Thursday, September 8, 2011

Separation of Self: Is My Body Me?

For the last several weeks I have been unable to fall asleep before three in the morning. It hasn't been on purpose. I try to sleep-- I just can't. It could stem from my work schedule, or more likely, my caloric restriction (which I am working on). Regardless, I've been spending more time watching television at night than I have sleeping. During a late night tv session, one commercial caught my attention. It said:

"Your body can tell you're pregnant before you can."

Think about that for a second.

Isn't the "your" and the "you" in this sentence referring to the same thing? It got me thinking-- why do we continually think of our bodies as separate entities from "ourselves" ? If we are not our bodies, then who are we?

Naturally, I applied this logic to my eating disorder. Nearly all of the scholarly research I've done on anorexia (I gave a lecture about this in December) refers to a paradoxical split that often occurs between the mind and the body of the anorexic. It becomes a matter of me versus she, of me versus it, me versus my body. This has certainly been my own experience. Throughout the madness and hysteria of my disorder, I never thought of my body as "me." My body was only this oddly shaped, inferior shell that I could shape and wield and torture and mold and control. I could change it. I could manipulate it. I was in control, not my body. But when I say "I", who do I mean? My brain, my soul, my spirit? Why is there a separation between body and between self?

Of course, a biblical explanation seems like it might do-- (as Christianity urges us to kill off the desires of the flesh and the physical body to strengthen our souls, which will never die) but I'm not sure if that is the only reason. I think it's probably more of a cultural habit that stems from philosophical theory which urges us to think of our bodies as separate from our physical beings (think Descartes and the solitary self). It seems as though the "self" is largely interior. But, to me, the self is more than just the body-- it's all-encompassing-- body, mind, spirit, soul.

Is anyone still reading this? :)

What I'm trying to say is this:

Though I have a tendency to get lost in my own mind, I am very much my body.

My body is very much me.

One cannot escape the other.

I am she and she is me.

If I am not my body, why is my body responsible for the way others see me? If you asked someone to describe me to you, odds are they would say I have brown hair. My eyes are blue. My skin is fair.

If I am not my body, why does it hurt when I fall down (which I do often) or burn myself or scratch myself?

I am my body. My body is not merely a mindless vessel equipped with arms and legs
to scurry me around wherever my mind desires. If our minds are in control, why do people get cancer? Why do organs fail?

I am my body. My mind is my body. My body is my mind.

It's the same thing.

That's why controlling and manipulating and torturing and shaping my body never worked the way I hoped it would-- because my entire being is interconnected. It's yin and yang. One part of affects the other, like an algebra equation. You can't divide one side without dividing the other. You can't declare war on one side without affecting the other.

You can't destroy one without destroying the other.

I don't know why, but I need a reminder from time to time to nurture and respect my body. It has never been natural for me to do this on my own. In fact, it's taken 27 years for me to realize that I even deserve it, but I do. Lord knows I haven't been doing all that I can lately to be good to myself.

Have you?