Thought is embodied


Thought emerges from the body.

Out of muscle and tissue.

Carried at speed to the pigeon hole of consciousness across miles of nerve fibers as widespread as the white, threadlike mycelium that holds together the forest floor.

Bodies have their own non-verbal language, holding and maintaining life stories.

Implicit memories of experiences that mould postures and animate movements.

Past experiences continue to shape and direct our lives until through conscious awareness, we pause and review our embodied stories, our embodied thoughts.

Yesterday someone drew my attention to a quote from the Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Plath sees her life branching out before her like a green fig tree. At the end of each branch:

“a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.”

Plath lists what for her each fig represents, a happy home, a husband, friends, lovers, aspects of her professional life, various countries etc, and above each fig are other unknown figs. Plath sees herself:

“sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose”

Plath felt that choosing one meant loosing all the rest. She describes her agony:

“as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet”

When I imagined myself in the same predicament, I would have starved to death not from indecision but from a fear of moving.

My body felt paralysed by the fear that if I moved I would be seen, and if I was seen I would be attacked, possibly killed.

I recalled a memory I had consciously forgotten. It’s the middle of the night, aged five or six I am lying perfectly still below the blankets and bed sheets, sweating and barely breathing.

There have been times in my life when I have felt unable to act. I have waited for permission, an invitation to move. I have always justified my inertia with rational reasons why I have not done something. In reality, thanks to a chance reference passed on to me, I see that it was the terrifying, life threatening fear held in my body for fifty years that has been stopping me.

I can now place that experience into the context of an unhappy childhood trauma.

My life is now very different. It is safe to move, to act.

In Sylvia Plath’s metaphor … to eat the bounteous fruit that is all around me.



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