In the mid-1990s a number of universities and medical centers became interested in our techniques for working with both emotions and the body in a truly integrated manner.
One rather dramatic demonstration of our theories occurred when we were guest speakers at Tufts University New England Medical Center’s innovative and nationally acclaimed Orofacial Pain Center in Boston. After our morning talk to the multidisciplinary staff, including surgeons, a neurologist, and several dentists, we were invited by the head of the Center, Prof. Noshir Mehta, to join members of the group on their teaching rounds.
At one point the group, which included more than half a dozen specialists and students, crowded into a small room where a middle-aged woman sat in a dentist’s chair. She had suffered for many years from a problem with her jaw known as TMJ, making it almost impossible for her to open her mouth without pain. She had come to the Center after unsuccessful treatment elsewhere. After Dr. Mehta explained the case to his colleagues and students, Bob asked if he might very briefly speak to the woman.
“You don’t have to answer this question, and I’d more than understand if you don’t feel comfortable in this setting,” he said to her. “But I’m curious. What is it that you cannot say? What is the secret?”
The woman looked at him, blinked, then broke into tears. Her mouth opened as she sobbed. Finally, she began to speak of her past, which included sexual abuse and her father’s threats if she told anyone. She still had not told her husband, who was not unlike her father in some ways, and she feared he would leave her if he knew about the incest.
“Tell me about the pain now,” Bob asked gently.
The woman furrowed her brows and moved her jaw, tentatively at first, then more. “There’s hardly any,” she said finally.
The woman’s body had tried to make sure that her father’s command was carried out by making it painful to speak. The fact that eating was also painful may have provided a “secondary gain” for the program, since she was thus punished for the incest that she unconsciously perceived to be her fault.
It may also be that her previous dental procedures, some of which were possibly uncomfortable, functioned as a reenactment of the abuse by an (unwitting) authority figure.
Dr. Mehta later told us that he and his colleagues planned to incorporate some of our techniques as part of their standard intake.
Depression is an illness of the body as well as of the mind. In fact, the brain and body are inseparable parts of your physical being—your soma. Yet, the body aspect of depression is often minimized or entirely left out of therapy and self-help books.
The body is programmed for depression much as the brain is. In his book The Body Reveals: How to Read Your Own Body, Ron Kurtz says, “Deeply ingrained habits of thought and feeling . . . originating in our earliest years . . . will be inevitably translated into a body statement. Indeed, the body has no choice. It displays the total dynamics of the individual. The circuitry of the nervous system, when so organized, restricts and contains the available options for response. To this extent we are preprogrammed.”
Trauma, the root cause of most depression, lodges in the body and sets up a self-reinforcing system. Trauma and depression manifest themselves in the body in three ways. First, many physical problems, such as illness and injuries, can be directly associated with or caused by a mood disorder. Second, childhood trauma imprints itself on the body as poor posture and maladaptive movement patterns.
Finally, childhood abuse and dysfunctional social messages combine to create faulty body image, low self-esteem, and a range of related disorders.
(extracted from) Creating Optimism: A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression, Based on the popular Uplift program, written by Bob Murray Ph. D., and Alicia Fortinberry, published by Mcgraw-Hill