The Tandem Work of the Body and Mind (4 min read)

Last week we explored energy, both its impact on others, and other’s energy impact on us. When we think of being in relationship, we usually consider the “other” to be another person. That is often true. However we also have “others” within our own self. I am not referring to any psychiatric term, what I am talking about are the portions of our self we do our best to ignore or persecute. They are the parts of us we wish were different; places within where we berate ourselves for being too anxious or controlling, not attractive or smart enough: too much of something, not enough of something else.

For over 10 years, Dr. Dan Siegel (clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute) has been a prominent voice in my learning about the brain, and how it works differently when we are in relationship with others. Dan reminds us of an important concept that has a lot to do with our ability to be resilient, “Our mind follows our body. Our body follows our mind.”

Another way to say this is that our mind pays attention and follows the clues our body gives it and vice versa. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have an event this evening. You have knots in your stomach. Depending on the narrative you use to explain this, you may interpret that feeling as joy, excitement, nerves or the flu. Your mind (defined by Siegel as “an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information”) takes a clue from your body and judges the feeling based on the story you tend to tell yourself.

A few years ago I started wondering about that feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I paid attention to my body and my thoughts I realized what I usually consider nerves was most often excitement, not anxiety! Years ago someone interpreted that belly feeling for me by saying, “Oh, you are just nervous…” I took that story of “being nervous” as my (small t) truth and interpreted the feeling as “nerves” for decades…until I realized I could tell myself a new story. I changed the narrative to be able to experience joy and excitement instead of anxiety.

Our mind interprets (or we could say “judges”) our somatic responses to life. Our body listens to what our mind tells it to do (be anxious or be excited). Our mind regulates the flow of energy and information and our body responds. How do we jump in and change this circular path?

Intention helps us stop the judgment flow and allows us to choose an alternative path (a different story). This week pay attention to the story you are telling yourself. How do you interpret your body responses? When you find yourself angry, is there a theme you hear? When you feel anxious, what are you saying to yourself that fuels the anxiety? When you change the narrative you change your experience. The first step is paying attention to the story we tell.

Stop, take a breath. Set an intention to stop the judgment flow and choose a different path.

Shift the story, shift your energy.


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