Sunday, March 16, 2008

Are you your body?

That's the question that the very interesting book "Jung & Reich: the body as shadow" by John Conger asks at the beginning. The book is about the connections in thought between C.G. Jung, the psychiatrist who focused on the mythical aspects of the contents of the unconscious, and Wilhelm Reich, the psychiatrist who focussed on the role of the body in storing psychological traumas through muscular rigidity and physical sexual repression. Reichian therapy focusses on combining psychological analysis with body manipulations designed to break down muscular rigidities connected with the psychological issues being dealt with. Conger is a neo-Reichian therapist in the "Bioenergetic" tradition.

"Are you your body?". What the author means by asking that is if your personality and your psyche is also your body. Not in the sense of what society as a whole may think about your body and how it looks but in the sense of is it an integral part of who you are or is it kind of just an attachment to your psyche and mind. It's a really interesting question in part because when you meet another person, when you deal with most people in the course of life as well, the body is what you initially see more of and react to, with the sense of someone's personality being given through bodily cues and reactions before being revealed through their mental structure. When you see my face you don't see "me" as I necessarily think of myself, but you see something beyond just the physical mass of stuff that makes up my face. Is what you pick up from that all wrong, or is it in some way an intuition about who I am based on deep psychological, almost unconscious, processing based on my facial and bodily reactions? So am I that person, in a sense, and just as important, is my sense of who my body is the same sense that you get when you see my body but don't know me that well?

I think I am my body in the basic sense of the body being the fundamental frame that the psyche exists in. Even in really abstract forms like internet communication there have to be bodily intermediaries between mind to mind interchange. I can try to write my thoughts out as best I can, posting them with just a snap shot, a name, and a sentence or two of personal information next to them on this website, and they can be read by you, who are most of the time anonymous, but not only do our basic bodies mediate the experience but the associations and experiences connected with what that body has gone through serve in part as our interpretive frameworks, both in the writing and in the interpreting of the writing.

If I hurt my arm is that feeling not me? Is the feeling of pain in my arm not connected to who I am?

When I've exercised or worked in a physical way where I get a rush during it and a feeling of satisfaction is that not a part of me? Is the feeling of satisfaction, even though it's both psychological and physical, not completely there?

What about emotions linked to the outside world? If someone is saying something that makes me uncomfortable and I physically feel uncomfortable, feeling like climbing up the side of a wall someplace and getting out of there, is that physical feeling attached to it, that maybe makes my skin crawl on top of it all, not part of the psychological sense of feeling uncomfortable?

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