Agency; using the mind
I have been ruminating on this for a while now, and it is a pretty encompassing topic, so please forgive me if the following roams a little all over the place.
In my field of practice, human wellness, there is a lot of research and exploration on the concept of mind-body connections or mindfulness. A quick google search will bring up clinical trials being conducted by prestigious medical centres, such as the Mayo Clinic, which is currently conducting 12 different trials on Mind-Body studies1. The latest revival of traditional practices is meditation which is enjoying a spotlight for its benefits on our mental health. While movement practices, like Pilates, that place emphasis on things like, breath, control, precision, efficiency, flow, and concentration are rising in popularity.
I am not a particularly spiritual person and much of the talk around mindfulness and mind-body connections gets a little too far beyond the realm of reality I prefer to ground myself in. So, when I found a documentary on scientists exploring the basic fundamental questions of human existence and purpose, The Most Unknown, I was genuinely thrilled to watch the clinical psychologist studying consciousness describe the mind-body connection as Agency. A learned connection and control. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of Agency is:
the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power: OPERATION
a person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved: INSTRUMENTALITY
And what is our relationship with our bodies except for agency? A learned control of operation and instrumentality. As babies, we begin to learn control over our bodies and fine tune our instrumentality of motor control over the years until it becomes so innate that we almost forget the effort. I hear a funny thing speaking with people of a certain vintage. They no longer speak of their bodies as themselves. They’ve begun the process of separating themselves from their instruments.
I hear, “My bad knee doesn’t support me.” “That’s my good hip, I couldn’t do this with the other one.” It is as though over time and experience, they have realised that their body is slowly betraying them with small indignities of pain and slow recovery and rather than pay themselves the attention such demands require, they simply divorce themselves from the problem. And, honestly, I am a firm believer that whatever they believe they are 100% right. It is a self-fulfilling belief. I am not sure exactly why I have set myself the task of re-framing these beliefs, but it is the zest of my day to see someone acknowledge themselves in a new way through experiencing a strength they weren’t sure they had.
The experience of pain is not only a physical hindrance but a psychological harm. When physical pain does not dissipate in the time frames one expects, sometimes, rather than accept that it is still a temporary though evolving state, someone might begin to redefine themselves around it. “This is just my bad knee that I cannot do things with.” At which point, they simply do not do those things. It can be really difficult to walk into the middle of a story and convince anyone that their villain is a strawman.
The frustration is wanting progress so much faster than it is going to happen.
The hardest part is remembering that being there and being present is still helpful.
I think our bodies know much faster than our minds wish to accept whether anything is off in all of our states; physical, mental, emotional, and all. Conversely, we are much more willing to accept that something is wrong with our bodies than with our minds or feelings. Possibly this is because the body self-regulates so much faster than the rest. We know physical timelines for recovery or healing. The other work is sometimes more arduous and likely much longer. Our bodies can be early warning systems for our consciousness if we pay attention.
Paying attention to your body simply means moving more and learning as much as you can about yourself.