Body & Psyche

I outline here an approach to body and mind that is integrated and non-dual.  I will refer to key psychologists who have worked in this field:  Steiner, Sheldon and Keleman.

Steiner noted that the 17 day old embryo separates into three sheaths with each developing into one of the three main functional systems of the body.  The ectoderm, outer sheath produces the brain, sense organs and nerves, the endoderm inner sheath develops into the muscular, metabolic and organ structures of the body and the mesoderm middle sheath produces the heart, lung and circulatory system.

Sheldon defined three body types from this research, calling them ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm.  He sketched the archetype forms of these types as below:

Steiner, whose world view is uniquely non-dual, fixes the Cartesean split of mind and body by defining three main regions of the psyche which evolve out of the embryonic sheaths and are embedded in each of the three main bodily regions:  Thought, Feeling and Will.   Now we have a true psychosomatic psychology which was taken up by Keleman in his formative psychology.  The thought and perception function of the psyche is rooted in the brain and nerve areas of the body.  The feeling ability grows out of the heart, lung and circulatory middle area of the body, whilst the will and impulse to action ability is centred on the limbs and metabolic functions.  

Keleman uses both Sheldon’s model of the body types and Steiner’s three psychic functions in his development of formative psychology.  He defines the ectomorph as the thinker, the mesomorph as moved to action and the endomorph as the feeler.  We are all a mixture of the three, but there seems to be a phenomenological reality to the structure of the body and its psychic functioning.  In Steiner’s view, the psyche evolves in life stages as the physical body develops from birth.  Steiner’s in-depth system of graduated ‘births’ or, in Keleman’s language ‘embodiments’, unfolds in roughly seven year periods marked by physical growth landmarks:  Second dentition at around seven 7 years, puberty at around 14 years, and growth spurt in limbs and muscle at around 21 years.  During each of these initial seven year cycles, Steiner noticed the development of physical growth in the organism from top down and the development of the psychical functions from bottom up.  These opposing directional forces are the biological activity of anabolic and catabolic processes.  The human head at birth is already well advanced in growth, whereas consciousness and perception seated in the head is dreamy.  Awareness is participatory, the self and world are bonded, and this is characterised by the fact the child lives in fantasy.  Psychic growth at birth begins in the will, an instinctual anabolic process in opposition to consciousness.  The world triggers the child into movement, action and play.  The will function is embodied in the limbs and motor-metabolic system where processes are generally unconscious.   The heart-lung rhythmic system of the body is developed at around the age of 14 when the ratio of heart beat to breath reaches 4:1  At this stage the psychic growth is in the feelings and emotions around the time of puberty.  Teenagers with tumultuous feelings experience mood swings between negation and affirmation, depressive gloom, raging anger and excited highs.  The emergence of self splitting from world brings a waking awareness to the faults in others.  Disappointment with adults and authority is fairly routine.  From 14 onwards, in the third phase, the self is developing towards full consciousness and awareness.  This is evident in the body’s propensity to blush, exhibiting the self-awareness of shame and embarrassment.  Inhibitions are now more prevalent.  The individual is either alone and sometimes lonely or seeks refuge in groups and gangs.  The growing individuality asks “Am I normal?”  There is the tendency to hide in reclusiveness and non-communication.  It is also the age of ideals and reason, falling in love and infatuations.  The limbs, organs and muscles grow fully in a vital spurt of life.  Growth forces reach the feet and psychic forces reach the head and brain.  Full brain function can now carry the reflective awareness of the self.  The split between self and world is accomplished. 

I will now outline how I work with this information.  First, let’s summarise.  Three psychological activities of Thinking, Feeling and Will are supported by three related physiological systems of the body which are: rhythmic circulatory, nerve-sense, and motor-metabolic limb system.  Conscious awareness in these areas is summarised by Steiner as Wakeful in Thinking, Dreaming in Feeling and Sleeping in Will.   The motor-metabolic system is the vehicle for all our actions in our lives.  It supports the will impulses in the psyche.  The nerve-sense system supports thought, thinking and perception. The rhythmic circulatory system supports feelings and emotions.  In the first three phases of life we have seen how the psyche develops with the body.  During these critical years we are predominantly operating from the psychological function of that phase.  As adults in everyday behaviour we are using all of these psychic activities to different degrees.  The way our will impulses, feelings and thoughts interact determine our overall level of well-being and sense of satisfaction.

A common problem is found when feelings and thoughts are in conflict and thus undermine the ability for will impulses to be generated for effective action.  Or a person gets stuck in thinking activity which disassociates from feeling and sometimes compulsively drives the will and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders are generated.  Bringing the psychic functions into alignment is the key to balance.   In formative psychology, Keleman posits that the body supports the psyche, not the other way around.  This allows for the reversal of the ‘embodying experience’ process.   Disassembling patterns of movement and body gestures and reforming them in new ways provides new emotional experience. Bringing awareness to thoughts, feelings and will impulses allows us to learn how they are manifest through the body and are uniquely individual.  This makes it possible to reengineer the experience by learning new somatic patterns of movement.  The soma creates it’s own experience.

© Matt Davies 2013