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Bodymind is a compound of body and mind, which, in the New Age disciplines of humanistic psychology and spirituality, researchers in the second half of the twentieth century had begun studying in order to move beyond the dualist conceptions of body and mind towards a unified and interrelated concept of a bodymind. The term is related to the older concepts psychosomatic and somatopsychic.

Dualistic concept[edit]

Perhaps the leading exponent of an earlier dualistic theory of body and mind was René Descartes, the 17th century French philosopher best known for his statement "I think, therefore I am", who established as his deepest and most lasting philosophical legacy the thesis that mind and body are really distinct—a thesis still called "mind-body dualism". He established that he had a mind without needing to assume that he had a body. He reached this conclusion by arguing that the nature of the mind (that is, a thinking, non-extended thing) is completely different from that of the body (that is, an extended, non-thinking thing), and therefore it is possible for one to exist without the other. Descartes offers two versions to support his thesis, firstly:

  1. I have a clear and distinct idea of the mind as a thinking, non-extended thing.
  2. I have a clear and distinct idea of body as an extended, non-thinking thing.
  3. Therefore, the mind is really distinct from the body and can exist without it.

And in a second argument:

  1. I understand the mind to be indivisible by its very nature.
  2. I understand the body to be divisible by its very nature.
  3. Therefore, the mind is completely different from the body.

These arguments give rise to the famous problem of mind–body causal interaction still debated today:[1] how can the mind cause some of our bodily limbs to move (for example, raising one's hand to strike something), and how can the body’s sense organs cause sensations in the mind when their natures are completely different?

Interrelated concepts[edit]

The present day understanding of bodymind both in a psychological, therapeutic as well as in a medical sense is that:

  • The body, mind, emotions and spirit are dynamically interrelated.[2]
  • Each time a change is introduced at one level, it has a ripple effect throughout the entire system.

Bodymind therapy combines the strengths of "talk" therapy with bodywork, such as touch, postural alignment, or movement education and exercise with psychotherapy (that is, including verbal dialog, psychodrama, role play, narrative storytelling etc.) by inducing the use of ‘affectregulation’. It claims to address the "emotional intelligence" of the right hemisphere which is understood to be more closely related to the body, the heart and the autonomic nervous system then the left hemisphere (see Alan Schore’s work [3]).

Bodymind therapy is a psychotherapeutic transformational process that aims to helps people become deeply aware of their bodily sensations, what their posture is, as well as of their conscious or unconscious emotions, thoughts, images and behaviour. It endeavours to address deep-seated and old patterns of relating to self and others that are not easily accessible to change through talk therapy alone. This approach distinguishes it from mind-body therapy as well as from somatic therapy.

Other unified concepts[edit]

Herbert Benson, MD, has pioneered bodymind research, focusing on stress and the "relaxation response" in medicine. In his research, the mind and body are one system, in which meditation plays a significant role in reducing stress responses (Benson 1972).

Jack Painter Ph.D., (1933–2010), a pioneer of the human growth work, developed a conception of 'bodymind' in the 1960s. As professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Miami he engaged with many of the people who were later grouped together in the 'Human Potential Movement'. He personally explored many different approaches—Zen, Yoga, Gestalt (with Fritz Perls and Marty Fromm), Rolfing (with Bill Williams), Reichian therapy (with Raffale Estrada Villa) and many others. In the process Painter became increasingly interested in integrating influences and aspects from different approaches into an effective and coherent method of personal growth, self-development and healing, stating however that "the form of bodywork which I created is not an eclectic combination of techniques I experienced or learned—it is a singular approach to the whole person".[4] From the seventies on he developed Bodymind Integration approaches like Postural Integration©, Energetic Integration and Pelvic–Heart Integration. Bodymind Integration combines working with the physical, energetic and cognitive as well as the emotional processes in the bodymind. The International Council of PsychoCorporal (Bodymind) Integration Trainers (ICPIT) carry on and develop Postural Integration and Energetic Integration.

John Money developed a conception of 'bodymind' as a way for scientists, in developing a science about sexuality, to move on from the platitudes of dichotomy between nature versus nurture, innate versus acquired, biological versus social, and psychological versus physiological,[5] both for science and in gender and sexuality studies. He suggests that all of these capitalize on the ancient, pre-Platonic, pre-biblical conception of body versus mind, and physical versus spiritual. In coining the term bodymind, in this sense, Money wishes to move beyond these very ingrained principles of our folk or vernacular psychology, in understanding sexuality, and aspects of humanness.

Money suggests that the concept of threshold—relating to the release or inhibition of sexual behavior—is most useful for sex research as a substitute for any concept of motivation.[6] It confers a great of advantage of continuity and unity, to what would otherwise be disparate and varied. It also allows for the classification of sexual behaviors. For Money, the concept of threshold has great value because of the wide spectrum to which it applies. "It allows one to think developmentally or longitudinally, in terms of stages or experiences that are programmed serially, or hierarchically, or cybernetically (i.e. regulated by mutual feedback)."[7]

Anthropologists Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margaret M. Lock have developed a concept of bodymind for medical anthropology to provide a basis for research that is not limited by the view that the body and mind are distinct from one another.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain
  2. ^ Antonio R. Damasio: "I feel, therefore I am.": The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (1999)
  3. ^ Schore, Alan N.: Affect regulation and the origin of the self, The neurobiology of emotional development (1994), Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. ISBN 0-8058-3459-1
  4. ^ Painter, Jack: Technical Manual of Deep Wholistic Bodywork, Postural Integration, p.14; published by
    The International Centre for Release and Integration, Mill Valley, Calif. USA (1984)
  5. ^ Money 1988, p. 116
  6. ^ Money 1988, p. 115
  7. ^ Money 1988, p. 116
  8. ^ Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, and Margaret M. Lock, The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology


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