In the 1914 short story, A Painful Case, James Joyce wrote, ‘Mr Duffy lived at a little distance from his body.’
Today, some of us feel like Mr Duffy. Living inside a mind that seems to spend most of its time somewhere other than where we are.
This is, of course, not the case.
You are inside a body that, thus far, cannot teleport nor time travel.
Yet people still go about saying we need to unite our body and mind. (Descartes’ dualism has a lot to answer for).
Cartoon by Berger and Wyse
So why, when we move these human meat-suits around a yoga mat, do we feel a lot more put together?
Paying attention to your present moment experience
Eg. mindfully moving and breathing, pulls you out of the stories in your head and back into the here and now.
Which is the only point in time you can actually engage with. The past is a memory, the future is fantasy.
In fact, the original word for mindfulness is Sati, which translates as ‘remembering’.
You do not need to connect your body and mind. They were never separate.You are already entirely whole. All you need to do is pay attention.
Your mind doesn’t end at the edges of your skin.
The incredible new field of interpersonal neurobiology studies the way our minds are not solo entities but open-loop systems.
Dan Siegel, a leader in the scene, calls the mind a ‘relational process’. This means, our internal reality is entangled with our social environment, our past experiences, our expectations and beliefs.
This takes us back to Mr Duffy’s painful case.
Sensations are so much more than muscles and nerves. The way you experience pain, for example, is generated in the mind.
Our friend and renowned researcher in the neurobiology of pain explains it in this hilarious 14min TED talk.
Everything that’s happened in your life so far plays a role in what you feel today. Context is key. A dog barking could elicit terror for one person, and happy childhood memories for another.
Welcome to the biopsychosocial model.
The best bit? You can change your mind.
We are bioplastic beings. You can play with your perceptions, re-story your beliefs.
You can do things, with people, in places, that help you feel calm / strong / safe.
The language you choose is crucial. The discs in your spine can’t actually slip. You will never really fall to pieces. Hearts don’t literally break.
Compassion can also dramatically turn down the dial on suffering. Education, care and support are proven ways to re-shape what (and how) you feel.
Our Human.Kind physiotherapists, clinical psychologists and remedial massage therapists are experts in this.
The Human.Kind therapies team. (Now accepting band names)
There is really no separation between physical health and mental health.
Healing means treating a whole person, not just a body part. It means taking care of the relationships, environments, and communities that co-create our inner world.
You are a constellation of connections, entirely entwined with everything else.
Unlike Mr Duffy, you will never live at a little distance from your body. It’s your only permanent address for this lifetime.
All you need to do is remember.