The Integration of Unevolved and Evolved Views of the Body

If people consider the matter of the body at all, we regard it in two ways:  an unevolved view and an evolved view.

The unevolved view of the body is as  "vehicle of the self".  So viewed, we are "within" the body, which exists to carry us around and bring us toward desirable experiences and away from undesirable ones.

This view of the body concerns us with conformity, the "hard body", political correctness, pain, pleasure, and mortality.  It is the point of view of cosmetics, Western medicine, glamour magazines; hard drugs, tobacco and alcohol; corporate culture, social status, consumerism, dance competitions, "youth culture", and violent entertainment (including many video games, crime shows, and much "reality TV").  It is the unevolved view.

What makes the unevolved view, "unevolved", is that it regards the body as "object" -- "my body" -- something to be possessed, controlled and lost in death.  This view considers mind and body separate, "I" being "my" mind (which, oddly, linguistically also considers the mind to be a possession, but one which we cannot reliably control, and which we hope continues after death).

The unevolved view of the body is unevolved because, while the faculties of external perception (awareness of the world and social relations) are more-or-less developed, the faculty for internal awareness is more-or-less undeveloped.  The unevolved body-mind (soma) reacts to situations automatically and without all that much self-awareness.

The evolved view of the body is as the tangible expression or manifestation of self.  So viewed, we recognize the sense of self (physical, emotional, mental, and feeling-intuitive) as a bodily sensation, not "within" the body, but as sensations of the body.  So viewed, we move toward desirable experiences and shy away from undesirable ones, as before, but with our inner life of self as observable as the outer world (psychological "shadow" aspects and unawakened faculties being "compost" for further evolution).

This view of the body concerns us with relationship, with will, integrity, fulfillment of our intentions in actual results, with walking our talk, with how we organize our lives and with knowing our own mind.

What makes the evolved view, "evolved" is that it recognizes that the body is not a "thing" -- or "object" that proceeds into the world as a "non-negotiable" self, but a living experience, the very location of self that changes moment-to-moment.  In that view, death is recognized, not merely as a mystery, but as a transformation continuous with life, even as life is a series of transformations into new (mysterious) events of life.

This view of the body allows for something that the unevolved view does not:  deliberate self-development and self-evolution.  The unevolved view of the body wants to meet life merely as it is ("non-negotiable") -- take me or leave me, "That's just the way I am."  The evolved view of the body recognizes that we can deliberately change to meet life more artfully, more smoothly, more intelligently -- and finds that ability intriguing, finds life's challenges and opportunities, its teaching moments, illuminating "grist for the mill" of self-transformation (whether through will or through surrender -- and with or without angst).

To take a deeper look into the evolved view of the body, we find it helpful to look at the basis of what gives the body its characteristics:  memory.  Once we have done that, we will be in a position to consider how the body contains and distributes memory and the self-sense holographically.

The unevolved view of the body sees memory as a function of the mind and of the brain (regarded as an object-possession, even though no one has a direct experience of their own brain).

The evolved view of the body sees memory as embodied as the whole body -- holographically, meaning distributed among the whole, not contained within a part, such as the brain.  Lest you think that I am speaking merely theoretically, I will bring this statement down to Earth.

One quality characterizes all of life:  self-initiated movement.  Plants have it, insects have it, and animals have it.  Movement is life.

Inanimate objects also have consistent behavior patterns, (e.g., the consistent behaviors of atomic elements and compounds seen in chemistry and physics),  but they are not self-moving (in the sense of being able to change behavior in mid-act by self-volition).  The memory of inanimate objects is simply their predictable behavior -- though, in this view, the memories of inanimate objects are relatively "uneventful" and contain no mental or emotional content.  (Note that computer memory consists of patterns of electrical charge stored in silicon circuits -- inanimate.)

In this way of seeing things, the whole Universe may be regarded as a vast system of memory -- interrelated, interacting memories that are changing and evolving -- anchored as patterns of physical reality with internal experience.

For life-forms less complex than humans, most movement consists of instinctual behaviors; the more complex the life-form, the more instinctual behavior is complemented by learned behavior.  In humans, learned behavior dominates, by far, instinctual behavior.  In either case -- instinctual or learned -- behavior is movement.
Movement carries with it an inner side -- experience.

Experience leaves its imprint on, in, or as memory.  Experience becomes memory -- and a memory is nothing more or other than a lasting imprint of sensations and movements.  Remembering how to do something (long-term memory) is remembering how to move in certain ways (patterns) and what experiences attend that movement; short-term memory is a tracing of patterns on the waters of consciousness, patterns that quickly fade -- but still have duration, however short.  Memory is nothing more or other than the persistence of patterns of behavior (movement) and experience.

Predictability decreases (and unpredictability increases) with complexity, so that the more complex life forms are, the less they behave by instinct and the more they behave as they have learned.  Higher complexity includes all of the characteristics of lesser complexity, and something more:  room for more memory and something else -- the capacity to look at memory, itself, and to operate upon ones own memory, to change it: deliberate learning and also . . . . . emergent behaviors.

Emergent behaviors are upwellings of change unpredictable on the basis of previous behaviors -- and the formation of memories unpredictable on the basis of previous memories . . . . . creativity and evolution.  Each new integration of two or more "behaving entities" into a new whole (each formation of a new relationship between two or more participants) brings forth emergent behaviors unpredictable before the integration occurred.  That's emergence.  ("Emergencies" typically involve the formation of new relationships on short notice!)

Having covered the span of memory from the most primitive to the most emergent life-forms, we're now prepared to look at how the whole body-mind (soma) contains and distributes memory holographically.

I must first dispense with the notion that memory is distributed equally throughout the brain.  This is not so.  In the brain, as in the rest of the body, different locations have different functions.  However, the interrelation of the different locations -- their synergistic cooperation and interplay -- produces the full range of behavior and memory.

Take an easy-to-understand example:  balance.

Movement at balance requires coordination; lack of coordination is awkwardness.  Coordination involves closely-timed movements among the "parts" of the entire body; the entire body is involved.  Balance is the feeling we get when those closely-timed and coordinated movements result in a minimum of effort to move as we intend; awkwardness always involves a sense of excessive effort because some parts have bad timing.  Coordination is a space-time experience of economical, intended movement.  The brain controls and senses, the rest of the body acts; they are a functional unity.  Seen as the body, we look (viewed from outside) a certain way at any moment; we feel (from the inside) completely different from we look; though different, they are the same event perceived from different viewpoints.

The basic unit of memory in the body is DNA, which makes healing of injuries (restoration of the memory of the whole-body sense) possible, and which is the most highly predictable (chemical and physical) aspect of memory.

However, as a whole we are far more complex than our cells are, our behavior is far more complex, and our individual memories are far more complex than those of cells.  Cellular memory, as it is described, is not the deepest or most profound form of memory; it is the shallowest and most superficial.  The profundity lives in the larger complexities of which cells, tissues, and organs are simpler parts.  Human behaviors are far more complex than the behaviors of individual cells.

The memory of behavior exists as patterns of shape and movement that exist among cells and tissues throughout the whole body.  Patterns of connection exist among neurons of the brain and as patterns of coordination (and feelings) among all of the muscles of the body.

Every thought that passes through us shows up as patterns of tension in the musculature.  Dreams (an internal experience) can be measured (externally) electrically as changes of muscle tone and electrical potential and observed as eye movements.  Voices heard by schizophrenic patients have been observed to coincide with electrically-measured micro-movements of their own vocal apparatus.  People move their lips when they first learn to read.  Thought is the body, thinking; emotion is changing physiology.  The inner experience has an outer expression.

Memory consists of habituation in whole-body patterns of muscular tension and physiology -- generally, states of readiness to take action in familiar situations.  Tension (and other physiological states) are the external side of memories, of which sensations are the internal side.

Back to coordination and awkwardness:  there exist better and worse -- more and less economical -- patterns of organization as a person.  In general, better patterns of thinking go with better patterns of coordination.  (It's possible to have specialized patterns of coordination that work well for special situations and still to be incompetent in other situations -- just as some people may be geniuses in certain way and doofuses, in others -- or even "clumsy geniuses" and "absent-minded professors")  However, in general, the better coordinated we are, the better we think, and the more ways in which we are well-coordinated, the more versatile our thought processes can be.

Likewise, memories depend upon the body.  People commonly accept that sudden shocks to the body cause amnesia, though people don't commonly understand how that is so; they commonly think it has something to do with a blow to the brain.  While that is sometimes so, the larger answer is, physical shocks that happen faster than the brain can register them create a discontinuity of memory, a gap in "how I got there."  It's not just "amnesia", but "sensory-motor amnesia".  People in sensory-motor amnesia have forgotten how to get from their altered state back to their familiar sense of self, mentally and bodily.

As more and more coordination develops in different ways, the person becomes both more complex and better integrated.  As (s)he becomes better integrated, (s)he has more command of his or her own faculties -- attention, intention, sensation/feeling and movement.  With each new degree of integration, new emergent (unpredictable) faculties appear (creativity and evolution).

This assertion may seem novel and questionable to you, and so must be tested to be verified (or disproven) to your own satisfaction.  I can say that my own experience of Rolfing and of somatic exercises (both of which develop higher integration, higher coordination and higher efficiency of function) is the origin of this assertion.  (Ida Rolf said, "Rolfing is not concerned with the palliation of symptoms, per se, but with the development of more efficiently functioning human beings.")  The clarity and depth of my own thinking is evident in the writing of this article.

Thus, both the unevolved and the evolved views of the body (and its primitive and more complex functions) have their place in the human -- and the evolution of human beings is a tangible process involving both the bodily (external/objective) aspect and our mental (internal/subjective) aspect -- in processes of "complexification" and integration.

article:  Is the Body 'Self' or 'Other'?
article:  Psychotherapy and Integral Somatic Education
article:  on somatic exercises
video:    about somatics
resources: available somatic exercise programs

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