The relationship between the body and the human psyche is currently experiencing a renaissance. We are rediscovering that physical condition is linked to the state of mind.
Back to the roots
Sanskrit traditions show that man once did not live separately from the body. And in the Ayurvedic ledgers, the Upanishads, one can find a classification of the 5 bodies of consciousness (5 koshas), consisting of:
- The physical body (Annamaya kosha).
- The energy body (Pranamaya kosha).
- The mental body (Menomaya kosha).
- The wisdom body (Vijnanamaya kosha).
- The body of bliss (Anandamaya kosha).
These layers build up a person's soul like the layers of an onion, surrounding its various subsystems. These layers also emphasised the importance of each sphere of human health, drawing attention to the translation of the senses, thought, or nutrition into the psycho-physical condition.
We can find a similar output in science. Alexander Loyd, a doctor in psychology and neuropathic medicine, drew attention to the collective cyclical nature in which we return to our roots. He distinguished five eras of healing: the era of prayer, herbal medicine, medication, surgery, and the era of energy. Each of these eras indicates the stages of particular scientific discoveries. It is related that by understanding the link between illness and the human psyche, we are slowly returning to our roots, i.e., natural and alternative therapies, as well as paying more attention to the quality of nutrition and psycho-physiological conditioning. In fact, we could say, "They've played it before." Such care for ourselves and our lives in interconnection is the absolute norm in many holistic systems and traditions, examples being Chinese medicine or Ayurveda. It is therefore enough to combine modern scientific findings with holistic traditions, turning to knowledge from modern fields such as psychobiology or neuroscience to discover the golden mean.
Roles enshrined in the body
The integrity of the health and body aspects, as the Ayurvedic masters rightly pointed out, is also the importance of the psyche that builds it up.
The way a person is brought up often influences their lifestyle. The mind, when detached from the body, can adopt defensive attitudes called roles, which ultimately translate into a condition of health.
Gabor Mate, author of "When the Body Says No," was one of the doctors who invoked the term "belief biology," i.e., the schemas that some people fall into when, in adulthood, they continue to fit into roles played in childhood, such as pleasing others, serving, or taking on the emotions of others. These patterns often go hand in hand with the accumulation of hidden emotions, consequently leading to autoimmune diseases. Often, then, there is a simultaneous displacement and turning to the outside-seeking all kinds of "pain relievers" by overburdening the body with medication, responsibilities, work, or a career. All of this is done in order not to see the role because the ego still wants to play familiar roles. In Chinese Taoist medicine, such a lifestyle is called "yang." In this perspective, life is fast-paced, extroverted, and based on extreme performance devoid of adequate regeneration. When we turn inward instead, we derive bliss from just being, we don't need roles or other people's support, nor do we suffer from the fear of being judged. In this relaxed state, we can create from the inside out, not the other way around. And it is in this state that our nervous system does not create substitute themes that take us away from balance.
Carl Gustav Jung wrote about role-playing, pointing to the archetypal patterns of behaviour that we subconsciously follow. This was similarly presented by Richard Schwartz with his IRF model (internal family system), where he assumes that we are driven by subpersonalities and acquired beliefs. It is getting in touch with and integrating these parts of the personality that is key. Is our body also made up of particles that play completely different roles in dispersion?
The body in the service of stress
A broader picture of body psychosomatics was presented by Alexander Lowen, who presented various models of emotions hidden in the body. Most of the types he gave show a certain emotional stuckness, which is expressed through deformities in the way we move as well as in our posture.
The theme of stress hidden in the body was also explored by Hans Selye, marking the impact of the demands we make on our bodies in stressful situations. It is through excessive adaptive reactions that the human body becomes prone to inflammation. They can wreak similar desolation on a psychological level. It is worst when adaptive stress manifests itself in situations of adaptation to a dysfunctional situation, such as in childhood. This is how the body's defense reactions become anchored, building in roles that we recognise as standard. Selye called the phenomenon of this mechanism "General Adaptation Syndrome" (GAS). Psychotherapist and writer Deb Dana also followed this pattern, studying the reactions occurring in the autonomic nervous system in polyvagal theory. Humans in a stress response mainly use the sympathetic nerve, which is responsible for fighting for survival. Another variant of this strategy is surrender, withdrawal, and depression, corresponding to the dorsal nerve.
A common conclusion from these findings is that the body "helps" humans combat stress. And these multiple repair mechanisms work for a very long time before any disease reaction occurs. However, a lot of the energy we expend adapting and coping with stress often causes us to already have such a level of fatigue that the ability to recover is slowed down. The body then pumps more blood, activating the systems responsible for adaptation and struggle. It is therefore not legitimate to get angry with one's body in an illness situation that throws off' an excess of a particular hormone, for example. An overloaded organism in a state of struggle is designed to protect its owner from stress, thus producing excessive amounts of stress hormones, drawing your attention almost in words: "Slow down, because I can't cope!" This is how the body becomes your communicator, expressing its stories hidden in your posture and your health condition, accentuating the roles you have taken on.
The approach to the subject of health is full of subtleties and subdisciplines. Vedic traditions as well as the achievements of many eras show us how many segments fit into the picture of health. The same is true of the human psyche, which subconsciously encodes patterns and attitudes from childhood, adopting various defensive strategies in the body. The very mechanics of the body are also a compilation of defensive reactions made up of lifestyle, accumulated emotions, and genetics. How not to get lost in this mosaic? One thing is certain: it follows an era in which the psyche is being included in the health discussion.
1 Dana, D., orig. Zakotwiczeni. Jak oswoić układ nerwowy dzięki teorii poliwagalnej. (How to befriend your nervous system using polyvagal theory). Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2022.
2 Loyd, A. Johnson, B., orig. Kod uzdrawiania (The healing code). Wyd. Słowne, 2020.
3 Mate, G., orig. Kiedy ciało mówi nie: Koszty ukrytego stresu (When the body says no: The cost of hidden stress), Czarna owca, 2022.
4 Rice, V. H., Theories of stress and its relationship to health, Handbook of stress, coping, and health: Implications for nursing research, theory, and practice, 22-42, 2012.
5 Sullivan, C. The 5 Koshas: What They Mean in Eastern Philosophy, 2020.