Happy Mind Happy Body. The connection isn't a myth anymore
This ‘recognising mechanism’ is known as the Core Response Network.
This Core Response Network organizes immediate responses and involves:
- The autonomic nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic);
- The limbic emotional system (amygdala, septal region in the frontal lobe, hippocampus);
- The emotional motor system (portions of the basal ganglia, red nucleus, periaqueductal gray); and
- Reticular arousal systems.
All of these systems work together to form a complex system that navigates functional and dysfunctional states.
So the point of the mind-body connection is to alert us to danger?
Sort of - but actually the ultimate point of the mind-body connection, with these connected, interweaved and complex structures and networks - is that it wants to keep your internal body, systems, processes etc in BALANCE.
This is known as homeostasis and it’s the technical term that describes a state of equilibrium and balance that a body is always aiming for. When the body is balanced, it can do what it needs to do in the way it should - including healing and rebuilding parts of the body that are going wrong or malfunctioning.
When this homeostasis is challenged, sensory neurons create a sensation that tells you that something is wrong and that action is required - so, flipping it on its head, you could say that mind-body connection actually has the function of keeping us in homeostasis, and alerting us to danger that might take us away from that.
When you experience traumatic experiences, however, this homeostatic balance can change - and this somatization is what happens when we start to feel emotions in our bodies.
What is somatization?
Somatization is the manifestation of psychological distress by the presentation of physical symptoms.
Basically - when we’re super stressed, this can show up in the body.
This is because there is a direct connection between our emotional experiences and our physical bodies and you can now understand that with the example of the flame. Just like the flame alerts the brain, and the brain alerts the body that something is wrong - when we experience a negative experience, this mind-body connection also works together to communicate that something isn’t right.
For example when you want to cry, your chest tightens before the tears come - and if you are scared, your heart will start beating faster, adrenaline rushes through your body, blood moves away from your digestive system before you might leap into action.
These incidents are both physical and emotional
Somatization is the word that is used when the body expresses stress and emotion in a physical way.
Everyone somatizes and sometimes these somatic symptoms can be very, very real and in today’s society, show up all over the place - but particularly in the areas of ‘stress headaches’ and ‘gut issues’ in the short and mid-term - with cancer being understood to be, in some cases, driven in severity by emotions and somatization in the long term.
The connection between somatization and trauma
When our emotional experiences are able to be effectively processed by the body, and we have the capacity, physically, mentally and emotionally to work through, mentally and physically, what we are experiencing, the body can process the emotions and they do not somatize.
Trauma, however, can be understood as any event that happens:
- Too quickly
- Too soon; or
- For too long.
When we experience a traumatic episode, in terms of our body being faced with emotions that are overwhelming - they actually become a sensory overload to the body and we aren’t able to process them properly.
When this happens, these leave a real, cellular physical imprint on the body that occurs with one job - to help the body (and mind) remember the incident so that it can help you to avoid, or protect you from experiencing the pain of this experience again in the future.
The memories are imprinted cellularly and are why sometimes you will hear of a PTSD survivor hear a car exhaust fire and they will hit the ground screaming as if it was a bomb going off from their time serving in the army. These cellular imprints activate survival mechanisms similar to the feelings involved when they were first imprinted.
Over time, as well as disrupting day to day life, these cellular imprints can start to energetically interfere with the way that your cells, systems, circuits, glands, meridians and chakras function - because they are getting interfered by these imprints and cellular frequencies that are not supposed to be there. This can lay the foundations of interference with your lifelong health.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are also an interesting area of research. Harvard Research Scientist Andrea Roberts explains that ‘your risk of developing mental and physical health problems increases with the number of traumatic events you have experienced as a child’
This stuff is real and science is starting to prove it.
Disconnection & fragmentation of memories
These traumatic experiences can also impact your mind, as well as your body. It is thought that this is because our body records these incidents and encodes these traumatic memories, feelings or experiences as pictures or body sensations - getting in the way of how the brain functions.
The conscious mind can disconnect from the memory that is stored in the body because it is ‘too painful’ or ‘unenjoyable’ to keep experiencing. Over time, this can lead to a disconnect between the mind and body connection and this disconnection of a critical part of our functioning can make you feel detached from reality, disconnected from your own personal experience, your sense of self - or just generally feeling weird - with also different parts of your body not working properly (stomach issues, autoimmune concerns, etc).
And from earlier in the article, when we were looking at how the brain is our supercomputer that tells every part of the body how to act or react, a brain that isn’t functioning properly can lead to systems and other parts of the body that don’t function properly or in the form of homeostasis that they should be doing.
So, trauma and we’re done?
Not at all. Our body might definitely ‘keep the score’ in the words of Bessel van der Kolk - we need to remember that, when we feel like our body is doing things that ‘don’t make sense’, there is likely an underlying driver that we aren’t even aware of.
Testing in the traditional sense (for infections, pathogens, dysbiosis, or dysfunction of different parts of the body) is always a great place to start - but if your body is throwing up symptoms or situations that make no sense, looking into the mind-body connection and the impact of our lived experiences - particularly the traumatic ones - and their impact on the physical body, might be a sensible next step in your health journey.
The body’s incredible ability to protect us and also try to heal us cannot be overlooked either.
Once we start to understand the mind-body connection better, we can start to work with it to help heal us and all of those around us.
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.