How does the body take on the mind's problems?
There are many answers to this question. Stress hormones, nerves, and the immune system connect with various parts of the body. These are the physical levels of connection, which are wonderfully complex and have been well described in the medical literature . Our focus here will be on psychological and bioenergetic connections with the body.
Metaphoric imprinting of the body
If you repeat a word or phrase to yourself, or if it is said to you by an authority figure (particularly by your mother or father when you are in the early stages of learning about your relationships with the world), it may become imprinted in your unconscious mind. For instance, if you keep saying, “What a pain in the butt this is!” or if your father keeps complaining, “What a pain in the neck you are!” then your buttocks (or nearby tissues and organs, such as hemorrhoids or rectum) or your neck may listen to these words and respond by tensing up, going into spasm, forming blood clots (in hemorrhoids) and literally becoming an embodiment of those often-repeated, emphatic statements.
This is one of the ways in which the body acquires symptoms. As you can see from Table 1, there are countless metaphors and images of body language through which this could happen. For the most part, such imprinting occurs entirely outside your conscious awareness.
A pungently clear example was shared with me by a very gifted British healer who was invited to work in a pain clinic in Liverpool in England. For ten years Helen Smith offered healing to people who suffered chronic, intractable pain. She worked with groups of people, finding that this was both more effective and more time-efficient.
One day, a heavy-set man wearing a neck brace barged in during the middle of her group session, totally oblivious to the fact that he was interrupting the healings in progress, saying, “Is this the healing group? I was sent by my doctor to have healing. I don’t know anything about healing and don’t believe in healing, but he said he had nothing else to offer me.”
Helen was not your typical, understated English lady. She confronted him firmly, saying "I see you have a pain in your neck."
"That's most astute of you to notice," he replied, with obvious sarcasm, "considering that I'm wearing a neck brace in a pain center."
"So, who is the pain in the neck in your life?" Helen shot back at him.
"My wife!" he blurted, with surprise on his face.
"Well go home and sort that out, and then come to me for healing," Helen said, with a wry smile.
Conventional psychology has learned that the unconscious mind is very literal. Under hypnotic suggestion this becomes exceedingly clear. A hypnotist may say to a good hypnotic subject, "Your hand is getting lighter." With several repetitions of this instruction, the subject’s hand may start to rise into the air. Or the hypnotist may suggest, "Your other hand is so heavy that you cannot raise it." The subject will struggle mightily but will be unable to lift that hand.
The unconscious mind has such powerful control over the body that it can even create redness and blisters if told that the skin is being touched with a hot metal rod, when actually it is being touched only by the hypnotist’s finger .
It is also possible to give self-hypnotic suggestions, through firm statements and many repetitions. This is commonly used for relaxation. In progressive muscle relaxation, for instance, you first tighten your muscles and then repeat phrases such as "Relax," "Soften up," or "Unwind." With practice, you will be able to relax rapidly when you tell yourself the words that you have practiced for un-tensing your muscles.