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.1. How important is the mind-body connection to all aspects of our lives?
There is NO SEPARATION between mind and body. Our body does not act on its own accord. Even so-called involuntary body responses are, in fact, regulated by our own thoughts. Advanced yogis and others have revealed that with our bodies are capable of performing feats we do not ordinarily believe is possible:
• we can control and slow down our breathing
• we can keep our body temperature in freezing waters or walking on hot coals
• we can pierce our bodies with sharp metals without pain and leaving no scars
• we can twist and bend our bodies into all sorts of contorted positions
• we can balance on tight ropes and perform amazing gymnastics stunts
• we can break world racing records or perform a perfect Olympic routine
Anything that has ever been created by a human was first conceived in someone’s mind and later created and designed into physical form. Every cell in our body functions according to the instructions provided by our DNA with the assistance of our living mind. When our heart stops beating and our brain stops working, our body does not continue to function. Our legs do not walk. Our arms no longer lift. Our eyes do not see. Our brain and our mind control all of our body functions. Our body responds to the thoughts in our mind. Change the thoughts and the cells in our body will respond. We literally wear our emotions all over our body.
Just observe the posture of someone who is depressed (shoulders slumped, downward gaze). Then observe the posture of someone who has just succeeded at something he or she really wanted (standing tall, smiling, head held high, perhaps arms up in the air). Our body doesn’t lie. It reveals to us the way we have been thinking and feeling.
If we have been really bothered by someone in our life, perhaps that person has literally become “a pain in our neck.
If we are feeling unsupported emotionally and/or financially, we may develop severe back aches.
If we feel we want to run away from a situation that we cannot leave, we may develop foot, ankle, knee or leg problems. The solution is to pay attention to our body symptoms. There may be some important messages about what is working, not working and perhaps needs to change in our lives and our relationships.
2. If there is one piece to the puzzle missing most often in your clients’ lives, what does it tend to be? How might someone “fix” that missing link?
The one missing link in the lives of my clients, and most people for that matter, is the practice of self-reflection. Most people respond and react according to input from the outside world. If good things happen we praise those who appear to be responsible. If bad things happen, we blame those who appear to be responsible. It often looks as if “they” are doing it to us. But what part are we playing in our own life dramas? In what ways are we facilitating, enhancing and encouraging the thoughts, attitudes and behaviors of those closest to us? What are we saying or not saying, feeling and not expressing, demanding without words, or implicitly expecting from others?
What are we expecting others to provide for us that perhaps we are unwilling, unable, or downright afraid to make the effort to provide for ourselves? We can begin each day with a positive expectation, a sense that we will take steps to create what we want in our life. And then, at the end of each day, we can stop to reflect upon the day’s events and evaluate whatever occurred in terms of our own thoughts, behaviors and actions. Regardless of what other people think, feel and do, the only one we can truly control and change is our own self. We can pay attention to our own thoughts and emotions, speak with honesty and clarity, listen and hear what others are saying, and alter our own attitudes as we gain greater self-understanding and feel compassion for them. Consistent and honest self-reflection protects us from our own fear of hurt, rejection and abandonment.
Self-reflection requires being present and supportive of our own self, being our own best friend, offering gentle nudges to improve our own attitude and behavior. As we self-reflect, we take the pressure off the other person. We allow others to be free in our presence. We stop taking everything personally. We stop expecting to receive what we want exactly the way we want it. In fact, we stop worrying about receiving. The question we begin to ask is this: What can I do to enhance the life of this other person? As we self-reflect, we are already enhancing our own life. We become self-reliant and readily reach out for help when we desire greater insight and support. If someone abuses, betrays or hurts us in some way, we do not have to lash out and get even. When we self reflect, we allow our self to feel all of our own emotions, we acknowledge our own strengths and we forgive our self for any inadequate coping strategies. And then we seek the best, most productive support we can find and we keep getting that support until we return to our own state of equilibrium.
3. If you gave a two-minute “elevator pitch” counseling session to someone who needed encouragement during a hard time in life, what would you say?
If you had a magic wand that could instantly and permanently eliminate this problem or hardship, how would you feel and what would your life look like then?
4. Is it possible for couples to work on themselves as individuals simultaneously with working on their relationship as a couple, or should they focus on one aspect at a time?
Not only is it possible, IT IS ESSENTIAL, for couples to work on themselves as individuals at the same time that they work together on their relationship. Every relationship consists of two or more people. Each person brings thoughts, attitudes, memories and behaviors to the relationship. Each person affects, influences and has the potential to alter the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of the other person. Relationship problems often stem from miscommunication of some sort. Why? Because each person approaches every situation with a unique mindset:
• distant and recent memories that color the present interaction
• conversations, judgments, criticisms and advice from others in the distant past or recent future
• negative emotions such as fear, anxiety and a sense of inadequacy that are instantly triggered
When each person self-reflects (alone or with the help of a caring friend, relative or qualified therapist), the communication becomes more honest, more direct, less judgmental, less blaming, more compassionate and more receptive to making small changes. Each person’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviors create the building blocks of a successful partnership. Faulty building blocks create a weak and fragile structure. Strong, satisfying and lasting relationships are build on a solid foundation of two self-reflecting and loving individuals.
5. How can a person bogged down by the mundane-ness of everyday life go about finding or creating a mind-body connection within himself or herself?
A mind-body connection already exists in every human being. Nobody has to CREATE a mind-body connection. Just observe an infant crying when it needs something, cooing and smiling and giggling when it is happy, and screaming when it cannot get its needs met. What needs to be created is the mindfulness to pay attention to the subtle and often not-so-subtle messages that the body is revealing, moment to moment.
For example, if someone makes a careless remark that hurts your feelings and you feel a sharp pain in your neck or your stomach, DO NOT OVERLOOK THE BODILY SENSATION. Do not ignore the pain that someone’s frivolous comment caused you. But also, DO NOT REPOND IN HASTE. Self-reflect first. Think to yourself, why did that remark hurt me? Then, moments later, you can reflect back to this other person exactly how that person’s comment affected you. If that person downplays your concern, you have the internal verification. You know what your body just felt. You are then able to take a strong stance and express yourself clearly to this other person. Paying attention to your body keeps you strong emotionally, physically and in relation to everyone and everything in your life.
An experienced, licensed and nationally credentialed psychotherapist, board certified sex therapist, marriage and relationship counselor and body psychotherapist handling issues about emotional problems, relationship conflicts, sexual concerns, dysfunctions, compulsions and addictions, and body image problems. She works with individuals and couples, providing individual sessions, joint couple sessions, intensive longer sessions for clients who live in distant cities or want to work more intensely, and workshops and seminars on specific topics.
Dr. Erica’s latest book, Love Me, Touch Me, Heal Me: The Path to Physical, Emotional, Sexual and Spiritual Reawakening, as well as her past books can be purchased online via Lulu.com
Read more of our expert interviews:
Betty Dodson, Renowned Sexologist, Author, Feminist, Educator
Dean Osborne, Human Nature of Cheating
Dr. MP Wylie, Relationship Advisor