Traditional psychotherapy is comforting to both the client and the therapist, but by itself it very rarely, in our experience, empowers people to effectively alter their lives. Understanding your problems is useful, but in itself it doesn’t create change. Most people develop habitual ways of thinking and behaving that control us just like we are driving through ruts on an icy road. We can know the ruts are there and even understand how they were created, but that understanding doesn’t help us drive a straight line. As smart as we are, we still watch ourselves drive into the same ruts time after time, and, when we get stuck again, we feel trapped and unable to steer out of those deeply hewn grooves.
In the Western world we tend to think of the mind and body as separate entities that operate under different and unrelated rules. Our view is that the mind and body represent different dimensions of the same thing, different realms in the same space. This is part of a concept we call the four worlds of healing. We have seen that things that change the mind and emotions change the body, and vice versa.
Emotional responses to significant life events cause a change in our physical state. Usually, this is temporary. Sometimes, however, due to the degree of stress associated with certain events or situations, our physiological responses to emotions become “locked in” and we never fully get back to our normal state. These “locked in” responses can persist even years after the precipitating event.
Once we went to a woman’s house where we had arranged to board our dog for a few days. When we got there, the stench of cat urine was overpowering. It was incredibly vile. We were choking. We could not imagine how anyone could stay in that environment for more than a few seconds.
The woman smiled and invited us in. It was obvious that, for her, nothing was out of the ordinary. She not only didn’t have a problem with the stench, she didn’t seem to know it was there. She had several cats. We never found out how many. She petted one idly as we spoke. We made excuses and left.