Resolving the Recurring Quandary of Dissonance Between Mind and Body

Yin-Yang Symbol

Yin-Yang Symbol

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  Mark 3:25 NIV

In the last post, “The Enemy Revealed”, I wrote about the concept of yin-yang.  Most particularly about the  complimentary opposites of body/mind.  I pointed out that within the concept of yin-yang the use of the word “opposites” does not mean that the two aspects, represented by the two different halves of the yin-yang symbol, are in conflict.  In fact that is not the case at all, the two aspects of the symbol are complimentary and are both contained within the whole.  Together they make up the whole.

However, this is not how the relationship between the body and the mind has always been regarded or interpreted within human cultures.  And it is not always the way that the mind/body relationship is subjectively experienced.  In fact, sometimes the workings of the body and the workings of the mind are experienced as being in conflict if not in all out war!  And that is not just a historical phenomenon, that perspective on the relationship between our bodies and our minds is still very much present in the world.

Taking the meaning of the above biblical quotation;  if a house (body) is divided against itself it cannot stand (survive);  if our body and mind are working not in harmony but experiencing a pronounced or even painful dissonance, that does not bode well for us.  I used the biblical quote because it is well known and concisely stated.  But common sense should tell us that if there is pronounced dissonance within our being, significant tension and a battling for expression between integral aspects of ourselves, there is trouble. Yet who hasn’t experienced such dissonance at one time or another?

The fact that we can and do experience this dissonance does not indicate we’re experiencing anything outside the human norm.  However, if an individual experiences such significant tension/dissonance for a prolonged period of time it is likely to result in either physical or mental illness or both.

Perhaps it can be better understood by some when we realize the phenomenon, of experiencing dissonance between two integral aspects of one’s being is not unique to humankind.  If you have ever tried to train a pet you have probably seen this dissonance.  Let’s say you have been working to train your pet not approach their food dish until you have finished serving the food into the dish.  At some point there is enough food in the dish that they can smell it and see it.  If they’re hungry they want it!  Yet because you have been training them that they shouldn’t approach the dish until you have finished, they are experiencing dissonance between their body (their senses, the impulse to eat) and their mind which has learned the lesson you have been teaching.  It would not be unusual for the pet, especially if it’s a dog, to sit politely to the side waiting but also to also be showing some outward symptom of the tension they are experiencing.  Possibly shaking or rigidity.  There it is;  the body is saying one thing and the mind is saying another.

One way of resolving the dissonance is to just give in to one aspect altogether, body or mind, and disregard the protest within the other.  Of course this method does not actually resolve the dissonant state of being, it just postpones facing it.  Sometimes, for the time being, this is the best a person can do.  But in the long run it behooves us to examine and resolve the dissonance at it’s grassroots origins.  Part of what that entails is examining and understanding the make-up and the functioning of both of these two aspects of our being.  It is work, there is no way around it.  One key to success is the applicability of the information we have to work with.  Some areas of study which can greatly enhance our ability to resolve mind/body dissonance are physiology, psychology, spirituality and metaphysics.

Ultimately, with enough work and good information, we will find there are no irresolvable differences between these aspects of ourselves. This is by inference the case just because these two identifiable aspects of our being are nevertheless complimentary aspects of a whole.

Decades ago I was introduced to the concept of the “double-ended drum” as a metaphor for our mind and body working together as one.  In the metaphor of the drum we need to beat both ends of the drum to be in balance.  The mind and the body are meant to work together, in harmony, one balancing the other.  We should consider the feelings involved with the ideas we get and we should consider the reasoning/logic of following any felt impulses we experience.   That can help us prevent ourselves from getting carried away with with either ideas or feelings that are potentially harmful to ourselves or others due to their incompleteness or imbalance.   Today the reality that humans have an emotional intelligence, EQ or EI, that is as relevant as our intellectual intelligence, IQ, is widely accepted.

When we are working to achieve a resolution of dissonant messages we are receiving from our mind and body, our intellect is our primary tool.  A teacher I had many years ago used to frequently repeat the axiom;  “By the mind is it to be gained.”  That truth, among other things, points to the importance of embracing ongoing education as an essential part of our lives.  And while the term “education” as used here includes the traditional method of reading and assimilating information, it also includes experiential learning as an essential aspect of a complete education.  The more we understand about general human makeup and motivations, the more we understand about our personal makeup and motivations, the more we understand about the interplay between them all, the more we can harmoniously and effectively regulate our lives.

Lastly, here are a few of the general considerations around the needs of the mind and body.  These are generalities and in any given situation these general considerations may or may not apply to the specifics of the situation.  However, in many, if not most, cases these generalities have bearing upon the situation.   If these conditions seem so generalized that they have no relevance in situations going on in your life;  take another look, check the definitions, and think about it!   Each of us individually can undoubtedly add to this list with more personalized needs we recognize within ourselves.

Mind needs:  truth, integrity, coherence.

Body needs:  nutritious food, clean air and water, touch, exercise, shelter from threatening weather situations.

This phenomenon, this challenge to be able to resolve dissonance between our mind and body, is an integral part of the plight of human existence.

Speak out!  However, it is essential to realize it’s a dialogue.  Share, listen, learn, adjust, refine.

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