Embodiment and Embodied Experience
Embodiment is a concept discussed within the field of somatic psychology (bodymind psychotherapy). The primary principle of embodiment holds that all experience registers in the body, brain, and mind. It also involves the innate capacity to learn and adapt to a change in the environment.
We know we are having an experience because our sensory organ systems of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch immediately send signals to the brain informing it of every minute change. The brain and the mind interpret the signals associated with each event in order to organize an appropriate body-wide response to either take defensive action or to stand down. As we experience something, it becomes real to us. Events therefore are the basis of experience, which accumulates over time.
How Experiences Create Patterns
Repeated experiences, especially frightening ones, create habituated patterns of response over time that can be observed in one’s posture, movement patterns, vocal tone, and facial expressions. We now begin to understand how experience becomes embodied.
Patterns provide important clues to one’s state of health, developmental history, mental and emotional state, and resilience in the face of stress. Misinterpretation of an event can affect our health long-term if we tend to perceive benign events as threatening.
Lastly, memorable events become learning experiences to influence how we process information (thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) consciously and subconsciously, affecting our attitudes, sense of well-being, health, and relationship to self and others. We usually assign some kind of meaning to a memorable event which appears to be a uniquely human trait. But, I’m getting ahead of myself–more on that later.
Have you ever had an experience that changed your attitude, sense of well-being or health or influenced your thoughts, feelings, or behavior?