving at reasonable compromises between what your mind wants and what your body wants. Your confidence that you are doing your best to honor your whole self also makes you less vulnerable to letting other peopleand#8217;s judgments control your choices. Because, ultimately, it is your body and your mind.
and#8212; Danielle B. Klotzkin, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, provides psychotherapy for clients who are looking for a way to move forward through relationship issues, problems with alcohol, drugs, or managing money, eating and body issues, trauma, grief and loss, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Contact her at (530) 470-2233 or truckeecounseling.com.