Mind-Body Integration

Dan Edge's picture
Submitted by Dan Edge on Fri, 2006-04-28 05:32

A wealth of philosophical literature has been devoted to discussion of the supposed mind-body split, and why no such dichotomy exists. But the specific way in which mind and body are integrated has been neglected to a significant degree. This essay will explore the connection between these components of self and applications for self-training. I intend this to be a foundational paper for future articles on gastronomy, self-motivation, sexuality, and romantic love. I assume that the reader has a working knowledge of psycho-epistemology, specifically the way in which concepts and physical motions are automatized in the subconscious. A summary of these ideas can be found in the introduction to my Psycho-Epistemology of Acting article.

The process by which ideas and physical motions are automatized is asymmetrical reciprocal, with one's volitional consciousness performing the weighted side of the process. One must initially focus on an idea or set of actions in order to automatize it, but after it is automatized the subconscious makes this information immediately available. Similarly, in the mind-body relationship, the mind is the weighted side of the equation. But the mind does not store automatized physical motions as entirely separate from ideas. The two are very much interrelated. I propose that automatized ideas, sensations, and physical motions are stored together, as integrated units, in the subconscious. I shall designate these composites as psycho-physical units.

The teleology of the subconscious must now be considered. Man is able to deal with vast quantities of information because his subconscious provides him information related to whatever his mind is focused on at any particular time. If one's mind is well organized in a hierarchical fashion, then the subconscious will provide information stored close by within the hierarchy. Conceptual units may be interrelated and cross-classified in a variety of ways, and the subconscious aims to provide the focal awareness with related information. For instance, if one is thinking about snakes, his subconscious will send him units related to snakes, like reptile, or animal, or some memory of an encounter with a snake, or some emotion related to snakes (like fear), etc. The information provided depends both on the organization of one's mind and the context in which the idea arises in the focal awareness.

If components of mind and body are integrated and stored together, then one would expect that his mind will provide automatized physical motions when considering an idea related to those motions, and vice versa. Using the "snake" example, if one fears snakes, then he may cringe when the topic of snakes comes up in conversation. Note that he does not necessarily choose to cringe in the moment, it is simply an automatic reaction, one which he would experience to a greater degree if he actually saw a snake nearby. To use another example, if an accomplished typist closes his eyes and imagines words he wants to type, then he can allow his subconscious to take over and his fingers move as if he were actually typing.

Conversely, willfully performing automatized physical motions related to mental units will trigger the subconscious to provide the related conceptual information. For instance, if one empties his mind and goes though the motions of riding a bike, then his mind will send him information related to bike-riding. If he allows his mind to wander, this activity may trigger memories of bike-riding, ideas about fitness, or any other thoughts related to bicycles. These psycho-physical units are very much interrelated and can be attuned and organized in a the same way as conceptual units.

Sensory-perceptual experiences are also integrated into psycho-physical units. If one detects the pleasantly familiar scent of honey wafting in the air, he may begin to lick his lips, even before he conceptually identifies the smell. Also, his subconscious may send him memories or pictures of pleasant gastronomical experiences. All this before he even identifies the fact that yummy honey is in the immediate vicinity. Alternatively, thoughts of a pleasant food can give rise to the automatized sense-memory of that food. One can imagine that he is smelling or tasting something that is not in fact present. The human mind is incredibly powerful, and can integrate all these elements of conceptual, physical, and sensory units together with ease.

One's physical state can also affect his mood in a variety of ways. For years, motivational speakers have argued that sitting up straight, breathing deeply, and smiling can improve one's emotional state almost immediately. Similarly, if one forces an angry facial expression and posture, and breathes sharply, his mind will tend toward negative feelings and memories. Actors have long used this method to incite an appropriate emotional state in the moment on stage. The evidence for this phenomenon must be gathered introspectively, and as it may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, I encourage those who are interested in exploring these ideas to experiment with this.

Emotional experiences are a special case, because they represent a psycho-physical experience in and of themselves. Emotions are a response to automatized value-judgments (conceptual information), yet are experienced physically. Emotions can be identified and classified in part by the way they affect one's body. Feelings of anxiety may cause one to frown, raise his blood-pressure, increase his heart rate, tighten his stomach, or (most often) a combination of these. Feelings of happiness may cause one to smile, laugh, dance, etc. It is important to note that the physical manifestation of an emotional experience is automatic. One does not need to focus on the actions associated with an emotion, he performs them automatically. (However, he can forcibly re-automatize these physical reactions if they are incommensurate with his value-system. I will offer a more complete discussion of re-automatizing the physical components of emotions in another essay).

I propose that emotional experiences are also integrated into psycho-physical units, and are treated by the subconscious as information related to ideas and physical actions. If one ponders a happy memory, he may experience a shadow of the happiness he felt at that time, along with the physical manifestation of that happiness. If he feels happy in the moment, his mind may naturally wander to memories of happy occasions. This phenomenon is very much the same as the snake-reptile example. Again, the function of the subconscious is to provide related information to one's focal awareness, and I argue that all these elements of self are integrated in one's mind.

With a proper understanding of the way in which his mind and body are integrated, an individual can train himself to automatize mental, physical, sensual, and emotional experiences in a more optimal way. It is important to train not only one's mind, but also one's body and spirit. The man who has fully integrated his mind and body feels more comfortable in his own skin, and is more attuned to experiences of sexuality and sensuality. He can achieve this state of being by paying closer attention to the interrelationship between the different elements of self. He studies dance, or martial arts, or sports, etc., in an effort to explore the physical elements of his existence and automatize physical expressions of masculine (or feminine) power. He can become more acutely aware of the physical manifestations of his emotions, and learn to control and re-automatize these physical reactions to more appropriately reflect his value-system. The applications of these principles are endless, and I hope to explore them in depth in future papers.

I welcome any questions or comments. Thank you for reading.

--Dan Edge

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Dan Edge's picture

Thank you for the encouraging comments.  I recognize that this essay requires a great deal of "expansion," as you say.  The article represents a brainstorm of ideas that have been swimming around in my head for five years or more.  I just had to get it out.  It's strange, I wrote this whole thing in about an hour and a half in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping.  I am proud of the effort, but I see that a much greater degree of refinement will be required to more effectively communicate these ideas.

The two most important in points in the essay are:

1) Automatized ideas, physical motions, sense memory, and emotional experiences are integrated in the subconscious, and are treated as realted units, and...

2) The function of the subconscious is to provide the focal awareness with information that is related to whatever one is focusing on at any particular time.

To All:  I would *greatly* appreciate any feedback on these two critical points.  I am an amatuer writer and I post my brainstorms here in an effort to imporve my thinking skills.

--Dan Edge


Marnee's picture

Well done, Dan. Very interestingly I think you have described the root, the source, of self-confidence.

Mind-body integration is the framework of self-esteem.

The better the integration the higher the sense of confidence and its outward projection.

The Root of All Good?

Prima Donna's picture

Dan, this is an excellent start for exploration, and I am very eager to read more of your essays on this subject, particularly with regard to sensuality and taste memory. More, more, more! Smiling

-- "The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star." Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

The intrigue of emotion

wsscherk's picture

I'll add my appreciation of your essay, Dan -- I look forward to more. Have you got around to reading much Damasio yet? I think you would find his work especially congenial to your quest, and add a further layer of empirical weight to your argument.

The only suggestion I might make is to give more concrete examples and references. I like to know where ideas come from -- what have you been reading as you prepared this essay, Dan? -- or rather, what threads of inquiry are you following and what other people are inquiring similarly?

Good show, dude.


I'm not the Philosophical Detective, but ...

Ed's picture

I would like to chime in here.


By the way, intriguing and thoughtful essay, Dan! I have often found myself pantamiming out an idea that moved me somehow (pardon the pun). So I could relate to your examples ...

Now, on to what PD said: When PD said what he did about subconscious evaluation (actually, the total lack thereof), I think that he meant the ability to reflect or ruminate on something -- only conscious focus is capable of that.

Any thoughts on that interpretation?


Chris - RE: Philosophical Detective

Dan Edge's picture

One interesting question that the Philosophical Detective raises is whether focal awareness is one central processor, or if entire brain functions as a processor, simply shifting to and fro different areas of the brain. This is an interesting question, but I belive it is a physiological rather than a philosophical or psychological one. I seem to recall that the accepted theory among neuroscientists is that one particular area of the brain does, in fact, do most of the processing work, requesting information from other areas of the brain (Regula could probably confirm or deny this). But it doesn't really matter in this context. It is evident through introspection that one may focus his awareness, and that the capacity for this awareness is limited.

Philosophical Detective Writes:

"The subconscious is working all the time, and it does so using the same methods as when one is conscious, just without the evaluative function, instead relying on pre-evaluated conclusions."

I do think that the subconscious helps to integrate previously automatized data, but I do not think its method is "the same...as when one is conscious." Oftentimes things 'click' in the subconscious, but this is only possible after one has spent a significant amount of time automatizing whatever data one is dealing with. The Philosophical Detective certainly would not argue that he would become better and better at playing piano without continued practice and focus.

PD's focus on the metronome is a mental isolation of one aspect of playing piano (rhythm) related to the physical motions he had already spent time automatizing. It was probably the rhythmic aspect of his performance that was throwing him off all along, and focusing on the metronome allowed him to isolate this particular aspect and integrate it with previously automatized motions.

One notable point of disagreement with PD: He wrote that the subconscious function is the same as focal awareness "just without the evaluative function." On what basis would PD determine that the focally aware mind is distinctive only in its ability to make *ethical* judgements? The subconscious does not form concepts or complex chians of actions all by itself. And if it did, then what basis would there be to say that it could not similarly perform evaluative functions?

Still, a very interesting account. I'm curious what he'd think of my above essay. In any case, thanks for the link, bud.


You might want to check out

Robert Malcom's picture

You might want to check out Jeff Hawkins' ON INTELLIGENCE, as his proposal has the cortex layerings as being more an up/down feedback system of multiple parallels, dispersed over many areas, rather than the idea of these psych/physical experiences being grouped together... other than that slight altering, the ideas you're proposing sound quite good, and would like seeing more detailing, as it would also pertain to aspects of aesthetics.....


crmckenzie's picture

How does you perspective integrate the observations of The Philosophical Detective as described here?


Impressive and Thought-Provoking Essay

PhilipC's picture

This is extremely interesting and well-thought out. It is very broad in terms of level of abstraction and would require a great deal of 'expansion', but on a first reading, I am very impressed by the quality...and high level...of the thinking.

It's late at night, and I've only read it once, so I don't have immediate questions...until this sinks in.

My first reaction is that this perspective on putting together, relating, the pieces of the person, the psyche, the actions, the human being -- all of which most psychologists insist on considering in isolation -- seems quite original and sensible. And it is necessary to put the pieces together...unless we are Platonists, Freudians, Behaviorists, or exclusively Computer-Modeled Information Processing machines.

Thanks for this excellent work, Dan.

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