Fixing psychological problems requires changing the way you use your body as well as your mind
We tend to believe that psychological problems like depression, anxiety, obsession, eating disorders and substance abuse are mental problems and require a solution that involves changing the way we think. Around this belief has evolved an industry of talking therapies populated by counselors, psychologists, pastors and cognitive behaviorists. As a first option we suggest to sufferers that they should go talk with someone to help “unburden” themselves of whatever is troubling them. Treatments are then given based on self-reporting of symptoms and behavioral feedback in response to taking medication. These medications are alleged to change the behavior of receptors in the brain, which further compounds this focus on the brain.
There have been questions raised about the utility of the talking therapies with studies done on depression finding that sufferers recover at the same rate with or without it. There is a common refrain that, in counseling, subjects go through the same material over and over again until they slowly progress forward. But do they progress because the therapy is helping them, or because they are moving on by themselves?
After many years dealing with and overcoming chronic psychological disorder I am of the opinion that, in order to get rid of the problem, you have to change the way you use your body as well as your mind and that there is too much focus on the brain. It is clear that talking therapies do not produce clear results and medication is not a cure but a means of controlling adverse symptoms. In order to progress with behavioral science we need to look at the role the body plays in maintaining dysfunctional behavior.
We understand the role that the body plays in functional behavior. The term muscle memory applies to how parts of our body learn to apply certain skills, such as playing a musical instrument, singing or playing a sport, and also more fundamentally, walking and running. The brain does not support every single movement of our body. Much of it is delegated to nerve, muscle and bone structures, which are established during the process of learning and practice. With advances in organ transplants we are learning how a donor’s thoughts and desires can be transferred with their organ in what is referred to as cell memory.
If functional behavior is supported by muscle and cell memory then surely we can say the same for dysfunctional behavior? Poor function must also be maintained to a certain extent by muscle and cell memory. In its simplest reasoning, a person with poor coordination skills who cannot master competent manual skills may experience some negative emotion as a result of their handicap. If those coordination skills can be improved by intense training and practice, then that is likely to lead to mental improvement. How well we can do things with our body has an immediate impact on how well we think about ourselves. A depressed person may experience a magnified sense of failure as a result of repeated failures in their life. It’s one thing to counsel this person to have more positive thoughts but it is another to directly train this person to improve their abilities and therefore reduce the chance of failure.
I think that we have reached the point where we should start looking at how we can help people to overcome psychological problems by helping them to change how they use their body. There is a whole world of discovery to be made of how the way we use our body affects the way we think, of how the patterns that have been imprinted into our muscles and cells as a result of all of our years of upbringing help to determine our functionality. Treatment of psychological problems should consist of equal parts talking therapy and equal parts body therapy.