A few weekends ago, along with a friend/colleague, I facilitated a workshop called ‘Writing & the Body, Alexander Technique and creative writing’. It was for our local Lapidus group (www.lapidus.org.uk) and so the participants were people interested in writing for health and well-being. We wanted to explore with them: how to write paying attention to our whole selves; what our bodies might be saying to us; and how being connected to our who self might effect our creativity.
We’ve had some good feedback from the day and we certainly enjoyed ourselves. It is part of our own continuing exploration of creativity and ’embodiment’. After maybe 250 years of segmenting the human (especially in health care terms) it seems like there is a movement now to try and fit the parts back together; recognising we are a whole (if very complex) organism and each piece is intrinsically linked to every other.
In parallel with this, however, the ‘re-connecting’ of the mind (perhaps even spirit) with the body is throwing up its own conundrums. With scans and the like we can begin to ‘watch’ the brain at work, we can see it as just another muscle or network of neurones and blood vessels. In doing so we risk missing the complexities of the individual. Our mind/spirit becomes a akin to a rose bush, which, if we prune judiciously and feed the right chemicals, will begin to behave ‘correctly’, ‘acceptably’.
I was reminded of this again when I watched an episode of Channel Four’s Bedlam. One person followed had received a diagnosis of ‘bi-polar’ and had been medicated accordingly over a number of years. Following several attempts at suicide, the psychiatrist changed his diagnosis to a ‘personality disorder’, stopped the meds and prescribed therapy instead. Low and behold, the suicide ideation and attempts disappeared.
I am not against medication per se – I take my fair share of pain killers when the need arises, and I know these pain killers are only getting me through, they are no cure for the cause of the pain. Nor am I against diagnosis, if it is helpful to the person and has room for the subtlety and nuances of human individuality. What I hope for the tide towards the recognition of the intertwining of mind and body is that it will help us hold onto complexity rather than be used as an excuse for reductionism. I strongly believe that what most humans crave most is healthy relationships – with themselves and with others – and we could go a long way by focusing on that.