Befriending Uncertainty with the Help of the Body
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
I am a member of the UNiCORN team interested in the embodied experience of uncertainty. The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted heavily on the sense of safety and with a great deal of humanity having been forced into lockdown the significance of “home” has been highlighted. As the world has begun to open up, many choose to stay home in order to continue to keep safe. Yet for a lot of people the pandemic and its related distress does not allow for a feeling of safety in the absence of actual threat. Staying home may not be enough to find shelter from the distress or sooth the anxiety bred by perceived uncertainty.
I have come to reflect on the meaning of home for our safety needs from an embodiment perspective. As a cognitive (Neuro-) Psychologist and body-integrative therapist, I believe in recent neuroscientific findings which reveal that the sense of self is anchored in a vital connection with our bodies (Damasio, 1999, van der Kolk 2014). The ability to register, attend and appropriately respond to physical sensations allows us to navigate through life safely and with a sense of agency (Allen & Tsakiris, 2019) which helps to ground oneself in this (and any) new territory. Recent research has led to a great deal of trust in the practice of body-integrative approaches (e.g. Mindfulness, Yoga) which promote body awareness.
The idea that the body is critical for the experience of psychological concepts such as emotion, appraisal and regulation is far from new and had been appreciated by William James (1842-1910) who has been referred to as the father of modern Psychology (see Khoury et al, 2018). However, it seems that with the cognitive revolution and emergence of cognitive science the body got somewhat forgotten with its power to, together with the brain, co-create any lived human experience. Therein lies also the potential for clinical interventions to tackle mental health in a “bottom up” approach using the resource of the body to, for example, help manage symptoms of anxiety.
Philosophically, the body can be considered as the primary home on earth and I believe a lot of work is waiting to help people to (re-) inhabit their body in order to hold themselves in the discomfort of the unknown and (re-)discover the capacity to embody notions of safety and stability - those qualities so much sought after in the face of uncertainty.
Jessi Wiese (née Komes)