The idea of mind over body involves the use of thought processes to make our bodies do things that it would otherwise find nearly impossible to do. As a fibromyalgiac, I recognize its usefulness at times in order to accomplish tasks at hand despite the pain and lack of energy, yet I cannot deny having mixed feelings about it.
What kind of power does the mind really have over the body?
1. The mind has the power to distract you from the pain. I find if I am focused on something intently, I give less attention to the pain. It is especially true if I am engaged in art or humor, as these have an almost cathartic effect on me. This allows me to achieve some level of normalcy in my daily life. In turn, the activities that I focus my energies on shape my identity as more than just a fibromyalgiac. And some self-deprecating humor can help me talk about my problems, while (somewhat bizarrely) retaining more dignity than if I were to simply complain about it.
2. The mind is a source of reserve energy. Besides my regular daily dose of energy, I have always known of a secret well that I can drink from in times of urgent need or emergencies. During my intensive teaching workshop last week, I made good use of it. The timings of the sessions were such that I was forced to start moving before I had a chance to fully thaw in the mornings, and keep pushing myself for over 10 hours without much of a break. I am somewhat surprised that I made it through without collapsing in the middle of it, and don’t think I could have done it without my reserve energy source.
So what kind of power does the body have over the mind?
1. When the body speaks, a wise mind must listen. For the body has the last say.
Under times of duress, the body may be able to use the reserve energy from the mind and distract one from the pain in order to accomplish the task at hand. But that energy well is not bottomless. It needs time and rest to replenish. The mind might hide the pain from your conscious awareness, but body still feels it and the lack of rest takes a toll on it. The body cannot be bullied forever, and will eventually fight back.
All through high school until the early years of graduate school, I refused to listen to the alarm signals my body sent out regarding its condition. I ignored the little aches and pain and pangs of fatigue, until it developed into full-blown fibromyalgia. I was recently speaking with a colleague whose mother suffers from the same condition – and she was wise enough to listen to the alarm bells when they tolled, and is better off today than I am.
Even with fibromyalgia, I had to learn the hard way to not allow my mind to regularly push my body too far. Until then, I often found myself at the bottom of the reserve energy well, and then felt like the frog who keeps sliding back down each time he tries to climb up its slippery walls. Now I try to listen better when my body cries out for rest, or medication, though my mind may not always agree with it.
Be mindful of the use of your mind over body tactics
Our body may be the most precious physical possession that we have. It is worth treating with love and care. But as with all physical possessions, we cannot attach too much importance to it necessarily. It is worthwhile taking a few scuffs and scratches in our stride, as long as it is not too damaged. Unlike perhaps most of our other physical possessions, we cannot do without this one – not during the lifetime anyway – and that is worth remembering.
Do not let the mind bully your body!