The unconscious self
Artist: Joe Stable, Peterborough Ontario
The term mind body medicine is a bit of a misnomer because it is not so much a technique, skill, or theory, but our inherent state of being.
Everything is mind body.
However, from a philosophical perspective, there can be discussion on the ways it may or may not be possible to elicit the concepts underlying the notion of “mind-body medicine.”
In my understand of things, I see mind-body medicine or healing as the differentiation between the conscious and the unconscious, and their respective manifestations both in our external and internal environments, our instincts, and the healthful adoption of good health habits. Part of defining what exactly this is has sparked my interest into learning about homeopathy, and subsequently, into discovering writings that support the hypothesis that the unconscious does play a role in healing, and that there are ways to connect with the unconscious in a somewhat unknowing fashion, but perhaps an acceptance, letting go, tolerance, and finally, integration. I do not think homeopathy is the only means to this effect, and other disciplines such as hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, psycho-analysis (through dreams, memory, etc) may equally and at times better serve an individual. This is why I wanted to dig a little further to see if there has been any other writings on this topic. And, not surprisingly, I did find one! I have discovered Dr Edward C Whitmont, MD, a medical doctor, homeopath, and learner of Jungian psychology. He has written a handful of books and essays in his lifetime, and one that I have read as of late is entitled Psyche and Substance: Essays on Homeopathy in the Light of Jungian Psychology. Excerpts and concepts are presented here.
I would like to write a disclaimer that while homeopathy may be a guide post, it may not be an official means to access part of the unconscious for healing, and I am in no way making claims regarding homeopathy, but culminating some philosophies and ideas that have been observed, either from myself or others, and that unless otherwise studied, have no inference that a remedy has any effect, if at all, or if it's placebo. And that precisely is the reason why homeopathy, from a philosophical point of view, is interesting. Homeopathy from a pure physics standpoint, is nonsensical.
As Dr Whitmont points out in his essay, and he is by no means the first to challenge the Darwinian theory that only the strongest and fittest survive, that evolution and survival are “perhaps the urge to embody and exhibit ever-new form plays for their own sake.” The field of modern-day medicine attempts to gain predictability, rationality, and logic, in an unpredictable world. While these are critical and progressive steps for medicine and disease, and for sustaining life, there are still many people suffering on the inside despite having positive outcomes for disease or other illness. As Whitmont points out,
“adopting the ‘right' attitude to avoid stress or tension is a Cartesian approach to holism. But it is true that no one alive can wholly avoid tension, stress, conflict, repressions, depression, and disappointment. Indeed, psychological complexes and crises are building stones of personality. Frustration and repression are the unavoidable conditions of ego-building no less than approval, success, satisfaction and joy …. The capacity to become ill seems to be built into the ground plan of human nature regardless of mental efforts to the contrary.”
And so, he goes on to describe the concepts of imagery and form, and that a mental image is constructed by means of bringing up what is hidden. He gives analogies like gravity, and the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to the butterfly. Both, from a physics perspective, are predictable and are clear manifestations from an unknown cause: we cannot say how they occur. A similarity exists with the unconscious, in that, we cannot begin to know how it develops (if at all), what goes on, etc, but we can access some parts of its manifestation. And, he argues that this is a form of image, with patterns, analogy, and aesthetics.
He describes the rather useful ego and how it operates by the concepts of separateness, rational reflection, and urge to control. One separate entity causing another separate entity. Contrary to the unconscious, it does not operate in these terms and could (possibly) lead by holism, oneness, and chaos. Like in Traditional Chinese Medicine, these concepts are comparatively the yin and yang, the masculine and feminine. More importantly and less analytical, is the basic notion, as he describes, the unconscious need to full basic instincts such as hunger, self-preservation, and sexuality. Both are equally favorable and Whitmont describes that when schism happens between the ego and the unconscious, “fragmentation of personality develops causing psychic breakdown.”
“The unconscious helps us by expressing inner problems and difficulties, and often the corrective answer as well, in the intuitive language of symbols. … A homeopathic approach is found to be the language of creative nature, within as well as outside of us … The idea of resistance or doing the contrary, appears to often worsen what is going on in the unconscious. This is part of the homeopathic process – which is – accepting what is our true, inborn self… Realization and acceptance of that part which we cannot change means abandoning many over-optimistic and idealized notions about one’s self in favor of a (perhaps initially) humiliating but more realistic acceptance of one’s shadow sides. The rapprochement with these shadow sides through conscious confrontation and acceptance can lead to transformation; what formerly worked against us (owing to our unawareness of its trickery, of its demands and limitations) may work in favor when we accept and adapt to the unavoidable and seek a modus vivendi that, while still safeguarding our moral integrity, accepts the limitation and demands of the inborn automatic compulsivity.”
He uses the image of field pattern or envelope to describe embodiment.
“Existing field patterns are upset by the inductive effects of new growth needs as much through our anger, grief, ambition, etc., reactions to external and interpersonal situations. Illness is brought about when our capacities to ward them off or integrate them is inadequate to the situation”
And so, these are some but a few concepts written on this topic. I am not entirely convinced of this last passage, however, it is worth mentioning as it seems to point to integration. Remarkably, the factors relating to physical aspects of central and peripheral dynamics, and the time factor of past events and future forebodings. And lastly, a quote from the book that brings about a most light-held and embodied perspective on a somewhat dark matter.
“For mater, which is matter, means the feminine, the joyful experience of matter in sensuous ecstasy. . .”