If you pair a stimulus to the body with an emotional experience, the emotional experience becomes “anchored” in the body. The stimulus could be anything from the touch of a finger to a traumatic injury. This has been extensively explored through techniques of Neurolinguistic Programming . You can demonstrate this to yourself in a simple exercise.
Most people will notice a resurgence of the negative feeling when they press on the “anchoring spot.” It is as though you have set up a button that now reactivates the feelings associated with that memory.
Now, press with both fingers simultaneously and hold the pressure for 15-30 seconds, or as long as it intuitively feels right to do so. Then release the pressure and again hold your hands steady in their places.
Now press again with the finger that anchored the negative feeling. Note the intensity of the feelings you experience. What level of intensity are they (0-10)?
Most people note that the intensity is noticeably decreased. The factual memory will remain, but the emotions associated with the memory will not be as strong.
This simple exercise confirms that your body is clearly an integral part of your consciousness. It participates in your awareness of experiences and in your feeling memories of experiences. It can also participate in your healing of traumatic experiences.
Three observations are evident from this exercise:
- Memories of negative experiences can be anchored in physical body memory, related to tensions in muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- Memories of positive experiences can be anchored in body memory.
- Positive body memory experiences can be used to diminish the intensity of negative ones.
Traumatic body memories
George, a Viet Nam veteran, suffered from chronic debilitating backaches that began several decades after his war experiences. None of the usual medical or chiropractic treatments provided more than temporary relief. He found deeper relief in his first two Reiki treatments, and in the third treatment he suddenly recalled his anguish over the death of Don, his buddy in Viet Nam. When Don was severely injured by a booby trap, George had carried him on his back for many hours through the jungle, finally reaching a place from which a helicopter could evacuate him. George was devastated to learn a few hours later that Don had died of his wounds. George had no time to grieve because he was immediately sent back into action with his platoon.
During this Reiki treatment, he connected with the ache in his back from the hours of carrying Don through the jungles, and with the ache in his heart over Don’s death. After more than an hour of deep sobbing, his back pain abated, never to return.
Body memories of this sort are very common. It is rare for conventional medical assessments to focus on this cause of physical problems. It is common for CAM therapies to do so, and CAM therapies are often successful in treating these.
Rachel Naomi Remen
Reading body language
Since you program your body through life experiences and metaphors, it is possible to “read” body symptoms and interpret the metaphors and psychological meanings behind these. Sometimes the messages your body is sending are obvious, and other times they are not.
I believe that you are the best one to interpret your own body’s messages, as you are with unconscious behaviors, slips of the tongue and dreams.
The first step is to ask, “What might your body be saying through these symptoms?” In my personal experience, far more often than not, people are able to answer this question quite readily. They are usually surprised and bemused at how clear the message is – once they ask this question. They are then surprised and dismayed that they may have suffered with their symptoms for months and years without anyone having asked this question.
If no answer comes to mind, imagery techniques may be helpful. I might suggest, “Let your mind be a blank screen. Invite an image to appear on the screen in answer to the question of what your body is saying.” Here, too, people are surprised at the ready answers that the mind can provide.
Interpreting what your body is saying can sometimes be a challenge. It is helpful to know that various organs may be associated with particular feelings. Several therapists are helpful in suggesting what a given organ illness or symptom might be saying. Louise Hay (1984) is well known for her lists of symptoms, their underlying meanings, and affirmations you might consider for countering the messages imbedded in organs and tissues – thereby releasing the physical symptoms from the tensions that bind them in maladaptive patterns of function and illness. These lists are not to be taken as gospel. They are simply observations of common psychological associations with particular experiences.
Hay, Louise L., You Can Heal Your Life, Santa Monica, CA: Hay House 1984.
*An expanded version of this article appears in Benor, DJ, The Body, International J of Healing and Caring – on line, http://www.ijhc.org September, 2002, 1-18.
(Continued in next column)