Last week I purchased my very own copy of “What the Bleep.” You’ll perhaps remember that I wrote about this movie (click) after Dar and I saw it during its theatre release.
The movie is quite interesting, and it’s a great reminder of just how fundamentally weird life is.
My favourite part is the Wedding Scene. They all get to the reception and there’s a parallel universe like thing happening. The people are interacting, and the cells of the people mirror the external, or vice versa, or both. The animated cells provide a counterpoint to the external drama.
The idea is that behaviour and thought have consequences at the cellular level, and that as the cells are affected, they create a bodily reaction that leads to repetition of the behavior. And on and on. The cycle is what we might think of as an addiction cycle.
So, here’s the idea, unpacked a bit.
Cells are the smallest living component in the body. They take things in (nutrition, oxygen, etc.) through receptors, and also excrete wastes. The movie describes the receptors for cell stimulation as being like door locks. Only the right key fits. With a key, the stimulator gets “in” and does whatever it does – thereby affecting the cell.
The major point being made is that cells react, and this is felt in the body. We miss, or forget this point. When “we” have a rush, we feel it throughout our bodies, holistically. The part we forget is that this rush is happening at the cellular level. In other words “we” do not feel the feeling. Each of our cells have the reaction, which we interpret as a full body reaction.
Example: Cells respond to endorphins. The cells are encoded to react with a bodily sensation of pleasure. This is why heroin addicts get addicted. Heroin is close to endorphin, and cells react to it. Addiction happens because the cell itself begins to develop additional receptors for the chemical. (see Candace Pert)
The interesting part is this: all emotions are, at their core, chemical reactions. That’s why, for example, we actually feel fear in our bodies, (tightening muscles, queasy stomach, etc.) as opposed to only in our heads. The brain chemical connected to fear floods the body, and cells with “fear” receptors react.
Now, here is where it gets interesting. The brain cannot differentiate between a thought and reality. The more we think about an emotional state (“I’m helpless and worthless.” “Everyone is out to get me!” “I’ll get even, if it’s the last thing I do.” Whatever.) the more often we trigger brain chemicals. The chemical flood causes susceptible cells to react.
As they react, they begin to create, change or modify existing receptors to match the common brain chemical.
In other words, it is possible, on a cellular level, to get addicted to, say, fear. The cell adds receptors, which require more of the chemical. This causes, in a sense, the cells to demand more of the emotional flood.
And, to make things even more odd, the new “fear” receptors are created out of receptors for, say, cell nourishment. (The movie argues that a major cause of ageing is cells that can no longer be adequately nourished because their receptors have been converted to emotional receptors. The movie also suggests this can be reversed.)
We see this in Bodywork all the time. The emotion seems rooted in the body; the mind is seemingly along for the ride. As the emotion releases, the body relaxes, and often the person says, “I didn’t even know that was in there!”
There are multiple points to this story, but for me, the main one is this: the way we choose to construct our belief system (which in turn governs how we actually live out our lives) gets played out at every level, including the cellular. Especially the cellular!
If we are paying attention, we can notice what we are doing as we do it, and we can choose to stop ourselves. Faith perspectives call this choice “walking another path,” “entering by the narrow gate,” “having a change of heart,” “practicing infinite compassion.”
The damage comes as we refuse to pay attention. Typically, people simply do what they have to do to repress the pain they are feeling. As I wrote above, people actually get addicted to the negative emotion or feeling. The pained state soon seems normal, and the mind gets on board by creating all kinds of justifications for staying stuck, and wallowing in the chemical soup bathing the cells.
Until the cells can’t take it any more and begin to break down, and sicken. We then begin to see actual, physical distress, usually first connected to muscular tightening, and then disturbances within the body’s systems.
Coupled with this is a deep resistance to the work involved in staying present with ourselves. At one level we simply ignore what’s happening. At another level, we try to escape from it. Many of the people I see live their lives in their heads, attempting to be “spiritual” or “enlightened” – and they succeed only in distancing themselves from their bodies. They, in a sense, lack “ground.”
The point of the various Bodywork modalities is NOT to make the body primary. It is to create whole persons. While we might name additional levels, primarily we are body/mind/spirits. During our lives, there is no escaping this fundamental reality. It is the height of stupid to focus on any less than these 3 elements. Getting out of whack here means that the system at some level will (not might – will) break down.
Neglect your spirit, and you WILL have a crisis of meaning – a spiritual emergency. You will have blocked energy locked in the root of your spine (in Indian thought, blocked Kundalini energy) and will feel bored, restless, unmotivated and lacking in direction.
Neglect your physical body and systems will get sluggish, muscles will tighten, and cellular damage will occur. Eat crap and you will get sick. Refuse to deal with your issues, and your digestion will block up. Neglecting your emotional body by focusing only on some emotions (addiction to an emotional set – to sex, to perfection, to failure, whatever) will play out in agitation and excess emoting of one channel.
Neglect your mind, and you WILL have a life filled with defensiveness, blaming, judgments and rigidity. Soon, your world becomes black and white and choices evaporate.
Next issue, we’ll look at ways out of this quagmire. In the mean time, open yourself to the voice of your body/mind/spirit. See if you can learn your games – what you are doing to yourself, and what you are addicted to.