Mind Body Medicine (MBM), which is also be referred to as Stress Illness, is an emerging discipline with roots in Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) and Psychophysiologic Disorders (PPD). MBM refers to the power the mind has to affect physical changes in our body. Many examples can be drawn on to illustrate MBM, an obvious one is a red face or 'flush' when we are embarrassed or have feelings of arousal if we are attracted to someone.
What if we were to flip the way we see this and consider the sequence of what happens for a minute? It is true to say that sometimes we feel the heat on our face and realise that we are embarrassed or feel aroused and realise we find someone attractive. This is body mind connection.
Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen has developed a way of working called 'Body Mind Centering'. The premise of her work is to raise body awareness, to sense, feel and act, and her wonderful book is called 'Sensing, Feeling, Action'. Movement Therapists work on reconnecting their patients with their bodies. Somatic coaches do something similar. In each case body awareness is improved, and confidence in the body significantly enhanced. People experiencing chronic pain often feel disconnected to their bodies and sometimes, they feel let down by their bodies. It can be so liberating to feel flexible and confident physically.
Mind Body or Body Mind?
Does this mean that strictly Mind Body Medicine could also be called Body Mind Medicine? Yes, I suppose it does, but I think that would be quite confusing and possibly divisive. It is however, important to recognise that increased body awareness can play a significant role in a healthy life and help us to heal if we are experiencing chronic pain.
Neurophysiologic Disorder (NPD) seems to me to offer recognition of the information exchange between body and mind. NPD recognises that thoughts can directly affect your nervous system creating a physiological response. If this response is pain then the body is telling the mind something is wrong. Equally, we can send a positive message from the body to the mind through neural pathways.
The experience of chronic pain often means that we leave the body and retreat into the mind described by Popova as 'that ever-calculating, seething cauldron of thoughts, predictions, anxieties, judgements, and incessant meta-experiences about experience itself.' Many patients I teach associate their recovery with a re-connection with their body, as if whilst they were experiencing chronic pain they were disconnected from their body.
Amy Cuddy has published research to confirm that this positive message can be sent from the body to the mind, she calls it allowing your body to lead your mind. The premise is body awareness, and in her TED talk (2012) and in her book 'Presence' (2016) she specifically refers to a power pose that can positively affect our mind and how we think. The power pose is essentially being open across the chest rather than closed or concave; a lifting of the breast bone, or puffing out of the chest if you will. It's like a shot of self-confidence, an injection of self-belief or self-worth. This message is sent from our body to mind and interestingly it can also send a non-verbal message to other people. What is seen by others is a self-confident stance and invariably an assumption is made that the person is self-confident as Amy Cuddy says in her TED talk, 'Don't fake it till you make it, fake it until you believe it'.
Information exchange between body and mind
To listen to the body or to develop body awareness actively through movement or Body Mind Centering, for example, opens up the opportunity to add another dimension to Mind Body Medicine. In my experience it appears that for some people the Body Mind connection is the key to their healing process and a healthy life.